The Penticton Vees (29-12-1-2) have won five straight games and look to push that streak to six in an Interior Division showdown tonight in Merritt against the Centennials (26-13-3-1).
The Jan. 20 game is the final time Penticton heads to Merritt this season, with the puck dropping at 6 p.m. in the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena
The Centennials have been off since Thursday night when they hosted the Chilliwack Chiefs. Leading by a single goal late in the game, Merritt gave up the tying goal with 38 seconds left before Joey Berkopec accidentally redirected the puck into his own net in overtime as Merritt fell 4-3.
The Vees have had their way with Merritt so far this season to the tune of a 4-0 record. Penticton has outscored the Centennials 22-9. Vees defenceman James Miller, playing Merritt this year, has five goals and four assists in the four victories.
The game could have huge implications in the Interior Division with Penticton sitting five points ahead of Merritt heading into the game.
On Friday, the Vees won in a shootout for the second time in as many games, 3-2 over the Prince George Spruce Kings. An excellent opening period had the Vees up 2-0 on goals from Jack Lagerstrom and Ty Pochipinski.
The second period was a much different story. The Vees were outshot 18-7, took three penalties and gave up a goal. With one second on the clock, Patrick Cozzi came down the right wing in the Vees zone and lifted a shot over the glove of Jack LaFontaine to make it 2-1.
The Vees were perhaps lucky to still be ahead at that point, but the lead didn’t last long as Chong Min Lee scored 3:27 into the third to tie the game.
LaFontaine was airtight the rest of the game, finishing with 35 saves through 65 minutes before stopping all three Prince George shooters in the shootout as Luke Loheit’s goal stood up as the winner in front of 3,256 fans.
The game also kicks off a stretch of four straight on the road, as the Vees head to the Island Division next weekend for games in Powell River, Port Alberni and Nanaimo.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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