WEST KELOWNA – Coming into Tuesday’s first place showdown with the West Kelowna Warriors, the Penticton Vees had only scored five goals in their previous three games, but it took them just over a period to match that output, as they scored a 6-3 win over the Warriors at Royal LePage Place.
The win gives the Vees the outright lead for first place in the Interior Division, as they move two points ahead of West Kelowna, and win the seven-game season series.
After Adam Osczevski put the Warriors up 1-0 in the first, the Vees offense came alive in the second, scoring three unanswered goals to turn around the game for the visitors.
Max Coatta equalized just before the three-minute mark, when he finished off a give-and-go between he and Ben Dalpe. Coatta wired a wrist-shot from the right side of the slot over Andy Desautels’ glove at 2:52. Dalpe carried over the blue-line before centering to Coatta in the middle, who snapped a thirteen-game goalless drought in the process. Moments before Coatta’s goal, Olivier Mantha stoned Seb Lloyd on a breakaway at the other end.
Nic Pierog scored his first of two on the night three-minutes later to give the Vees their first lead of the game. At the tail end of a Vees power-play, Pierog made a power-move off the wall and from the bottom of the left-circle, tucked a wrist-shot up and underneath the cross-bar on the short-side at 6:07; his 29th of the season.
Riley Alferd showed off some great hand-eye coordination later in the period, when he batted in a puck out of midair in the Warriors crease. Brad McClure was stopped at the post by Desautels but the puck fluttered up off the goalie and Alferd swatted it out the air and into an open net at 12:52. The goal was originally waved-off by the referee but after a short discussion with the other three officials, deemed it wasn’t a high stick; Alferd picking up his second in as many games and sixth of the season.
The Vees kept coming in the third and it was defenseman jumping in on the scoring. Alex Coulombe willed the puck over the goal-line at the side of the Warriors net, just shy of the nine-minute mark. Coulombe snuck down from the point and was hit with a pass at the near-post by Shane McColgan. Coulombe didn’t get a clean shot off but managed to force the puck over a sprawled Desautels at 8:50; his first third and first since November 23rd.
Fifty-two seconds later Pierog bagged his second of the game and pushed the Vees lead to four. Patrick Sexton hit Pierog with a cross-zone pass, and from the right-circle, he fired a wrist-shot past a lunging Desautels at 9:42.
The Vees ran into penalty trouble at the tail end of the third and the Warriors made a game of it. Carl Hesler made it to three at 12:22 when he cleaned up a rebound in the Vees crease. Olivier Mantha robbed Jordan Masters with an excellent pad-save, but Hesler was right there in the crease to put in the rebound.
On another Warriors power-play, late in the frame, Seb Lloyd made it a two-goal game, when he redirected a one-time by David Pope from the blue-line. Pope pumped a shot off that Lloyd just got enough of with his stick to fool Mantha at 17:56.
But that’s as close as West Kelowna would get, as Brad McClure put the game on ice thirty-four seconds later, when he slid the puck into an open net at 18: 30.
Final Score: 6-3 Vees
Shots: 40-28 Warriors
Power-Plays: Vees 1-3 Warriors 2-4
Three Stars: 1) Nic Pierog 2) Olivier Mantha 3) Riley Alferd
Oliver Mantha stopped 37 of 40 shots, including 19 of 21 in the third period, picking up his sixteenth win of the season. Riley Alferd finished with a game-high three points (1-2-3) and Nic Pierog (2-0-2), Brad McClure (1-1-2) and Cam Amantea all finished with a pair of points.
The Vees improve their record to 33-15-2-4, moving two points ahead of West Kelowna, who were handed their third straight loss. The Vees bumped up their road record to 16-8-2-1 in the win and they’re now 19-9-1-2 against the Interior.
The Vees are back home, at the SOEC on Friday, February 21st, when they host the Trail Smoke Eaters; puck drops at 7pm. Fifty percent of walk-up sales from that game will be donated to the Vees team chaplain Jamie Weberg and his family, in support of his courageous battle with cancer. Tickets are available at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com