PENTICTON - Its four minutes the Penticton Vees will want to have back. The Vernon Vipers scored three goals in a four-minute span early in the second period, en route to a 4-3 win over the Vees in game one of the Interior Division Final, at the SOEC Friday.
The Vipers now lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 with game two tomorrow at the SOEC.
Trailing 1-0 to start the second, the Vipers scored three goals in four minutes and eleven seconds, to turn a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead. Dylan Chanter started the sequence when he ripped a one-timer from the point past an outstretched Olivier Mantha just twenty-six seconds into the middle frame.
Vernon quickly grabbed their first lead, when Liam Coughlin scored just thirty-seven seconds after Chanter. Coughlin, standing in front of the net, redirected a Mason Blacklock shot from the blue-line at 1:03.
The scoring spree was capped off by Michael McNicholas three and a half minutes later. McNicholas capitalized on a turnover in the Vees right-circle and quickly put a shot through Mantha’s legs at 4:37.
The Vipers third goal chased Mantha from the Vees net, as he was replaced by Hunter Miska after allowing three goals on just nine shots.
The Vees outshot the Vipers 16-6 in the period and 24-9 through forty-minutes but trailed 3-1 going into the third.
Brad McClure pulled the Vees within one goal in the opening moments of the third period, when he converted on a home ice bounce. Off a face-off in the Vipers end, the puck kicked-off the end boards and right to McClure in the slot, who then outwaited Smith and beat the Vipers goalie on the glove-side at 1:31.
Jubilation was short lived however, as Colton Sparrow restored the Vipers two-goal lead just under four-minutes later. Sparrow darted down the left-wing, side-stepped a sprawled defenseman, moved to the middle, and then slid a back-hand underneath Hunter Miska at 4:20.
Max Coatta, playing in his first playoff game, got the Vees on the comeback trail late in the third. Coatta was gift-wrapped the puck after a Vipers defensemen misplayed it behind his net. Coatta leaned into a sliding puck from the right-circle, beating Smith underneath his glove at 16:35.
The Vees then pulled the goalie inside the final ninety seconds of the third, but couldn’t manufacture an equalizer with the extra attacker. Cody DePourcq had great opportunity at the side of the net but the puck skipped over his stick.
Ben Dalpe opened the scoring just twenty-nine seconds into the game, when he beat Smith over the right-shoulder with a wrist-shot from the right-wing; his first of the playoffs.
Final Score: 4-3 Vipers
Shots: 30-18 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-3 Vipers 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Austin Smith 2) Brad McClure 3) Colton Sparrow
The loss snaps the Vees six-game winning streak, which dated back to February 28th in the regular season. Before tonight, the Vees last loss was also against Vernon back on February 22nd; that too a 4-3 loss. Brad McClure extended his point streak to ten games with his third period goal; he has 11 goals and 18 points during the streak.
The Vees go for a split on home ice tomorrow night, when they host the Vipers in game two at the SOEC; face-off is 6pm. Beer and soft drinks are just $2.50 and hotdogs are only $3. Also, the rock band “Fluxx” will again be preforming live throughout the game. Tickets are available at the Valley First box office (at the SOEC) starting at 10am Saturday. Fans can also purchase their tickets online, at www.valleyfirsttix.com.