The Penticton Vees (12-6-1-2) were outshot 12-3 in the first period against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (12-8-1-0) Friday night, but bounced back in a major way over the final 40 minutes en route to a 4-2 win.
The Vees were badly outplayed over the opening 20 minutes at the South Okanagan Events Centre as the Silverbacks were aggressive in all three zones, shutting down the Vees attack. Goaltender Jack LaFontaine was the lone reason the Vees escaped the period tied at zero, as he finished with 12 saves including multiple breakaways.
The Vees came out of the gates in the second period looking like a different team, firing three shots on net before the clock had ticked three minutes down. The strong play eventually led to a 1-0 lead.
On the power play, James Miller fired a wrist shot from the left point that sailed through traffic and beat a screened Matthew Armitage for Miller’s 11th of the season.
The lead didn’t last to the intermission however as the Silverbacks Nick Unruh took a centring feed from below the goal line and beat LaFontaine over the glove with just 1:38 left in the period. Cassidy Bowes nearly restored the Penticton lead with 40 seconds left, but was denied on a breakaway.
The Vees eventually regained their lead in the third off a bounce. Conner Hutchison shot a puck on net from the left point that missed, but the puck came off the end wall and onto the stick of Ryan Sandelin who beat Armitage from the goal line to make it 2-1 Vees 8:31 into the period.
Sandelin then added another on the power play. Vees captain Massimo Rizzo had the puck knocked off his stick but it bounced straight to Sandelin, who quickly fired a snap shot into the top corner over Armitage’s blocker to give the Vees a 3-1 lead with 8:10 remaining.
The Silverbacks cut into the Vees lead less than two minutes later as a shot from up high couldn’t be controlled by the Vees netminder and bounced in front of the net and to the stick of Aiden Jenner with 6:23 left in regulation.
Once the Silverbacks pulled Armitage for the extra attacker, the Vees weathered the offensive storm of the Silverbacks before Eric Linell was able to break down the left side into the Salmon Arm zone and hit the empty net to seal the win.
The Vees now get set to host the Trail Smoke Eaters (8-10-3-2) who are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss at home to Coquitlam. Overall, Trail has lost nine of their last 10 games. It’s the first of six meetings on the season.
The Silverbacks host Interior Division rivals the Vernon Vipers on Saturday at 7 p.m.
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