Goal surge powers Penticton Vees

A third-period surge with three power-play goals lifted the Penticton Vees to a 6-3 win against the Merritt Centennials.

PENTICTON VEES Nicolas Pierog circles the net behind Merritt Centennials goalie Devon Kero during action in the first game of the BCHL playoff series Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Vees take a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series into Friday’s first game in Merritt. If a fifth game is necessary it will be in Penticton on March 10.

A third-period surge with three power-play goals lifted the Penticton Vees to a 6-3 win against the Merritt Centennials.

With the victory Wednesday evening at the South Okanagan Events Centre, the Vees lead the BCHL’s Interior Division semifinal series 2-0.

The game didn’t start as planned for the Vees as Shane McColgan turned the puck over at the blue line, resulting in Centennials forward James Neil beating Hunter Miska for a short-handed goal. Brad McClure evened things up scoring with 25 seconds remaining in the period.

In the middle stanza, the Centennials scored another short-handed goal courtesy of Sebastien Pare, then Scott Patterson gave the Centennials a 3-1 cushion. Vees coach Fred Harbinson said the two shorthanded goals were a result of not executing properly.

At 14:17 of the second period, Nic Pierog delivered a hard check on Wayland Williams,  who coughed up the puck allowing McColgan to set up Cody DePourcq to make it 3-2.

Harbinson said his teams physical play has picked up.

“Pierog, he’s been throwing the body big time both games,” said Harbinson. “Our forecheck is where everything starts. Tried to force their defence into areas where they turn the puck over.”

McClure said plays such as Pierog’s hit lead to goals.

“If Nic doesn’t finish his check,  it gives their D-men a little bit more time and space. I think all four lines are doing that right now.”

DePourcq, who fought Gavin Gould six minutes into the game, scored the equalizer on the power play set up by Pierog and Ben Dalpe. McColgan and McClure also scored on the power-play, which went 3-for-7 in the game. McColgan’s goal proved to be the winner.

“I thought we were playing pretty well,” said Harbinson. “The power-play owed the team after giving up two short handers. They did come through in the end. Struck in the third period when we needed it the most.

“Down 3-1, I thought we didn’t quit, we kept pushing,” continued Harbinson. “We got some timely goals. I just thought that we kind of wore them down.”

The Vees didn’t give up much defensively either. Miska made 18 saves, while   Olivier Mantha saved all 20 shots faced in an 8-0 win Tuesday.

“I thought we finished the way we wanted to,” said McClure. “We put ourselves in kind of a tough position going into the third. We dug ourselves out of it. I think it’s just a little learning lesson that we need to play a full 60.”

With Game 3 being played in Merritt on Friday, Harbinson said they just need to make sure they are on top of their details.

“Make sure to play the same in Merritt as they did at home,” said Harbinson.

After having 1,358 fans in the SOEC for Game 1, 1,445 fans attended Game 2. The Vees averaged 2,106 fans in the regular season. BCHL commissioner John Grisdale responded to an email in regards to the playoffs starting on Tuesday, which was voted on by the governors.

“There was only a short amount of time to get in four rounds of playoffs based on the end of the season,” wrote Grisdale, adding that the Western Canada Cup and RBC schedules are already established. “The higher seeded team gets to pick whether they start at home on the Tuesday or on the road so they would get the Friday/Saturday but lose home ice in case of a game 7.”

Vees notes: The BCHL announced its regular season award winners. Brett Beauvais was named the league’s top defenceman, while the goaltending duo of Miska and Mantha were awarded the Wally Forslund Trophy as the BCHL’s Top Goaltending tandem as they combined to post the lowest goals-against average in the regular season at 2.27.