Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Vipers dominate the Penticton Vees, bringing the series to seventh heaven.
The Vipers beat the Vees 5-1 in Game 6 Saturday night to the sounds of a roaring crowd of 3,158 at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place, leaving one game Monday deciding who will advance to the B.C. Hockey League Final.
Just over two minutes in, Vipers defenceman Cameron Trott assisted forward Steven Jandric in the first goal, marking the start of a contested period, ending 1-0 for Vernon, with five shots on net for the Vees and 11 for the Vipers.
“We had a very poor start,” said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. ” (We) didn’t have the emotional involvement that we needed, and it cost us.”
Vernon defenceman and game-star Cooper Watson slid past the Penticton net in close quarters in the second period and brought the Vipers up 2-0, followed 16 seconds later by forward Niko Karamanis’ goal, solidifying Vernon’s lead.
“We were fortunate enough to get a power play early and get a goal,” said Vipers coach Mark Ferner. “(We were) off to a good start.”
Answering to the Vipers lead was Vees defenceman Mitch Meek who narrowed the gap with 2:49 left in the second, and ended the period 3-1.
“We had a one minute spurt there where we basically gave the game away,” said Harbinson.
Penticton amped up the pressure on Vernon going into the third period, spending much of the first few minutes in shooting range, but couldn’t keep up their momentum throughout the remainder of the game.
“(We) overextended at times in our own end and Darion Hanson, our goalie, was great,” said Ferner of one of Vernon’s stars of the game.
With 7:02 left, Vipers defenceman Chris Jandric was sent to the penalty box for high sticking, giving Penticton the power play.
In an attempt to make up for lost ground, the Vees pulled their goalie to add pressure on Vernon’s weakened line, but Vernon forward Jimmy Lambert stole the puck near the red-line and sent it down the ice with 5:41 remaining, putting Vernon up 4-1.
“We gave up the empty-netter,” said Harbinson. “We were taking chances. Unfortunately we just didn’t have a very good first half.”
Tension rose as Vipers forward Jesse Lansdell sunk Vernon’s fifth goal with 2:01 left on the clock, leading to an all-out brawl between the teams that sent players from both sides to the box.
It didn’t end there though, and with 37.6 seconds left in the game, a second brawl broke out after fists were thrown between Penticton forward Taylor Sanheim and Vernon defenceman Shane Kelly.
But the fighting had no result on the score.
“They’re not easy games to play, they’re fun to play, but the emotional side of it is pretty tasking,” said Ferner.
But the final game of the best-of-seven series Monday in Penticton is anyone’s games.
“Anything can happen in Game 7,” said Ferner. “We’ve had success there in the past and we’re gonna need another terrific effort out of our group.”
The Vees hope to build on Friday’s victory over Vernon.
“We played a great game (Friday) and we need to be able to play that same way Monday night,” said Harbinson.
“We need 20 men to step up and protect our home ice.”