The Penticton Vees and Vernon Vipers have been like brothers who love to jab at each other without getting into full out fights.
In Game 2 at the South Okanagan Events Centre the heat was turned up when Vees co-captain Patrick Sexton leveled former teammate Liam Finlay with an open-ice hit at the Vees blue line. Sexton got attention for that and a two-minute charging penalty. Finlay got his redemption as he scored on the 5-on-3 man advantage with Jarod Hilderman already in the box. Finlay’s goal made it 1-1. Shortly after his goal, he required medical attention as he passed out on the bench and didn’t return.
“They tried to say it was a charge. I thought their guy put a soft pass into Liam’s feet,” said Vees coach-general manager Harbinson following his team’s 5-2 win Sunday that gave them a 2-0 series lead entering Game 3 in Vernon on Tuesday. “You don’t like to see anybody get hurt. I have a lot of respect for all the kids that play in this league. Hopefully he is alright. Sexton isn’t a dirty player. He throws big hits, there’s no question.”
“It’s tough to see a kid get hurt. Especially a kid, I know off the ice,” said Sexton.
Vipers forward Anthony Latina said it was a scary hit.
“Sexton is a lot bigger than Finlay, a little dirty but when Finlay passed out on the bench, the last thing we needed was a player on the other team chirping at our bench,” said Latina. “It’s a little gutless and classless but whatever, you got to deal with it. Good thing he is OK.”
Shortly after that, Vipers forward Colton McCarthy punched Vees goalie Hunter Miska in the side of the head causing him to fall down and stay down for a few minutes.
Vipers forward Riley Brandt exchanged words with Sexton and Gabe Bast. Brandt said it’s part of his role to get under the Vees’ skin. When asked about his conversation with Bast, Brandt said he was slashed by the Vees defenceman.
“I just ended up giving him one back,” he said.
There were a few occasions that Brandt engaged Bast.
“The dislike is growing,” he said.
“It’s playoffs and both teams want to win,” said Latina. “There is a lot of emotions involved. It was a little bit of a war there for a bit.”
Tyson Jost received extra attention from Mitch Meek during a second period shift that drew the ire of the Vees and their fans.
Vees assistant captain Jack Ramsey said most of what happens doesn’t faze them as they just play their game. However, he has noticed the animosity grow.
“All the guys that are new to the team, they knew what happened last year,” he said, referring to their second round loss to the Vipers in Game 7. “That hatred came on right away.”
Even Ramsey got entangled in some post -whistle action.
“It’s hard to avoid sometimes,” added Ramsey.
Things did settle down. Jost, who scored twice, potted the winner on a backhand shot on the power play. He also put the Vees up 1-0 42 seconds into the match.
Cam Amantea gave the Vees a 2-1 lead just before the first period ended. In the second frame, along with Jost’s tally, Connor Chartier and Demico Hannoun, scored to give the Vees a commanding 5-1 lead. Brandt scored the only goal of the third period.
With the series now in Vernon, Ramsey expects the hatred to continue.
“It’s probably going to pick up. We’re excited to see what happens,” he said.
Vees notes: The BCHL announced that Hannoun is the Player of the Week ending March 15.
He led all BCHL scorers last week with a goal and six assists in three Vees wins. In the fifth and deciding game against West Kelowna, a 7-0 final last Monday, Hannoun had three assists and was named the Fortis Energy Player of the Game. Hannoun then had an assist in a Game 1 win over Vernon Saturday and followed that up with a goal and three points and first star honours in Sunday night’s 5-2 win. Vees defenseman Dante Fabbro was a runner-up with two goals and four points in three games last week and was named the first star in Saturday’s 4-3 double-overtime win over Vernon.