While the regular-season stats are tossed out the window come playoffs, nothing has changed between the Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees.
Not much separated the longtime B.C. Hockey League rivals over the last seven months and Game 1 of the Interior Division went accordingly with the Vipers winning 3-2 before 3,118 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre Friday night.
The Vees and their fans thought they had the equalizer when Nicholas Jones knocked the puck from mid air past Darion Hanson with 34 seconds remaining in regulation while on the powerplay. After meeting at centre ice and agreeing the goal should not count, the officials gave Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson an explanation.
“He said he didn’t know which guy knocked it out of the air,” said Harbinson. “It was Jones that knocked it out of mid air and he was on his knees. It’s pretty tough to have his stick over the cross bar if he is on his knees and a ways outside of the net. I thought within one of the four (officials) would have been able to figure it out. They couldn’t even tell me who knocked it out of mid air. I’m not sure how they really knew that it was over the cross bar.”
Referees Grant Tyson and Hasret Sidhu, along with linesman Brett MacKey and Scott Mackey handled the game in a scorching hot building.
Vernon and Penticton each, meeting in the playoffs for the fourth straight year and 22nd time since 1967, each won three times and tied once in the regular season.
Despite outshooting the Vipers 16-10 in the final frame, and 38-24 overall, the Vees couldn’t solve Hanson. They had moments of good pressure and chances.
“I thought we played well. It was a good game,” said Harbinson. “You give up two goals on the first three shots, unfortunately and we kept pushing back and their winning goal deflects off the ref. It was an unfortunate bounce.”
Austin Adamson netted the winner 1:45 into the third period. Jesse Lansdell found him headed towards the crease when he fed him the puck and tapped the puck in.
Adamson said it was huge for them to steal home ice.
“We know this team is going to come out hard. They are a good team, but it’s going to be a long series, we know that,” said Adamson, a 21-year-old Vancouverite with 134 career WHL games. “We wanted to come in here and try to steal at least one. Hopefully tomorrow too.”
Taylor Ward scored in the second period and had the Vees head into the dressing room squared at two. After taking a pass from Gabe Bast, Ward skated towards the goal and fired a wrist shot from the high faceoff circle to beat Hanson blocker side at 5:46 on the power play.
The Vees outshot the Vipers 12-5 in the opening period, yet trailed 2-1 after one. The Vipers opened the scoring when Steven Jandric beat Robson on a wrap-around play. The Vees got the equalizer on a play started by Ty Amonte, who dished the puck to Cruikshank who found Bast near the point. Bast beat Hanson with a slapshot. The Vipers retook the lead when d-man Cameron Trott one-timed a Chris Jandric feed high glove on Robson on the powerplay.
With Vernon head coach Mark Ferner stressing to get pucks deep, Adamson said he felt they did that, except for the second period.
“Near the end we got back to it. I think it helped us get the win tonight,” he said.
Both powerplays went one-for-three. Hanson was named first star, while Bast was named the second star, collecting two points and Jandric was the third star. Vees F Taylor Sanheim took the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.
“Either team could have won,” said Ferner. “We scored at the right times and got some big saves.”
Adamson and the Vipers were not going to change a thing for Game 2.
“We come back tomorrow with the same effort, get pucks deep and try and wear them down. They were good tonight. It was challenging but obviously it’s helpful when you can get a couple of goals right off the start.”
Games 3 and 4 go Monday and Tuesday nights at Kal Tire Place. Students and children get free admission courtesy of Hytec, KISS-FM and The Morning Star. Game 4 tickets get fans $5 off at WINGS Bar &Grill.
In the Island final series, Anthony Vincent scored twice and Jordan Kawaguchi pocketed six assists as the Chilliwack Chiefs shelled the Victoria Grizzlies 7-3 before 2,692 fans Friday night at Prospera Centre. Chilliwack swept the No. 1 Wenatchee Wild in first-round play.
SNAKE BITES: Viper alternate captain Jagger Williamson was in sick bay with a fever. Rookie Brody Dale took his place, skating alongside Luke Brushett and Simon Sagissor. Williamson was expected to play Saturday…Viper grad Connor Jones has been called up by the New York Islanders. Jones had one helper Friday night as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers iced the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-1 in American League action before 7,666 fans at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa. Connor’s twin, Kellen, was ejected after a first-period fight with Dannick Martel for not having his jersey tied down. Islander captain John Tavares is listed day-to-day with injury. The Isles face the Buffalo Sabres Sunday afternoon.