The Penticton Vees bent but didn’t break as they clawed back to earn a 3-3 tie against the Vernon Vipers at the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday.
Chris Klack, named the game’s first star after setting up the Vees’ first two goals, described their effort in the comeback as “playoff hockey.”
“Sometimes things aren’t going to go your way. I think we deserved a bit better fate than going into the second period down 1-0,” said Klack. “They score another two there and we just said, hey guys, we have a choice here. We got to believe in each other and that’s what we did. It was a huge point. I think we deserved it. We’re not satisfied with that. We’re proud of the way we worked. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on.”
After allowing three goals on 15 shots, Vees goalie Mat Robson turned aside the remaining 32 shots he faced, including six in 10 minutes of overtime.
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The comback for the Vees, who are 12th in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, started midway through the second period as Taylor Sanheim, Duncan Campbell and Grant Cruikshank all found twine.
Sanheim tallied his fourth as a Vee with a shot that beat Viper Darion Hanson high glove at 10:36. The crowd of 3,009 went crazy with the Vees players. Klack said Sanheim’s goal gave them energy.
“The momentum just swung our way,” said Klack, a Clarkson University Golden Knight’s commit for next fall. “All around just a great effort by the guys. We battled hard and won those 50-50 battles.”
At 5:53, Campbell finished off a beauty play. After entering the zone, he fed the puck back to Nicholas Jones who made his way to the middle slot area where he hit Chris Klack with a pass. Klack just as quickly made a backdoor pass to Campbell who was able to finish with an easy tap in at the side.
“It gets the crowd into it. They love it,” said Klack. “It’s a confidence booster for us. We know we’re capable of making those plays and we’re going to keep on doing that.”
About two minutes later, Cruikshank took a long feed from Kenny Johnson, raced towards the Vipers net and fired a wrist shot blocker side past Hanson, who finished with 40 saves.
The visitors opened the scoring 5:20 into the first when Steven Jandric set up Brett Stapley for his 11th of the season. Stapley beat Matt Robson gloveside.
Five minutes into the second period the Vipers went up 3-0 on goals by Jagger Williamson and Ryan Brushett. Robson had made a huge pad save on Niko Karamanis, but Williamson doubled the Vipers lead at 2:34 when he buried a bouncing puck past Robson.
The Vipers scored their third goal at 4:45 as the puck went across the crease and Brushett was able to sneak it behind Robson.
“We got off to a good start,” said Vipers forward Hunter Zandee, who was hurt in the third period from a Taylor Ward hit, but was able to return. “We got a good lead, we just need to learn how to play with the lead and maybe get that fourth goal and it could be a different game.”
Zandee said they played hard against the Vees like they always do, but sloppy play on their part allowed the Vees to make a comeback.
“They were beating us to races and we just needed to tighten up a little bit,” said Zandee.
The Vees are now 32-10-1-1 and remain 12 points ahead of the Vipers, who are 23-15-4-4 in the BCHL Interior Division.
The teams meet again at the Kal Tire Centre in Vernon on Friday.
Video below courtesy of Jayson Moonie.