Brad McClure now has four game winning goals under his belt.
The most recent came against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks in the Penticton Vees 3-0 win Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre. However, it’s Troy Stecher who SilverBacks coach Scott Robinson was talking about after.
Robinson said they “have to pay attention to Mr. Stecher.”
That’s because Stecher set up the winning goal and blasted a howitzer past Adam Clark. The goalie had no chance on the shot, but it was the last one he allowed as he was pulled in favor of Dustin Nikkel, who stopped all seven shots he faced.
The showdown Wednesday had a fast-paced start with few whistles in the opening frame, one of them when McClure netted the winning goal at 7:08. Sam Mellor won the draw, then dished the puck off to Stecher, who created an opening and found McClure alone near the front of the net. Clark made the first save, but McClure shovelled a backhand upstairs. In the second period, Cam Amantea extended the lead as he used his speed to intercept a pass Clark tried to make behind the net. Despite getting back into his net as Amantea went to the other side, Clark wasn’t able to completely stop the puck. Stecher’s big goal came after the Vees killed a goalie interference penalty on Ryan Gropp, who created a chance using his speed but hit the goalie. Stecher battled hard along the boards to keep the puck in the zone before letting go his slapshot.
For Saturday, Robinson said they have to be aware of what Stecher is doing.
“He’s been the single biggest guy that’s really hurt us,” said Robinson.
On Nov. 16, Stecher had a goal and assist performance in a 3-2 Vees win. On Oct. 19, Stecher had an assist. He also had two assists in a 5-0 win on Sept. 21.
Not helping the SilverBacks was their power play. Despite having the best man advantage (11-for-43) on the road in the BCHL heading into the game, they got nothing on five chances.
“Our power play had a chance to make the difference tonight and it didn’t,” said Robinson. “It’s been pretty good lately but Penticton’s got a ridiculous penalty kill percentage right now (94.7). A lot of that goes with Chad Katunar and how well he played. He was good tonight.”
Katunar turned aside 27 shots, including 11 in the final period. The Vees goalie said he was happy with his play and credited his teammates for allowing him to see the puck.
“They kept a lot of chances to the outside,” said Katunar. “(My shutout) It’s more of a team effort than anything.”
While Katunar didn’t have to perform like Superman, he made key saves, especially using his pad to kick the puck away on a couple of occasions. He said the SilverBacks had them working in the defensive zone for a bit in the third.
“We were on the defensive side of the puck all night,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “I think we only gave up a handful of chances in front of our net. I thought in the neutral zone we were above the puck all night. It made it real tough for them.”
While the Vees made few mistakes, a focus for them was playing a physical game. Harbinson, who noted that they recorded the most hits in a game, said they wanted to hit the SilverBacks and have them banged up for their second game.
“It was a good win,” said Katunar. “We were really happy with that effort. We capitalized on our opportunities. We’re really stringing some big games together. We’re really happy with our play lately.”
The one player who didn’t hit the scoresheet and has been a constant is forward Wade Murphy. He had a 17-game point streak end after an assist was taken away from him in Trail Nov. 17, then had a three-game streak end after this game.
“I never really thought about it that much,” said Murphy, adding that winning is more important. “I just keep playing hard and hopefully keep playing well.”