Physical presence gives Vees edge in first playoff game

Doubling the Quesnel Millionaires in shots during Game 1 of the BCHL playoffs, the Penticton Vees rolled over the Quesnel Millionaires 5-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Thursday.

Doubling the Quesnel Millionaires in shots during Game 1 of the BCHL playoffs, the Penticton Vees rolled over the Quesnel Millionaires 5-1 at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Thursday.

Vees rookie defenceman Troy Stecher opened the scoring early, however, it was another rookie, James Polk, tallying the winner on the power play just before the midway mark of the second period. Polk later added the Vees final goal.

Polk, who scored eight goals and 25 points in 55 games, loved his first junior A playoff experience.

“At Shattuck St. Mary’s it was a one-game elimination,” said Polk, who played at the high school, which produced NHers such as Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise among others. “There is a build up of hate with the other team. It’s more intense and a lot faster and physical. The price for making mistakes is so high.”

Vees captain Derik Johnson felt the team played a solid 60 minutes, which included responding to the Millionaires coming out with a physical presence

“I think the way we responded was too much for them,” said Johnson, adding that the Vees cycled puck down low well.

Following some early first period jitters, Johnson was impressed with the way the Vees’ rookies stepped up.

With the score 3-1, Joey Benik, who scored 17 goals in the second half to reach 30, got the puck after Brendan O’Donnell won the draw. With an opening near the front of the net, Benik went from forehand to backhand, back to his forehand and buried a shot high on Millionaires goalie Adam Harris, who made 31 saves. Vees goalie Joel Rumpel made 17 saves to collect his first playoff win. Myles McCauley scored the other Vees goal. Along with Polk’s two-goal effort, Garrett Milan, Joey Holka and O’Donnell collected two assists.

Puck drops tonight at 7 p.m. for Game 2 at the SOEC and Johnson said they don’t want to change anything. Quesnel will be without the services of defender Kiefer McNaugton for Games 2 and 3 of the Interior Conference quarter-final after a hit on Mark MacMillan. While there was no penalty given on the play, the BCHL deemed it a blow-to-the-head and a two-game suspension. MacMillan was vulnerable on the play and didn’t have possession of the puck.