VERNON - The Penticton Vees almost pulled off another third period comeback on Saturday, but in the end came up one goal short, as the Vernon Vipers held on for a 4-3 victory Saturday at Kal-Tire Place.
The loss denies the Vees their straight win and they now fall into a tie for first place in the Interior Division with the West Kelowna Warriors, who dispatched the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-2 Saturday.
Vernon opened the scoring early in the first, after they were the beneficiary of a hometown bounce in the Vees zone. Off a face-off, the Vees tried to reverse the puck behind their net, only to have the puck kick-off the stanchion and back out front in the slot; the bounce setting up Ryan Renz, who blasted a slap-shot past Olivier Mantha on the Vipers first shot at 1:21.
Branden Persley doubled the Vipers lead four and a half minutes later, when he picked the corner after racing down a puck in the Vees zone. Jared Wilson lobed the puck down ice and Persley was first to it on the left-wing, before putting a wrist-shot over Mantha’s shoulder at 5:59; two shots, two goals for Vernon.
Josh Bryan pushed the Vipers lead to three, when he cleaned up a rebound in the crease after an odd-man rush. Persley was initially stopped by Mantha but the puck squirted to a hard-charging Bryan, who stuffed it five-hole at 11:04.
That goal spelled the end of Mantha’s night, who allowed three goals on five shots in just over 11 minutes of action. Hunter Miska came on in relief and played the rest of the way.
Not all was lost in the first, as the Vees were given a four-minute power-play, after Ryan Renz was assessed a double-minor for high sticking Shane McColgan in the final moments of the period.
The Vees took full advantage of the four-minute power-play when it carried over to the second, as they cut into the deficit in the opening seconds of the middle stanza. Brad McClure got his team on the scoresheet, when he tipped-in a sweet dish from Brett Beauvais at the point. Beauvais went cross-ice to McClure at the back-post, who tapped-in his 39th of the season.
Shortly thereafter, McColgan made it a one-goal game on the same power-play, after he was the last to touch the puck before it crossed the goal-line at 1:51. The point-shot went wide but caromed off the glass behind the net and back out to McColgan who stuffed it in.
Controversy struck midway through the period, when the Vipers went back ahead by two, after a somewhat dubious icing call. TJ Dumonceaux pounced on a loose puck after it went off the post during a scramble in the Vees crease. Michael McNicholas had his back-hand hit the fat part of the post but it came to Dumonceaux who put it into an yawing cage.
Cody DePourcq helped put the Vees back into striking distance early in the third period. DePourcq worked the puck free behind the net, before spotting Nic Pierog out front, who floated a wrist-shot over Danny Todosychuk’s glove at 5:38.
The Vees tried to tie the game late, as they sent out the extra attacker inside the final two minutes, but they couldn’t manufacture an equalizer after some frantic pressure in the Vipers zone.
Final Score: 4-3 Vipers
Shots: 36-26 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 2-4 Vipers 0-2
Three Stars: 1) Brendan Persley 2) Josh Bryan 3) Brad McClure
The loss, coupled with the Warriors win over Trail, moves the Vees and Tribe into a first place tie atop of the Interior Division; each with 74 points. The loss drops the Vees record to 34-16-2-4 and their road record slips to 16-8-2-1. Brad McClure and Shane McColgan led the way offensively, as the two each finished with a goal and an assist in the loss.
The Vees wrap up their BCHL regular season schedule next weekend, when they face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in a home and home set, which starts Friday at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.