The Vernon Vipers listened to the message delivered by coach Mark Ferner and it resulted in a 4-3 double overtime win over the Penticton Vees Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“All we told the kids is throw as many pucks to the net as possible, who knows what happens,” said Ferner, as his team takes a 3-2 series lead in the BCHL Interior Division Final. “Obviously it wasn’t directed at the net. We got a bounce tonight.”
Luke Voltin, who opened the scoring at 16:01 of the first period, had his shot redirected off a Vees leg fooling goalie Hunter Miska, who finished with 37 saves and was caught going in the direction he thought the puck was heading, beating him glove side at 5:37.
“That’s a double overtime goal. Just throwing pucks. We were lucky to get one past him,” said Vipers captain Riley Guenther. “I was just ecstatic. Pretty pumped. We’re starting to get bounces our way. We’re stating to get rewarded for our hard work.”
The Vipers led 1-0 after the first period, however, the Vees rebounded in the second, scoring three unanswered goals starting with Riley Alferd’s tally on a wraparound that found a small hole in Danny Todosychuk. Assists went to Matthew Serratore and Jack Ramsey. Ten minutes later, Steen Cooper gave the Vees a 2-1 lead when his centering pass hit a Vernon stick and beat Todosychuk five hole. Cody DePourcq and Dante Fabbro helped set that goal in motion. Seven seconds later, Miles Gendron handed off the puck to Dakota Conroy, who dished it off to Connor Chartier in the offensive zone and he wired his sixth goal in 10 playoff games past Todosychuk’s glove. The Viper netminder finished with 48 saves on the night, including 14 in the first period.
The Vipers scratched their way back in the third period starting with Mackenzie Bauer’s goal that hit Miska’s left shoulder then bounced into the top corner of the net. Guenther took a pass from Jagger Williamson to force overtime when his shot beat Miska, who appeared to be screened on the play.
Chartier said he felt they started great but took their foot of the pedal a bit.
“I thought we progressed in overtime. Playing better and better and kind of wearing them out. Unfortunately they got a lucky bounce,” said Chartier.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson liked his team’s play in the third period and never felt they sat back.
“We made an individual mistake on the second goal. It ended up in our net. Gave them some life,” said Harbinson. “Then they get a seeing eye shot with two minutes to go. In the overtime, I thought we really controlled the play. One of the weirder goals I’ve ever seen in overtime.”
Game 6 now shifts to Vernon’s Kal Tire Place Saturday evening. Even with the series lead now, the Vipers know it won’t be easy to finish off the sixth ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League. Ferner admitted the series is far from over. Guenther expects another war.
“They are not going to roll over. We know the fourth win is always the hardest one,” said Guenther. “It will be a great game. Hopefully it will be a good crowd. Good Vernon/Penticton game for sure.”
Outside of the Vees’ quiet dressing room, Chartier said “it’s do or die tomorrow.”
“We’re not really panicking as a group. We still believe in each other. That’s key for right now,” said Chartier, adding its important that the group doesn’t get too high or too low. “We’ve been a good team all year. Most successful team Ive ever been on. I believe in every one of the guys.”
Should the Vees win, Game 7 returns to the SOEC Sunday at 6 p.m.