PENTICTON - The Penticton Vees are once again BCHL Interior Division champions after a hard-fought 3-1 win over the Vernon Vipers in game seven of the Interior Division final, in front of 4,033 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Monday night, April 10.
Monday marked the eighth all-time Game Seven between the two franchises and the 23rd in the Vees history; each franchise has now won four each.
It was the veterans leading the way for Penticton, as 20-year-olds Gabe Bast and Duncan Campbell and 21-year-old Taylor Sanheim did all the scoring. Bast chipped in with an assist as well and fellow 20-year-old Nicholas Jones also had an assist and another 20-year-old, Mat Robson, was stellar in goal, stopping 28 of 29 shots and was named the game’s third star.
Graduating Vipers’ Captain Riley Brandt scored midway through the third period, as the Vipers were knocked out of the Fred Page Cup playoffs by the Vees for the third straight season.
It was a tense opening few minutes, before Bast got the building rocking with his fifth goal of the playoffs nearly eight-minutes in. The defenceman carried the puck in on an odd-man rush and snapped a shot five-hole on Darion Hanson at 7:51; it was Bast’s third goal of the series to put the Vees up 1-0.
Robson made a terrific toe-save in the dying seconds of the first period to preserve that lead, as he lunged back across his crease to keep out a Steven Jandric wraparound attempt just before time expired. That save was critical, as Penticton added to their lead early in the second.
Duncan Campbell picked the perfect time to break out of a slump and get his first point of the series. The veteran forward finishing off a splendid passing play between himself, Bast and Nicholas Jones at 5:25. Campbell scoring from the right-circle on a backdoor pass, which was his first goal since Game Seven against Merritt.
The Vees then padded their lead midway through the second on a highlight reel effort by Taylor Sanheim. Owen Sillinger chipped the puck out to the neutral zone for Sanheim, who skated down the middle, before cutting around the Vipers’ defenceman Shane Kelly, and then he finished off the dangle by going upstairs over Hanson’s glove at 13:20; Sanheim scoring his fifth in eight games, and fitting as it was Kelly and Sanheim who fought each other near the end of Game Six.
Riley Brandt made it interesting late, scoring off a Vees turnover right out front of their net at 9:34. Jesse Lansdell quickly centered for Brandt, who fired the pass up over Robson’s glove.
However, that is as close as Vernon would get in the third period, as the Vees did a good job of thwarting the Vipers late comeback attempt. With the Vernon net empty for the extra-attacker, Campbell and Jones came up with two massive shot blocks inside the final two-minutes to help preserve the win.
Penticton will travel down to Chilliwack to face the Chiefs in the Fred Page Cup Final, starting Friday, April 14, at Prospera Centre puck drop is tentatively 7 p.m. It’s the fifth Fred Page Cup Final appearance in the last 10 years for the Vees; the last won in 2015.