The Penticton Vees rallied late to ground the Vernon Vipers 4-3 in B.C. Hockey League playoff action before 1,800 fans Monday night at Kal Tire Place.
The Vees lead the best-of-seven Interior Division final series 2-1. Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Vernon, while the fifth game is Thursday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Cody DePourcq and Matthew Serratore scored 2:06 apart late in the third period for the Vees, who trailed 3-1 after the first period. Penticton outshot Vernon 33-19, including a 9-4 edge in the third.
“Anytime you give up a two-goal lead throughout the second and third period, it’s gonna sting,” said Vipers’ captain Ryan Renz. “I think we’re just gonna have to bounce back tommorow and limit their chances and be a little little more on the offensive side of things rather than sitting back on our heels. When they’re playing from behind, they’re coming with a lot of speed and we wanna keep getting pucks in deep and keep getting on top of their d-men and I think we got away from that a bit, and they started creating more chances and building a little momentum off that and found the back of the net for those two and win the game.”
TJ Dumonceaux (his fifth of the post-season) put the Vipers up just 1:43 in, with assists going to Demico Hannoun and Mason Blacklock. Serratore levelled the score three minutes later, from Jack Ramsey and Riley Alferd, for his second of the playoffs.
“They never quit, they kept coming,” said Dumonceaux, of the first-place Vees. “Their top players were their top players tonight and that was the difference. Our top players had good games, but I think they can give us more.”
The third-place Vipers built up a 3-1 lead Saturday night in Penticton before falling 5-3, but the Vees produced their final two goals early in the third period. The Game 3 loss hurt the Vipers much more.
“It’s tough to put ourselves in position to win and just give it away,” said Dumonceaux. “We let off the gas too way too much and when we’re in a spot like that, we can’t give it up like that. A lot of guys were standing around wishing someone else could do it.”
Brendan Persley registered his fifth of the playoffs and Brett Mulcahy pocketed his 10th, just 2:34 apart, to make it 3-1 Vipers midway through the first. The Vees pulled starter Hunter Miska for Olivier Mantha after Mulcahy’s powerplay snipe.
First star Brad McClure converted on a Vees’ powerplay at 5:17 of the second period with d-man Brett Beauvais drawing the helper.
DePourcq worked wonders in the corner, cut in front and put a low shot past Viper goalie Austin Smith for the 4-4 equalizer. McClure had the assist. Serratore buried a rebound after McClure circled around the slot and fired a wrister which was blocked and came bouncing back to Serratore.
Said Penticton head coach Fred Harbinson, who like most people in the building was expecting overtime after DePourcq tied things: “It was a character win. It wasn’t looking good in the first period. For whatever reason, we were making big-time mistakes, turning the pucks over. You gotta give them credit; they came out guns a blazing, which we warned out guys they would. It just seemed like every mistake we made, ended up in the back of the net. We hit a couple of posts in the first period and luckily for us, it was only 3-1 and we kind of re-set between the first and second, and from then on, I thought we were real good.”
In other playoff action, the Powell River Kings doubled the Victoria Grizzlies 4-2, while the Langley Rivermen shut down the Coquitlam Express 5-0. Victoria and Coquitlam hold 2-1 series leads.
Please see Wednesday’s Morning Star for further Viper coverage