A 5-0 loss at home to the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Conference Final has the Penticton Vees hanging onto their season by a thread.
After exploding for a goal and three points in Game 3 on Tuesday, captain Denver Manderson and the Vees managed 21 shots on Gordon Graeme. The majority of their chances came early in the game.
“I think we all wanted to play better,” said Manderson, who has been held pointless in three of four games during the series. “I think we needed better discipline and when you give a team like that a bunch of power plays they are going to score.”
The Vipers went 3-for-7 on the power play with six of them coming in the second and third period. After outshooting Vernon 9-5 in the first period, the Vees were outshot 23-12. The Vees power play sputtered at 0-for-4.
Fans were livid with the officiating of Steve Papp and as the officials exited the ice, they doused them with a few unpleasant words.
“It (the officiating) was a different standard tonight,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. “To be calling pushes after the whistle and stuff like that in a playoff game, like give me a break.”
Harbinson said his players are working hard against the defending national champions and he didn’t want to make excuses but said being shorthanded is one of the differences between Games 3 and 4. The Vees also lost another player to injury but Harbinson didn’t say who. He didn’t lay all the blame on the officials saying his players missed chances including an open net.
“After the first you’re up 9-5 in shots, you’re down 1-0 but there was the second period where the game got taken away,” he said. “We killed the 5-on-3 but they scored seconds later.”
It was 1-0 after Jonathan Millhouse sneaked by Vees defenceman Joey Laleggia, the Vipers forward then dished a pass to Bryce Kakoske, which Laleggia’s partner Luke Curadi couldn’t intercept, and Kakoske snapped the shot through Sean Bonar’s five-hole. In the third period leading 3-0, Mike Collins broke in on Laleggia shorthanded with Alex Szczechura chasing. He then tucked the puck between Laleggia’s feet, went around him and roofed a backhander on Bonar’s glove side.
For Game 5 on Friday, Bonar said they need desperation and a physical presence if they hope to extend the series.
“In our dressing room we believe,” he said. “I guess we’re kind of the underdog now.”
After taking a game in Penticton, Vipers coach Mark Ferner said they have a good stranglehold.
“It’s not over by a long shot, but going home up 3-1 is a good thing,” said Ferner. “That hockey team is not going to roll over for us; we’re going to have to go out and earn everything we get.”
Heading into today, Beau Bennett, Garrett Milan, Joey Holka, Alex Szczechura and Eric Filou hadn’t scored in the series. Andrew Pickering is still looking for his first goal after 13 games and Manderson’s lone goal was in an empty net.
If necessary, Game 6 will return to Penticton on Saturday.
Penticton Vees forward Garrett Milan picks up a bouncing puck in front of Vernon Vipers defender Adam Thompson during the first period of Wednesday’s BCHL game at the South Okanagan Events Centre.