Vees suffer first shutout loss in two years
After scoring 11 goals last Saturday, the Vees couldn’t muster one against the Merritt Centennials, losing 1-0 Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Goals were hard to come by in this one, as the two teams skated to a scoreless first period. The Vees were on their heels in the early stages, as the Centennials proved to be a stiff challenge from the get-go. The Cents were effective in getting pucks deep and were winning the territorial battles. Despite the less-than-stellar start, the Vees were on even terms thanks to the play of goaltender Chad Katunar.
Katunar was the story of the first period and was the Vees’ best player on Friday. The netminder turned aside 11 first period shots and came up with a handful of clutch saves to keep the Cents’ off the score-sheet.
It was the same story in the second period, as the Vees seemed to be stuck in first gear through forty minutes. The Cents were frustrating the Vees forwards in the sandwich stanza, as Penticton struggled to get to the Cents’ net and test Tyler Steel. The Vees were stymied time and again trying to generate any offence off the rush.
The visitors were the first team to break through the defensive struggle midway through the middle frame.
After a scramble in the Vees zone and three failed clearing attempts, Diego Cuglietta threw a pass to the top of the right-circle for Dane Birks. The 17-year-old rear-guard leaned into a slap-shot that beat Chad Katunar over the blocker arm at 12:29. The goal eventually standing up as the game-winner.
Sensing his team needed a spark, Vees captain Troy Stecher dropped the mitts with Payton Schafer moments later in the Vees zone off a face-off. The two exchanged several heavy blows; one of those blows bloodied the Vees captain. Stecher would sit for the next 15 minutes due to a fighting major and misconduct for illegal equipment.
The Vees did make a push in the third period, as they slowly but surely started to generate pressure inside the Cents’ zone. But despite throwing 11 shots towards Tyler Steel’s cage, the Vees couldn’t find an equalizer and suffered their first shutout loss of the season.
It marked the first shutout loss for the Vees since Feb. 4, 2011, a run of 113 games, and the end of Cody DePourcq’s five game goal-scoring streak.
The loss also snapped the Vees’ season-high, and BCHL best, seven-game win streak in front of their largest crowd of the season, as 4,002 fans packed the SOEC. Friday was the Vees annual Feed the Valley night and was also the Hogs versus Hosers Charity Fundraising Night.
The Vees are right back at it Saturday when they host the red-hot Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the SOEC at 5 p.m.