Game 1 between the Penticton Vees and Westside Warriors nearly put the crowd of 1,347 to sleep, minus the 50 Warriors faithful who took the bus to cheer louder than the homeside.
Game 2 Wednesday night was a different story. With a smaller crowd (1,232) at the South Okanagan Events Centre, both teams played with an urgency that resembled a playoff game and the Vees again came out victorious 3-2.
“We played physical and with energy and smarts,” said Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson. Aside from spending too much time in the sin bin giving Westside seven power plays, the Vees coach liked what he saw.
“We generated a lot of offence and cycled the puck down low and were well rounded,” he said. “Guys stepped up. We wanted to win two games at home.”
It all started with Alex Szczechura depositing a rebound upstairs over Kevin Jebson’s glove with the goalie stretched and Spencer Humphries watching. Before the period ended, Cole Wilson evened things up on the man advantage when his shot from the point deflected and fooled Bonar. In the second period Garrett Milan, who took some abuse from the Warriors and bit back, got the last laugh as he pounced on a rebound and went forehand to backhand beating Jebson on the power play. Vees captain Denver Manderson scored the winner on the power play. That was his sixth goal in as many games.
Aside from the Vees scoring and delivering hits to get fans cheering, referee Steve Papp got the crowds attention with some questionable calls. One on Vees defenceman Derik Johnson, who was called for tripping when he took down a Warrior forward near the boards with a hipcheck. Johnson exchanged words with the official.
Vees forward Eric Filiou said those are things that players can’t control.
“You try not to argue too much or talk about it but we did feel that there was a couple of calls that could have been made,” he said.
Between the pipes, Bonar didn’t have to be as stellar as Game 1, which he was named the first star. However, he still made 21 saves, which earned the praise of Warriors coach Darren Yopyk.
“Bonar outdid Jebson,” he said. “We have to get pucks on net because Bonar is playing strong.”
Yopyk felt the Vees stepped up their game while his own players didn’t answer in certain situations. What he liked is that they competed hard and forechecked better. Down 2-0 in the series, Yopyk mainly wants to see more pucks on net. While they crashed the Vees net on occasions, in the third period it resulted in Tyler Bricklers goals, Yopyk said it’s not part of their plan to try and throw Bonar off.
“Five-on-five not much is happening,” he said, who noted the Vees defence clogged the middle. “We’re getting chances. They are burying more chances.”
Manderson gave the Warriors credit as he felt they played better from the first game and added they “just found a way at home to get a couple of wins.”
What impressed Manderson on Wednesday along with Bonar’s performance was how guys like Jake Johnson, Logan Johnston and Joey Holka stepped up. Eric Filiou was given more minutes in place of Ben Sexton, who missed Game 2 following a hit in Game 1 when his head met the boards thanks to Trevor Bailey. Manderson also praised the efforts of defencemen Matt Paltridge and Johnson.
“They are playing like 30 minutes a game,” he said. “They are very steady. I have never seen them go glass and out so many times and it seems like not a skilled play but it’s really working.”
Games 2 and 3 are in Westside Friday and Saturday.
In other BCHL games, the Quesnel Millionaires defeated the Vernon Vipers 4-2 evening the series at one. Alberni Valley defeated Nanaimo 3-2 in overtime evening that series, while Powell River won 5-3 against Langley to take a 2-0 series lead. For video on this game, go to www.pentictonwesternnews.com.
Westside Warriors forward Patrick Bartoshyk breaks down the ice ahead of Penticton Vees Andrew Pickering and Byron Sorensen during first period action in the BCHL playoffs at the South Okanagan Events Centre Wednesday. The Vees hung on for a 3-2 win.