The Penticton Vees are in a hole.
Down 3-1 in the Interior Conference Final, the Vernon Vipers, defending national champions, look to finish off their rivals today at the Wesbild Centre.
After losing Game 4 (5-0) in the South Okanagan Events Centre, Vees goalie Sean Bonar said they are the underdog.
I’m not sure how many people would have predicted the Vipers to be up 3-1.
While I never gave my prediction before the series started, I felt it would go seven games.
I didn’t witness Penticton getting its rear handed to them on a silver platter in Game 1 but I have watched the other games. After an improved performance in Game 2, the tables turned for performances in Games 3 and 4. The Vees looked very good winning 4-0 in Game 3.
One of the main differences between both games, as Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson told me after Game 4, were the number of penalties his team had to kill. Fans can choose to blame Steve Papp for the Vees’ loss but the fact is is the Vees alone are responsible for their play. In this series, their penalty-killing unit killed 11of 16 penalties, while the Vipers are a perfect 12-for-12.
Before the series started, one of the things the No. 3 ranked Vees have talked plenty about is their depth. That has been tested especially with injuries to Ben Sexton and Jake Johnson. While teams may enter the playoffs healthy, luck definitely has to be on their side especially depending how physical a series may get. It’s the price players pay if they want to win a championship. With a healthy lineup, Harbinson has the luxury to scratch a player. That luxury lasted just over four games in the post season.
What has stood out to me is that for a team that had no problems with offence during the season and leading into the Interior Conference Final, they have hit a wall. Bo Dolan, Matt Paltridge, Logan Johnston, Denver Manderson, Ryan Viselli and Johnson have scored against the Vipers. Manderson scored into an empty net during the 4-0 win so he’s still looking to beat a player donning goalie equipment while Beau Bennett, Garrett Milan, Alex Szczechura, Joey Holka and the other foot soldiers are still looking for their first goals of the series.
They need to find another level if they hope for their season to last beyond today. Hands down their MVP of this playoffs has been Bonar. He has allowed 14 goals on 149 shots.
During the Coach’s Corner segment on Thursday, Harbinson said this situation could result in the players being more loose with nothing to lose.
Fans who make the trip today will hope to see desperation from the Vees. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you play with that feeling. If they do find their game today and extend the series then the home crowd can look forward to at least one more game.
That will also give Vees fans another chance to redeem themselves and actually behave like hockey fans. A friend of mine who attended the game was astonished at the lack of enthusiasm fans showed for the Vees. It is shameful that during the playoffs people act as if they are in a library while watching the game, except to spew out vulgarities at the officials when they didn’t get a call they felt should be made.
While small, a group of Vipers supporters, including Australians wearing construction hats, were louder than the Vees faithful. Having fans behind the Vees and constantly cheering them could lift them out of their hole.