Offence was firing on all cylinders for the Penticton Vees Friday night as they defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-1.
Game 1 of their opening BCHL playoff round was sealed for the Vees within the first eight minutes at the South Okanagan Events Centre with a crowd of 2,524 in attendance. The Vees scored three times starting with a quick wrist shot by Troy Stecher. The Vees defenceman spun his body slightly after accepting a feed from Joey Benik, then beat Mitch Gillam top shelf.
“As soon as I shot it I knew it was going in,” said Stecher, who dropped to one knee and did a fist pump in celebration, much like his partner Mike Reilly does. “It was exciting getting the first one. We wanted to set the tone.”
And set the tone the Vees did. Two minutes after Stecher’s goal, Steven Fogarty capitalized on a mistake by Gillam, who mishandled the puck with his glove. Fogarty found the loose puck behind the netminder and tapped it in. Then Wade Murphy was at it. The Victoria native made it 3-0 when he got his stick on Ryan Reilly’s rebound and fired a shot upstairs. Gillam desperately stretched to try and make the save. He finished with 35 saves on the night.
There was no scoring in the second with both teams firing nine shots. However, things got heated and that resulted in a fight between Curtis Loik and Tyler Miller. In the third period, Miller was at it again, this time with Zach Urban. A dislikeness was evident for both teams and resulted in players being tossed including Stecher and Vees captain Logan Johnston.
When asked why he was removed, Johnston had no comment. Stecher claimed the Chiefs tried goading them into more fights.
Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said emotions were getting high.
“I need to keep things under control,” said Harbinson, adding it was related to some of the calls. “I need to keep myself in control.”
As for his team’s play, he sensed in Thursday’s practice and the Friday morning skate that his players were ready.
“I could see it in their eyes,” he said. “They executed the plan well.”
While the Chiefs found the back of the net on a play, which the Vees looked a little confused on, the No. 1-ranked team in Canada scored three more. Bryce Gervais scored twice and another by Murphy. Gervais’ first goal was the result of winning a puck battle and getting by two defenders. He then beat Gillam five-hole. His second came from good work by Benik, who took a hit along the boards. Benik dished the puck to Gervais, who beat Gillam low glove.
Special teams was a factor in the Vees putting the game away as Gervais’ first goal was shorthanded. Their other two third period goals came on the power play, which went 2-for-6. They also killed off five of six penalties.
Chad Katunar, who filled in for the injured Michael Garteig, stopped 16 of 17 shots. He made several key saves.
“Two games now he has been outstanding,” said Harbinson. “He made the stops he had to.”
Game 2 between the Vees and Chiefs is tomorrow at the SOEC at 7 p.m. Check www.pentictonwesternnews.com for more Vees coverage.