BCHL PLAYOFFS – Snakes smother Vees in Game 1

Vernon Viper Michael Collins (left) battles with Penticton’s Bo Dolan for the puck behind the Vees’ net in Game 1 of the best-of-seven BCHL Interior Conference final Friday night at Wesbild Centre. Vernon hammered Penticton 6-0.

The Vernon Vipers were certainly ready for battle, but found little in the way of opposition from the Penticton Vees in Game 1 of the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference final.

After such an evenly contested regular-season series (they tied 3-3), the Snakes, ranked No. 2 in Canada, were probably somewhat surprised as they cruised to a 6-0 win over the No. 3 Vees before 2,100 fans Friday night at Wesbild Centre.

Game 2 went Saturday night at Wesbild, after which the series heads to the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton for Games 3 and 4, Tuesday and Wednesday night respectively.

First star Dan Nycholat provided all the offence Vernon would need just two minutes into the game. Taking a feed from Curtis Gedig while on the powerplay, the Viper blueliner fired a point shot through traffic that beat netminder Sean Bonar clean, glove side.

Jonathan Milhouse, who ended the regular season on a Sahara desert-like drought – he hadn’t scored in 15 games, dating back to Jan. 16 – continued to pump up his post-season production, electrifying the crowd with his third goal with 2.5 seconds left in the first frame. Gathering a well-placed lob pass by Braden Pimm, the speedy Yorba Linda, Calif. native raced in on Bonar (41 saves), beating the Penticton keeper high glove side.

“I didn’t even know how much time there was, I just put my head down and took off,” said Milhouse, second star. “I scored on him just like that before, so that was my first thought. I just wanted to get the shot off.”

Milhouse credits head coach Mark Ferner’s decision to put him back at his natural centre position for helping elevate his game. He started the game between Bryce Kakoske and Dylan Walchuk.

“We’re (linemates) starting to pick it up and play better. I’ve played centre all my life so it’s good to get back there. I get to move around a little bit more,” said the smooth skating 21-year-old.

“Playoffs is my thing. I love getting up for the big games and helping the team win.”

Milhouse apparently also has his own personal playoff cheering section at every home game, as a boisterous group of Aussies from Silver Star constantly cheer his name whenever he steps on the ice.

“I have no idea (why they chose me),” he grinned. “I’ve been told they like me just because of my name, but I have no idea.”

Viper netminder Graeme Gordon (third star) was steady when called upon, which wasn’t often as Penticton’s big guns were held silent all night. The Vees, who hadn’t been shut out all year, got slower as the game wore on, and their offensive production dwindled with each period for a total of just 19 shots.

The North Vancouver product hasn’t allowed a goal in nearly 10 periods of playoff hockey, dating back to Game 2 of the Interior semis against the Quesnel Millionaires (rookie tender Blake Voth played Games 3 and 4).

“You’ve gotta give Vernon a lot of credit, they came ready to play,” said Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson. “They created a lot of the issues that we had, but at the same time, when your best players don’t show up, that’s the result. We had some of our best guys on the ice for four or five goals against.

“We haven’t had a game like that all year, but at the same time Vernon saw blood in the water and they went for it.” About the only thing Penticton did win was a third-period mugging of Vernon’s Braden Pimm by the Vees’ Luke Curadi, who had five inches and 80 pounds on his opponent.

The Vipers were like barnacles on the forecheck – impossible to pry off the boards, or the puck, which forced the Vees to collapse down low. Vernon’s d-men took full advantage, testing Bonar with quality blasts from the blueline.

Goals by Nycholat, on an sensational 75-foot cross-ice pass from Milhouse, and Garrett Noonan, dangling like he was Kyle Bigos, continued the Viper assault in the second period.

Noonan, who has already matched his regular-season goal total (2), gave a sheepish grin when asked about his newfound offensive prowess.

“I’m usually just a stay-at-home guy, but our points have been getting involved lately and we’re starting to see some open ice and every one of us has been getting on the board,” said the Norfolk, Mass product. “Our forwards tired them out and it opened things up top.”

Kellen Jones, tapping home a gimme from the slot, and Robbie Short, with a beauty shorthanded breakaway, capped the Vernon offence in the third period.

“It might have been one of our worst games of the year which is tough this time of year,” said the Vees’ Derik Johnson. “We’ve got to find a way, us veterans, to get the young guys to bounce back and re-energize. We’ve got to let them know that one game doesn’t decide this series.”

Knowing this could be a long series yet, Ferner wasn’t about to book his ticket to the Fred Page Cup final.

“It’s just one game. We certainly had a good effort, but we haven’t seen the best of Penticton yet,” he said.

Just Posted

Progress being made on Okanagan wildfires

Danger not over, fires could flare up again

Evacuation numbers remain at nearly 1,000 as B.C. wildfires rage on

200 firefighters and 18 helicopters were working to increase the containment of the fires

Update: Power restored to 2,000 Lake Country homes

The cause of the outage is unknown

Vernon police arrest 27-year-old woman in relation to suspicious hedge fire

Police are investigating alleged arson and mischief incident.

Okanagan Wildfires: An evening update on wildfires and evacuations

A Saturday evening look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Vernon poet shines bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Gallery Vertigo July 21

Recovery high schools could help teens before addiction takes hold: B.C. parents

Schools could provide mental health supports and let parents discuss their children’s drug use openly

Haida Gwaii village faces housing crisis, targets short-term rentals

Housing is tight and the village is pretty close to zero vacancy

B.C. VIEWS: Unions regain control of public construction

B.C.’s 40-year battle swings back to international big labour

Update: Mount Eneas wildfire holds at 1,374 hectares

Fire chief Dennis Craig said wind was blowing the fire away from homes

Update: Okanagan Mountain Park fire holds at 400 hectares

The wildfire, also called Goode’s Creek wildfire, continues to burn near Kelowna

Car thief nabbed by Mounties on wildfire duty

RCMP working wildfires deploy spike belt to nab alleged auto thief from Oliver.

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Most Read