PENTICTON - The Penticton Vees left it late, but in the end no one will be complaining. Brett Beauvais scored twice in a four-goal third period, as the Vees came back to double-up the Trails Smokes Eaters 4-2 Friday, in front of over 2,500 people at the SOEC.
It was an emotionally charged night, as the Vees were holding a fundraiser for their team chaplain and he and 25 hundred other fans witnessed a memorable third period comeback.
The win keeps the Vees two points ahead of the West Kelowna Warriors for top spot in the Interior Division, and clinches them home-ice advantage in the first round of the BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs.
The last place Trail Smoke Eaters, who had lost 10 in a row heading into Friday’s game, gave the Vees all they could handle. After a scoreless first period, Trail’s Scott Davidson put the visitors out a head midway through the second. On a Trail power-play, Davidson took a pass from Bryan Basilico and from the bottom of the right-circle, tucked a shot up and underneath the cross-bar at 10:52.
Jesse Knowler added to the lead Trail lead a minute and a half later, as he scored from just inside the Vees blue-line. Moments after the one-minute media timeout, the Smoke Eaters forced a turnover at the offensive blue-line, and Knowler’s wrist-shot from the deep slot snuck past Hunter Miska’s outstretched arm at 12:27.
The Interior’s top team headed to the second intermission in a two goal hole, against the last place team in the BCHL.
Before tonight, the Vees had just one win this season when trailing after the second period but you have not known it Friday. Brett Beauvais cut into the Trail lead three minutes into the third, after he put a wrap-around underneath the pad of Dustin Nikkel at 3:16. Beauvais showed great poise, moving down the left-wing before cutting back behind the net and spinning out and stuffing in underneath the pad.
The Vees took 43 minutes to get onto the scoresheet but just 20 seconds to find an equalizer. Right after Beauvais scored, Erik Benoit crashed the crease and forced a back-hand past Nikkel to level the game at two’s at 3:36.
Beauvais was at it again, as the Vees kept coming at the Smoke Eaters. The rear-guard picked up his second goal of the period, the game-winner, on a power-play less than two minutes after Benoit’s tally. Beauvais crept into the right-circle before wiring a slap-shot underneath Nikkel’s arm at 5:14; Beauvais scoring his twelfth and thirteenth goals just 72 seconds apart.
Cod DePourcq added some insurance on another Vees man-advantage in the third. DePourcq walked the goal-line on the blocker-side of Nikkel, before forcing a puck through his legs from inside the crease at 10:03.
Final Score: 4-2 Vees
Shots: 38-27 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 2/5 Trail 1/3
Three Stars: 1) Brett Beauvais 2) Erik Benoit 3) Brad McClure
The Vees improve their record to 34-15-2-4 in the win and have at least clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the BCHL Fred Page Cup playoffs. Erik Benoit led all Vees Friday in scoring, finishing with a goal and three points, followed by Brett Beauvais (2-0-2) and Brad McClure (0-2-2). The win bumps up the Vees record to 20-9-1-2 against the Interior Division and they sweep the seven-game season series with the Smoke Eaters; the first time they’ve done that going back to 2003.
A near capacity crowd turned out to support the Vees chaplain Jamie Weberg, who was diagnosed with a form of bone cancer earlier this month. 50 percent of all walk-up ticket sales Friday were donated to his family on behalf of the Vees organization to help in his fight with cancer.
The Vees visit the Vernon Vipers at Kal-Tire Place on Saturday, February 22nd, as it’s the two team’s seventh and final meeting in the regular season. The Vees hold a 4-2 lead in the season series but lost the last meeting 2-1, on Friday, February 14th. Vernon clinched a playoff spot Friday night by beating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-2 in overtime.