Three seconds was all that was between the Penticton Vees and their sixth straight win but three seconds was all the difference.
The Vees got off to a shaky start in the home-and-home series on the weekend with the Trail Smoke Eaters but held on to beat them 4-3 Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre. On Saturday, the Smoke Eaters tied the game in the dying moments of regulation and then won in double overtime, handing the Vees a 3-2 setback at Cominco Arena.
The Vees struggles on Friday started in the first when they were not able to keep the puck out of their own end which ended up with the Smoke Eaters Craig Martin scoring to take the lead. Still, Vees forward Connor Chartier was able to make the best of a pass from Lewis Zerter-Gossage to tie it up late.
The Smoke Eaters quickly answered back with an unassisted goal from Kienan Scott 47 seconds later.
“For some reason we couldn’t make a play. We put a lot of pucks at each others feet, we couldn’t string two or three passes together. It was just one of those nights,” head coach-general manager of the Vees Fred Harbinson said.
At the start of the second Hunter Miska replaced Vees net minder Brendan Barry who allowed two goals on 10 shots in the first.
The Vees were able to muster up some energy in the second knocking three past the posts from Jost, Conroy and Newsome to grab their first lead of the game going ahead 4-2.
“The second period I thought we were great. We got back on track and then the third was a little stagnant again at a few different points,”
Trail held on to make things interesting and Kienan Scott nabbed his second goal of the game to put the Smoke Eaters within one with four minutes to go in the third.
Despite some close last second efforts from Trail, the Vees were able to hang on to the win.
“The third wasn’t bad but, there you go, all of a sudden you give up a goal late and they got life from it and it almost came back to haunt us,” Harbinson said.
Mitch Newsome led the Vees in points Friday night bringing home a goal and an assist.
“We had a tough start there, but everyone reconnected in the dressing room and we came out with a strong second,” Newsome said. “Obviously we wouldn’t like to give up that last goal like we did there, but we got the win thats all that matters.”
Jake Lucchini haunted the Vees scoring the game-tying and game-winning goals on Saturday’s rematch. The Vees’ Jost hit the 20-goal plateau with his first period tally and Patrick Newell scored his first in six-games early in the third period for the Vees. Miska made 35 saves in the loss but was named the game’s third star.
Splitting the weekend series widened the gap in the Interior Division with the Vees moving 15 points ahead of second place Vernon Vipers. The Vees are now off until next weekend, when they start a three-game weekend road trip in Chilliwack Friday.
The team will be heading up to Apex on Feb. 15 for a Skate with the Vees day presented by Marketplace IGA from noon to 2 p.m.
The event is free to the public, just remember to bring your skates, sticks and helmets. Marketplace IGA will have a hot dog barbecue by donation on site with all proceeds going towards Penticton Minor Hockey Association.