Focus on details after win

The Penticton Vees play the West Kelowna Warriors in a home-and-home series after victory over Vernon

CHRISTIAN CAKEBREAD of the Vernon Vipers battles Penticton Vees forward Nicholas Jones in the boards during BCHL action Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place. The Vees won 5-4 in double overtime and now shift their focus to the West Kelowna Warriors.

You never want Scott Conway in your neighbourhood come overtime in the B.C Hockey League.

The 20-year-old centre has been clutch and then some with games on the line this year. The Basingstoke, England product was at it again Tuesday night, feeding Chris Gerrie in double overtime as the Vees upended the Vernon Vipers 5-4 before 1,750 fans at Kal Tire Place.

Conway, who has more moves than Cirque du Soleil on the Vegas strip, went into the tilt with 10 game-winning snipes, including five in overtime. He and Gerrie moved into the Viper zone on a two-on-one with Gerrie beating Andrew Shortridge from the left side for his 10th of the season, 1:41 into double OT.

“He (Conway) creates a lot of offence out there so you kind of just have to go to the net and put your stick on the ice and he’ll find a way to get it to you,” said Gerrie, a 19-year-old Red Deer product who has two GWGs. “I was screaming at him. I haven’t scored in a while so I wanted it pretty bad.”

With just about everybody in the rink, including the West Kelowna Warriors’ coaching staff, expecting Conway to pocket the OT winner, he instead forced the extra sessions with a powerplay goal on a wrister from the ringette line with 2:24 remaining in regulation.

He didn’t have a great look for a shot on the two-on-one with Gerrie, but has won games with lesser chances.

“I had both options I guess, but at the last second, the dee kind bit on me a little bit and the goalie was also out pretty far so I thought I’d slide it over to for a tap in for Chris Gerrie there,” said Conway, who finished with two goals and four points for first star and now has 30 goals on the year.

It was easily the most exciting game of the season at The Big Wheel and perhaps the most intensity and pushback the Vipers have shown at home. Referees Ryan Dawson and Riley Balson let the boys play for the most part, Brandt getting nailed for charging d-man Colton Poolman against the sidewall to give the Vees their final powerplay.

“This is what we’re all playing hockey for, games like this,” said Conway, who is riding a 31-game points streak.  “You know it wasn’t gonna be an easy game in this barn. Rivals like this, we have it out for each other. We battled through adversity. That penalty shot there, in my opinion, wasn’t a call but we did a good job working through that and came out with a win.”

Conway hustled back and lifted Hunter Zandee’s stick on a breakaway with 6:18 left in the third period. Zandee went low on Anthony Brodeur on the ensuing penalty shot for his fifth goal of the year.

It was 3-2 Vipers after 20 minutes and 3-3 after 40. Vernon outshot Penticton 41-29.

“We’re always close with Pen; we can’t seem to close it out,” said Viper leading scorer Odeen Tufto, an 18-year-old Minnesota product who just signed a scholarship with the NCAA Quinnipiac Bobcats.

“I think it’s the little things. Last time, we played against Pen, we got into penalty trouble and this time, there’s two minutes left and we’re up by one and we take a penalty and they score. It’s the details. They’re a smart team and they know not to do that and they got in our heads and got a powerplay off it. That’s the reason they tied it and won in overtime on a good play.”

Also scoring for the Vees were Benjamin Brar, Darius Davidson and Nicholas Jones.

The Vees improved to 30-3-1, while the Vipers dipped to 15-18-0-3.

Penticton was without projected 2016 NHL first-rounders Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro, while the Vipers missed second-leading scorer Liam Finlay, all with Team Canada West.

Finlay fired the winner, assisted by Jost, Tuesday as Team Canada West edged the Americans 3-2 at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Couburg, Ont.

The Vees dressed three affiliates with d-man Daniel Stone seeing time in overtime.

Penticton starts a home and home series with the Warriors starting Friday at Royal LePage Place.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said they “need to be on their details and play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulders.”

It was easy Tuesday night when you have Vernon’s leaders taking penalties at weird times, late in games,” said Harbinson. “We got to hope that maybe West Kelowna will do a little bit of the same. Our power-play has been capitalizing when we have had opportunities.”

The Vees’ power-play sits atop the BCHL with 45 goals on 150 chances, which equates to a 30 per cent efficiency rate. Then Warriors power-play has struck 38 times on 151 chances, 25.17 per cent.

Harbinson agreed when suggested that the Warriors like to play a chippy game against them. He added that they and the Vipers prefer that style when playing the Vees. Perhaps even going over the line. That’s when the power-play comes in handy to make teams pay.

The Warriors (19-13-0-2, with one overtime victory) have won their last two games, but also lost three in a row earlier this month. Harbinson considers them one of the best teams in the league.

“They have a pretty solid D-core,” said Harbinson. “They have had a revolving door in net. We don’t really know who we’re going to be playing in goal. Up front they are deep, always ready to play when they play us.”

Vees notes: Defenceman Sam Jones was traded to the Cowichan Valley Capitals for future considerations. In 27 games with the Vees, Jones had four assists and 19 penalty minutes.

— Written with files from the Vernon Morning Star.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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