Mr. Clutch. King of game-winning goals. What better way is there to describe Penticton Vees forward Scott Conway?
The Vernon Vipers were 1:30 minutes from being the first BCHL team this season to win in the South Okanagan Events Centre. Then Conway decided to put a wrinkle in those plans. Trailing 3-2, Conway deflected Griffin Mendel’s point shot to even things at three. Then with 1:43 remaining in four-on-four overtime, Tyson Jost left the puck for Conway near the boards and he made his way to the front of the net, firing a wrist shot that beat Andrew Shortridge low glove, 4-3 Vees. It’s the third time the Vees, Canada’s top junior A team, have won a game trailing after two periods. Conway’s 20th goal of the season is his ninth winner, which leads the BCHL by four.
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said he felt some of his players looked gassed, including possibly Conway.
“He finds a way at the end,” said Harbinson.
Harbinson expected what Conway has been giving the Vees.
“He played in the Big 10 last year. He was on the all-rookie team,” added Harbinson. “We knew he was going to be able to contribute offensively. He’s gotten some big goals, a lot of game winning goals for us. It’s exciting. It was a game we had to grind out with that many guys out of the lineup.”
Along with not having defenceman Gabe Bast, Seamus Donohue and forwards Easton Brodzinksi and Dixon Bowen to injury, the Vees were also without Benjamin Brar serving the second of a two-game suspension.
“Get down by two there and it’s not looking great,” said Harbinson. “We find a way to inch our way back in and make the play with the goalie pulled.”
The Vipers were hungry and pressured the Vees well in the first period though both teams were tied with nine shots a piece. In the second period, the Vipers had a 13-11 edge in shots and built a 2-0 lead on a goal by Christian Cakebread. Dante Fabbro cut into that lead with the power-play as his booming slapshot whipped off the inside of one post and off the other behind Shortridge before resting on the ice at 6:48.
The Vees had other chances: Jost had a puck hop his stick on a one-timer attempt then Nicholas Jones was denied by Shortridge at the side of the crease. He then received a hard shove to the ice by a Viper.
Harbinson said his team showed a lot of character to be able to find a way to win with the missing bodies, which included defenceman Domenic Masellis who had his ear cut during the game.
Jost said he thought they played all right but felt they could have been better in what he said is a tough week for the Vees, who finish by hosting the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I’m happy that we battled through the adversity there,” he said. “We battled back as a team. It was nice to see.”
Jost agreed the Vipers were hungry and it was something he felt bit them in the opening period.
“They wanted it more. That’s something that we talked about in the dressing room,” said Jost, who with Fabbro received an invite to Team Canada West’s camp in Leduc, Alta. next month. “I thought we came out better but we still needed a little bit more of a push. We did it in the last 10 minutes of the third period and then in overtime.”
Jost liked that he and his teammates got pucks to the net as well as traffic in front of Shortridge. Chris Gerrie put the Vees within a goal. That also led to the equalizer.
Conway extended his point streak to 24-games with his two goals and Jost extended his to 15-games with his two assists. The Vees are now 5-0 in overtime this year and 12-0-0 at the SOEC. Tonight marks the first loss for Vernon in nine games when carrying a lead into the third period.