Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar turned aside all 20 shots he faced on Tuesday night against the Merritt Centennials in the Interior Conference final. The Vees won the game 5-0 and take a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar turned aside all 20 shots he faced on Tuesday night against the Merritt Centennials in the Interior Conference final. The Vees won the game 5-0 and take a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Vees erupt for five goals to dump Centennials in Game 1

Mario Lucia hattrick leads Vees to Game 1 win in Interior Conference finals

A four-goal explosion in the second period helped the Penticton Vees cruise past the Merritt Centennials 5-0.

The Vees have taken a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Interior Conference final against the Centennials on Tuesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Lucia, who finished with three goals on the night, scored six minutes into the second period to give the Vees a 2-0 lead.

“I kind of got lucky on the second one,” said Lucia. “We dominated most of the play. They had a few shots here and there but Kat (goalie Chad Katunar) played solid.”

Seven minutes later, Joey Benik and Bryce Gervais took off on a 2-on-1 with Benik setting up Gervais for an easy one-timer past Lino Chimienti.

“We tipped it by their d-man. We had a 2-on-1 all the way from our zone,” said Benik. “There was a lot of time to think. The goalie was at me and the D-man was with him. I kind of did a fake wrist shot and the D-man turned around and it gave the opportunity to pass and the goalie was already down. Gervais had a wide open net there.”

Benik admitted to thinking pass the whole time. Had the defenceman stuck with him, then he would have taken the shot.

The Vees then got two more goals as Lucia got his hat trick, assisted by Wade Murphy. That goal chased Chimienti. Curtis Loik wasted no time in welcoming Tyler Steel to the game with his own goal. Benik commended Wade Murphy for his passing plays that setup Lucia and Loik.

Lucia, who earned first star honours, opened the scoring less then four minutes into the first when he beat two Centennials defenders then beat Chimienti with a wrist shot blocker side. Katunar made 20 saves for the shutout, his second in consecutive games.

“That’s huge. With (Michael) Garteig being hurt, Katunar steps up,” said Benik, who hails from Andover, Minn. “For him to come out and do that and show what kind of goalie he is super strong. I highly admire that. I’m really proud of him. He keeps playing like this, he is going to be able to take us a long way.”

As for the Centennials play, Benik said it has been the same all year.

“ They play pretty physical, they are a hard working team,” said Benik, adding that they did try to take a few runs at the Vees. “We just have to get the puck low and out work them.”

A crowd of 2,261 took in Monday’s game, including a busload of Centennials fans.

Game 2 of the series is today at the SOEC at 7 p.m.

For more Vees coverage, check www.pentictonwesternnews.com and Friday’s issue of the Western News.