PENTICTON –Fans had to hang onto their stuffed toys longer than they would have liked but in the end the Penticton Vees got them out of their seats more than once on Wednesday. The Vees scored four unanswered goals, all in the second period, en route to a 4-1 win over the Merritt Centennials in their annual Teddy Bear Toss night at the SOEC.
The win moves the Vees back into first place in the Interior Division, as they move one point ahead of the idle Vernon Vipers.
Fans were eagerly waiting for the chance to throw their stuffed toys on the ice Wednesday but the Centennials tried to spoil the party early. Jeff Wight stole the puck behind the Vees net and put a wrap-around between the legs of Olivier Mantha just fifteen seconds into the first period.
Not the start the Vees wanted but they started to turn things around late in the first and almost tied the game on nice setup by Brett Beauvais. Beauvais made a spin-move in the right-circle, before firing the puck across to Anthony Conti at the back-post. Conti’s redirect attempt was kicked-out by the right leg of Merritt’s starter Russell Sanderson.
Despite not scoring in the first, the Vees carried momentum into the second and Paul Stoykewych finally was able to let the fans shower the ice with fuzzy critters. As a Vees power-play expired, Stoykewych moved into the right-circle and snapped a shot through a crowd and off the far-post and past Sanderson at 3:21; the goal not only triggering an onslaught of stuffed toys but goals as well.
After a break to pick up the stuffed toys, the Vees picked up where they left off. Jack Ramsey grabbed the Vees their first lead when he redirected a Patrick Sexton point shot past Sanderson at 7:01. Ramsey parked himself in front of the net at the bottom of the left-circle, and tipped Sexton’s point-shot through his legs and past Sanderson for his fourth and second in as many games.
Forty seconds later, Cody DePourcq made a nice play of his own in front of the Centennials net to put the Vees up by two. Travis Blanleil let-go a cannon from the slot and DePourcq reached out and tipped the puck past the glove of Sanderson for his thirteenth.
The Vees had to go from offense to defense shortly after, as Blanleil was given a five-minute blow to the head major and a game misconduct, after a hit on Rhett Wilcox just past the fourteen minute mark. The Vees penalty-kill came up large, killing off the extended man-advantage and turned that momentum into a late second period goal.
In the dying moments of the period, Brett Beauvais moved down the right-wall and from the outside of the circle, put a wrist-shot past Sanderson at 19:51. It appeared Ben Dalpe redirected the Beauvais shot but the goal was credited to the Vees rear-guard; his sixth.
When the dust settled, the Vees scored four unanswered goals in the middle frame; three in just over four minutes and outshot the Centennials 10-3. Sanderson was replaced by call-up Nathan Alalouf to start the third period.
The Vees bench was shortened even more in the third period, when both Brendan Lamont and Chris Rygus were shown the exit eight minutes in. Lamont left six minutes into the frame for a check from behind and Rygus was called for a blow to the head penalty two minutes later.
The Vees were forced to play most of the third period with just ten forwards and five defensemen but still managed to keep Centennials at bay. Their penalty-kill was excellent, killing-off all four Merritt power-plays, despite being short-handed for eleven minutes of Wednesday’s game.
FINAL SCORE: 4-1 Vees
Shots: 25-21 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-3 Merritt 0-4
Three Stars: 1) Jack Ramsey 2) Paul Stoykewych 3) Patrick Sexton
The Vees record now bumps up to 18-7-1-3 and are now 9-3-0-1 against the Interior Division. Jack Ramsey finished with a game high two points (1-1-2) and the Vees got four goals from four different players; eleven players picking up a point in the win.
The back-half of this home-and-home now shifts to Merritt on Friday, December 6th, as the Cents’ host the Vees at the Nicola Valley Arena; puck-drop is 7:30pm. The Vees return home one night later, Saturday, December 7th, when they host the Surrey Eagles at the SOEC; face-off is 6pm. Tickets for Saturday’s contest are available at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com