Smelling blood, the Penticton Vees went for the kill and got it Monday night against the West Kelowna Warriors at the South Okanagan Events Centre with a 7-0 blowout.
The victory, in front of a crowd of 1,877, clinched the BCHL Interior Division semifinal for the Vees in six games.
“We were excited. This was a big game for us,” said Vees rookie sensation Tyson Jost, who burned Warriors goalie Stephen Heslop twice. “Very proud of the boys for getting it done. It was a fun series and we’re glad it’s over. We battled through a hard series. Lots of overtime, it was fun. We’re looking forward to Vernon.”
The Vees opened the scoring at 11:40 of the first period when Matt Serratore took a pass from Jarod Hilderman in the neutral zone and beat Heslop with a shot from above the hash marks that snuck between his arm and body. Jost made it 2-0 with his third goal of the playoffs at 15:31 after Demico Hannoun won a battle for the puck with Liam Blackburn at the Warriors blueline and made a move to pass it off to Jost. He then cut hard to the net untouched and tucked the puck behind Heslops stretched right pad. The Warriors had a few good chances, but Miska was there to make key saves and his defence cleared pucks out of danger.
“The boys played unbelievable this whole series,” said Miska, who finished with 29 saves. “I was pretty dialed in on that game. I felt great. Guys were doing their jobs.”
Jost was at it again in the second period. With 41 seconds remaining, the play started after he beat Andrew Johnson on the face-off and Hannoun passed back to Miles Gendron at the blue line. He fired a shot that Jost redirected past Heslop.
“I guess just the timing of it. Gendy made a nice shot and I just got a stick on it,” said Jost. “I was pretty fired up when it went in. That’s a pretty good lead.”
Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson said that was the back breaker.
“We knew they were going to come out hard. We had two huge penalty kills in the first period, especially at the end of the period,” said Harbinson. “They make it 2-1 and it’s a different deal. We had our chance on the power play and the goalie made a couple of unbelievable saves. We have seen a lot of two-goal leads evaporate in this series. Getting that third one late was huge.”
The Vees cemented their lead with two goals in 19 seconds by Riley Alferd at 8:48, then Patrick Newell. The final two goals were scored by Dakota Conroy and Connor Chartier. Harbinson said it’s always hard to end a team’s season.
“That’s a good team over there. I just thought our guys stuck with the game plan,” he said. “Didn’t look nervous, made some really smart plays.”
The Warriors were without Brayden Gelsinger in the final two games as well as Jordan Masters and goalie Andy Desautels for the entire series. Masters is a point-per-game producer and Desautels won 14 of his 31 starts. Gelsinger, one of the Warriors’ top scorers, had two points in three playoff games.
Warriors coach-general manager Rylan Ferster liked the effort his team played with as well as Heslop.
“I thought he played well in the series. He gave us a chance. Obviously tonight is unfortunate,” said Ferster of Heslop, who replace rookie Scott Patton, who was injured after Game 2.
Ferster also congratulated the Vees.
“I thought they played well all series. They are a good team,” he said.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Miska of the series win. “It’s just another stepping stone towards the RBC Cup. That was one huge step. The boys played unbelievable this whole series. They were close games and tonight we knew this was the opportunity to win the series.”
As for his counterpart, Heslop, Miska had praise for him.
“I thought he played really well, even though he gave up seven goals tonight, he had a rough third period,” said Miska. “The last few nights he got the starts, he played unbelievable. He really gave them a chance to win.”