WEST KELOWNA WARRIORS forward Seb Lloyd (4) in the back lifts his head in disbelief as Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar denied them of a great scoring chance. After taking a 4-2 lead

WEST KELOWNA WARRIORS forward Seb Lloyd (4) in the back lifts his head in disbelief as Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar denied them of a great scoring chance. After taking a 4-2 lead

Vees take stranglehold in Interior Conference final

Vees goalie Chad Katunar makes 54 saves to allow team to complete comeback

Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar skated around Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna and screamed with his stick and glove in the air towards a large Vees contingent.

The defending B.C. championship goalie was visibly pumped as his team overcame a 4-2 deficit to down the Warriors 5-4 in double overtime and take a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Interior Conference final.

The look on his face was a stark contrast to his emotions after giving up the 2-2 goal after which Vees captain Troy Stecher had a few words with him.

“I just told him be confident,” said Stecher. “He has stolen us so many hockey games. I told him, you’ve done your job. Those are both our fault.”

Knowing Katunar can handle honest feedback, Stecher simply gave him some reassurance.

“I could tell he was a little pissed off with the way those goals resulted,” said Stecher. “I just told him to stay positive and that we were gonna win this hockey game. He came through big for us tonight.”

Katunar was especially strong in the final six minutes of the second with the Warriors leading 4-2. He stuffed the Warriors on a 2-on-1 with his right pad, then made a few more important saves. The Warriors also missed the net on a glorious chance.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said they started to slip a bit and make plays they don’t usually do. It was at that point he decided to call a timeout.

“We knew that if we could keep it at two that we would have a chance to come back and we did,” said Harbinson. “If we were down by three, it would be tough to come back.”

The Vees opened the scoring three minutes in when Wade Murphy set up Louie Nanne, who then struck again as he beat Warriors goalie Tyler Briggs high glove side. After the Warriors struck for four consecutive goals, Brock Balson scored a huge power play goal for the Vees midway through the third. In front of the crease and from his knees, he was able to shovel a backhand past Briggs. With 50 seconds remaining, Brad McClure, who missed most of the second period after a hard hit, scored after they battled hard in front of the Warriors net.

When it came to his winner, Balson said he just jumped into the open ice and yelled for the puck.

“(Travis Blanleil) he made a pretty good pass,” said Balson. “I have no idea how much space there was. I think I blacked out there and just shot it (over the blocker). That’s usually where I shoot. I was just glad it was over. Get some rest for tomorrow.”

The Vees, who were outshot 58-49 in Game 3, can take the Interior Conference championship with a win tonight in West Kelowna.



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