Vees break even in BCHL championship series

Three-goal third period helps Vees even BCHL championship series

A three-goal third period for the Penticton Vees helped them defeat the Surrey Eagles 3-2 in Game 4 of the BCHL championship at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Tuesday.

The series, now tied 2-2, returns to Surrey for Game 5 after Vees forward Jedd Soleway buried the winner. John Siemer did all the work to set up the power forward. Siemer gathered a loose puck in the neutral zone, then squeezed past Drew Best into the Eagles zone. He put on the brakes and feathered a pass to Soleway trailing the play. Michael Santaguida was beat stick side.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said after a slow start early in the first, his players began to pick it up after Anthony Brito gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead with 4:30 remaining. A talk during the second intermission triggered the comeback. Harbinson told his players to make simple plays.

“A huge power play goal (by Wade Murphy) for us kind of spring boarded us,” said Harbinson. “Even when they pushed back, got the second goal to tie it, we came right back at them and I’m really proud of the guys.”

Murphy’s goal that came 58 seconds into the third was followed by Ryan Gropp, who beat Santaguida on his blocker. That gave the Vees a 2-1 lead.

Nic Pierog silenced the crowd of 1,832 three minutes later. The Eagles caught the Vees on a line change and he broke past Siemer and forward Sam Mellor and snapped a shot high past Chad Katunar’s glove. Soleway’s winner came three minutes after that.

Murphy said while it was hard to be trailing by a goal heading into the third they were never worried and they just focused.

“I was just trying to get shots on net. He can’t save them all right,” said Murphy, of Santaguida, who finished with  33 saves. “I think it went through his arms. It was nice to get that one through.”

Murphy also said the Eagles seemed fatigued and that was key in their turn around.

“Just keep pressuring,” said Murphy. “We had a lot of chances and I thought we played well.”

Eagles coach Matt Erhart said he players battled hard.

“I thought we had a pretty good first two periods,” said Erhart, a former defenceman who won the 1998 RBC Cup with the Eagles. “Made a few mental mistakes in the third that cost us and I said to our team, some of the mental mistakes we made earlier against different teams doesn’t come back to haunt you, but it does against a team like the Penticton. I guess we have to tidy up a few of those areas.”

Erhart said the Vees use a lot of speed in the offensive zone and make plays down below the goal line.

“I thought Katunar played really well,” he said of the Vees goalie, who finished with 30 saves. “He made a lot of big saves. I thought we did a better job of creating offence. They were just one shot better than us.”

Game 5 is in Surrey Thursday, while Game 6 returns to Penticton on Sunday at 5 p.m.