I was at tonights Game 2 of the Interior Conference Finals as Vernon defeated Penticton 3-2 in Overtime in front of 1,853 fans at the Wesbild Centre.
Vernon: Graeme Gordon
Penticton: Sean Bonar
1st Period: In the opening minute Sahir Gill with a great chance all alone in front of Sean Bonar but lost the handle at the last minute missing on a wide open net. Shortly after a shot from the point missed the net, hitting the back boards coming back out towards the side of the goal, where Vees Captain Denver Manderson was their but couldnt sneak the puck past Graeme Gordon who got the pad down at the last second. Back come the Vipers as Cory Kane's quick shot from the circle couldnt beat Sean Bonar who made the big toe save. Kellen Jones then beat the D-man, and cut towards the goal but was stopped by Bonar after Jones & a Vees d-man both went crashing into the goal and Bonar. Penticton then took control of the period and carried the edge in play. The Vees moved the puck well, had lots of jump early and through out tonights game. Vernon was being checked hard and often as the Vees were putting lots of pressure on the Vipers really forcing them to force a turnover. With some strong forecheck by Penticton Kevin Kraus with three sloppy plays turnover the puck wich now was a scoring chance for the Vees. On one of Kraus's sloppy passes wich forced the turnover Garrett Milan scooped up the loose puck and dangled in and around the Vipers net, buzzing in and out of traffic trying to create some room for a scoring play. Vernon was having all kinds of trouble trying to stop the quick veteran player. Logan Johnston with a great chance in front couldnt beat Gordon. Penticton would open the scoring and finally break Graeme Gordon's shutout streak at 7:32 as Bo Dolan's screened shot beat Gordon giving the Vees the 1-0 lead and first lead of the series. Jake Johnson and Garrett Milan with the assists. Just under two minutes later Vernon would get the games first powerplay and take advantage. The Vipers moved the puck well getting some good opportunities. David Robinson was stoned in front by Bonar and then Adam Thompson couldnt beat the veteran goaltender on two great chances in close. The Vipers didnt quit and kept firing. Some unreal three way passing from Connor Jones, Kellen Jones & Sahir Gill tied the game for the Vipers on a highlite real goal at 11:03 Sahir Gill would get the goal, with both Connor & Kellen Jones collecting the assists. Penticton was playing with alot more jump, intensity and was playing with a strong forecheck for most of tonights game. The Vees looked very fiesty trying to get a little more involved in and after the whistle. Penticton carried the better of the play for most of the 1st but it was the Vipers who had the better scoring chances. The Vees with a great chance on an odd man rush were stopped after Captain Kevin Kraus showed good hustle diving into the play to break up a loose puck in the Vipers crease. Without the play from Kraus this puck was going into the net. Late in the period Vernon finally got some pressure inside the Vees blueline moving the puck well. In the final two minutes Connor Jones with some great hustle beat the Vees d-man to the puck, Sahir Gill come flying in with a huge check wich caused the Vees to start running around, Gill then setup Connor who was alone in the slot who beat Bonar at 18:20 giving the Vipers a 2-1 lead. Gill & Kellen Jones with the assists. In the dying seconds a scrum in front of Sean Bonar forced some pushing and shoving, after the whistle Luke Curadi was given a ten minute misconduct, as Curadi was heading to the dressing room he was having words with Kevin Kraus. Vernon was outplayed in the opening period but up 2-1 after 20 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Vees 12-8. Isaac Macleod left the bench and was seen walking in the halway with a bit of a limp. Macleod seemed fine and would return to the Vees bench to start the 2nd period.
2nd Period: Off the draw Vernon would get the play into the Penticton zone, Curtis Gedig jumped into the play to take a big shot from the point, the shot was blocked as now Derik Johnson from Eric Filiou broke out two on one, with Gedig the lone man back Filiou fed Johnson who then beat Graeme Gordon just 39 seconds into the period to tie the game 2-2. Penticton would then get a great chance shortly after with huge traffic in front of Gordon the puck was loose in the crease with a handfull of Vees trying to bang away at the loose puck, somehow Gordon and the Vipers defence managed to keep the puck out. Vernon would then get its second powerplay of the night but would struggle with very little any real quality chances as the Vees killed off the minor. Penticton again carried the edge in play and had the slit edge in play for most of the 2nd but again it was the Vipers who had the better of the scoring chances. Ryan Viselli who was having words with Mike Collins all night, had a great chance but was stopped by Gordon on the wrap around. The Vees seemed to be winning most of the battles and one on one races to the puck. Penticton would then get its first powerplay of the night but it was the Vipers strong penalty kill who had the better chances. Jonathan Milhouse and Rob Short were both left alone in front, Milhouse kept and waited for Bonar to go down before firing high and over the net on a great play shorthanded. The Vees were unable to find the back of the net as the Vipers killed off the minor. David Robinson was just about sent in on a parcial breakaway but couldnt get by the last Penticton d-man. Both teams then really picked up the pace as the play went back and forth for several minutes. It was tied 2-2 after 40 minutes of play. Vernon outshot Penticton 11-7.
3rd Period: The Vipers come out strong and controlled the edge in play in the first few minutes. Vernon with some shots from in close just missed the net on a few real close calls. The Vipers would get an early powerplay, Dan Nycholat with two shots from the point couldnt beat Bonar who looked very strong between the pipes. The Vees would kill off the minor. Just over two minutes later Vernon would get another man advantage but again couldnt find the back of the net. The Vipers again with two chances in close couldnt hit the net. Connor Jones from the slot was stopped by Sean Bonar. Penticton would kill off the penalty. The Vipers were now all over the Vees for most of the 3rd as Penticton was having troubles with Vernons strong forecheck and speed down low. The Vees would get their lone powerplay of the night, but also couldnt find the back of the net as the Vipers killed off the minor. Penticton couldnt seem to generate any offence through out the 3rd period as the Vipers were really skating hard and using their speed and skill to their advantage. Connor Jones, Kellen Jones & Sahir Gill on an odd man rush, both Kellen and Connor finished it off with some nice two way passing but couldnt get it past Bonar. Vernon come real close to scoring the winner but somehow the puck got through Bonar come out the other end but hit a Penticton d-man in the crease and stayed out. Rob Short with a great chance very late in the game was stopped by Bonar. In the dying seconds the Vees would get the play in deep, Garrett Milan with a nice move just about snuck one past Gordon in the final few seconds but couldnt get it up and over the Vipers goaltender. This was the Vees one and only best scoring chance of the 3rd. Vernon dominated the play but it was still tied 2-2 after 60 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Vees 11-4.
Overtime: Penticton would get the puck in deep and get some good pressure in on the Vipers early but couldnt generate any real scoring chance before Kevin Kraus got the puck up to Rob Short who fed Jonathan Milhouse, Milhouse stepped over the Vees blueline, dropping the puck back to Rob Short whos quick shot beat Bonar blocker side giving Vernon the 3-2 Overtime win and a 2-0 series lead. The Vipers outshot the Vees 1-0.
Top Players: (Vernon)
Dan Nycholat played his second solid game of this series. Nycholat played a very calm and cool defensive game, looked very solid for the Vipers all night. Saw alot of icetime.
The line of Kellen Jones (2 assists), Connor Jones (1 goal & 1 assist) & Sahir Gill (1 goal & 1 assist) was Vernon's best line. This line has really played well together since Mark Ferner took David Robinson off this line and added Sahir Gill. This line was clicking all night, made some unreal passing plays, scored an unreal highlight goal to tie the game in the 1st. This line was matched up against the Denver Manderson, Beau Bennett line and did a great job.
David Robinson played very well. Robinson didnt put up any numbers but played hard, was driving to the net, working in the grey areas and opened up some ice with some good play making.
Jonathan Milhouse (1 assist) Milhouse played his second straight good game of this series. Was skating well, created some good chances. Made a nice play to setup Rob Short on the OT winning goal.
Rob Short (Overtime Winner) Short has really come to play in these playoffs. Short who always plays very well against Penticton (regular season and playoffs) over his career played another heck of a hockey game. Short was physical, looked very strong on the penalty kill and had a few chances tonight.
Top Players: (Penticton)
Sean Bonar (34 saves) I thought Sean Bonar played a great game tonight, made some real nice saves through out tonights game. Had some help in front of him, something he didnt have last night. Gave the Vees a chance to win. This kid isnt the biggest kid but is quick and dosnt give up many big rebounds.
Logan Johnston I thought played a great game up front for Penticton. Was one of the Vees best players. Johnston seemed to be with the puck at all times or knew where the puck was. Had a few good chances but couldnt beat Graeme Gordon.
Garrett Milan another veteran player who was one of the Vees better players. This young kid has been a thorn in the sides of the Vipers for the last few years and was again tonight. The small but pesky forward was buzzing in and around the Vipers net all game. This kid is quick and has some good hands, is very hard to knock off the puck.
Ryan Viselli I thought played more of a get under your skin kinda game. Viselli was having words with Mike Collins through out warmup and the game. Just seemed to be yapping between the benches trying to get the Vipers off their game.
Derik Johnson (1 assist) played a good defensive game on the Penticton blueline. I was very impressed the Johnson tonight. Saw alot of icetime.
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
I didnt think the Vipers played as well as they did in Game 1 but still come up with the huge Overtime victory. Even though Penticton carried the better of the play in the first two periods I thought Vernon had the better of the scoring chances. The Vipers looked a little sloppy in their own end especially in the first two periods, some very poor passes, wernt as crisp breaking out as they were last night. Nearly not as physical as in Game 1 either. Overall this was a very exciting and entertaining hockey game with chances at both ends of the rink. The Vipers used home ice advantage to their advantage and won the games first two games. The Vipers now head to Penticton for Games 3 & 4 where they went 2-1 during the regular season, losing once in Overtime. You have to think the Vipers have alot of confidence right now after winning four straight against the Vees (regular season & playoffs)
Game Thoughts: (Penticton)
You knew Fred Harbinson would have his group ready to battle and come up with a much better performance after last night's 6-0 loss in Game 1. Well the Vees come ready to play tonight and played very well but fell short. The Vees carried the edge in play for most of the first two periods and had the slit edge in play but didnt generate as much offensive chances as the Vipers. Penticton played very physical, probally their most physical game I have seen them play all season vs Vernon. They batted hard, won alot of the races and battles down low, something they didnt do in Game 1. Played with a very aggressive forecheck, wich forced the Vipers into making a few turnovers early in their own end in the 1st period. Denver Manderson and Beau Bennett wernt much of a factor, tonight they were forced into lining up against the Gill-Jones line, wich ment they were held more in their own end chasing this line around instead of in the Vipers zone, creating or generating chances. A big and smart move by Mark Ferner. Penticton cant seem to control or stop the Vipers speed or skill down low, they seem to have troubles containing the Vipers speed. I dont think Penticton has the four lines that can play and compete on a regular shift to stay even with the Vipers. Vernon has the edge in having four solid lines that can play and compete on a regular shift. This series is far from over, now that its heading back to Penticton, where the Vees are 5-0 at home during the playoffs. You have to say its a must win for the Vees in Game 3.
1st Star: Ron Short (Overtime Winner)
2nd Star: Connor Jones (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Sean Bonar (34 saves)