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Short's overtime thriller gives Vipers 2-0 series lead
by Don Klepp | Added 2010-03-21
Early in the first overtime period, Rob Short scored to give the Vernon Vipers a 3-2 overtime win over the much-improved Penticton Vees.
Unlike Friday’s opening game of the best-of-seven Interior Championship series, when the Vipers pummeled the Vees, 6-0, the Vees came to play on Saturday. At the beginning of each period, they came out strong, but in each case the Vipers bounced back to gain an advantage in hits, shots, and scoring chances.
For the first time in the series, the Vees earned a lead when Bo Dolan’s point shot deflected past Graeme Gordon at 7:32 of the first period. That goal emanated from a good forecheck by the Vees’ high-energy smurfs, Garrett Milan and Jake Johnson.
However, the Vipers got that goal back on a superb three-way passing play by the Jones twins and Sahir Gill. Displaying the magic that often sparked the Vipers in last year’s playoff run, they exchanged passes at high speed with Gill the trigger man at 11:03. Gill swept by the goal and beat Sean Bonar with a backhander.
That line struck again at 18:20. Gill flattened big defender Isaac MacLeod in the left corner, to free the puck for Kellen Jones. Connor Jones snapped Kellen’s quick pass into the top corner over Bonar’s left shoulder, and the Vipers took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
In the second period, the Vees translated a strong opening into a quick tying goal. After both Viper defencemen made mistakes at the Vee blue line, Eric Filiou and Logan Johnston skated away on an odd-man rush. Filiou’s perfect pass was converted by Johnston, for the big Penticton winger’s fifth goal of the playoffs.
Later, Johnston had another glorious chance to score on a partial breakaway, but Graeme Gordon saved the day with a well-timed poke check. Johnston, who has been the best Vee in the two games, also had good chances in the first and third periods, but was foiled by Gordon. The 18-year product of Penticton minor hockey also had 7 of the Vees’ 23 hits in the game.
Of the six periods played so far in this series, Saturday’s middle frame was the Vees’ best effort, although the hard-working Jonathan Milhouse nearly scored short handed. With Bonar at his mercy, Milhouse put his backhand over the bar.
The Vipers out shot the Vees 11 to 4 in the third, but neither team was able to score. Beau Bennett came close on a wraparound attempt, but Gordon squeezed his skate against the post to deny Bennett his first point in the series.
At the other end, the Jones gang came close twice. The first resulted from another ferocious hit thrown by Sahir Gill. The second chance came from a scramble in Sean Bonar’s crease. The puck was actually poked past Bonar, but MacLeod’s stick snaked out to pull it from danger.
Later, Rob Short came close to recording his second short handed goal in as many games when his breakaway attempt was stopped by the acrobatic Bonar.
On the first real chance that either team had in overtime, Jonathan Milhouse and Rob Short broke out together on the right wing. Milhouse passed ahead to Short and then skated ahead to get a return feed. He swerved at the Vee blue line and dished to Short, who beat the defender wide, went hard to the net, and put the puck off Bonar’s right shoulder and high into the corner.
On cue, the youthful Aussie cheering section’s wild celebration rivalled the Vipers’ on-ice happiness.
The series now moves to Penticton for games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Vipers will gun for at least a split to take a strangle hold on the series. However, the Vees showed that their sub-par Friday performance was an aberration. They will count on the good vibes of the South Okanagan Events Centre to boost their fortunes – this year the Vees have won 31 of 36 home games in which their power play has been dominant, operating at 32.25 percent.
To get back in the series, they will have to waken that dormant power play, which has gone 0 for 5 so far in the first two games.
• Graeme Gordon’s consecutive shutout streak of 205 minutes, 57 seconds, fell short of Brad Thiessen’s consecutive 250 minutes, set in the 2005-06 regular season when Thiessen was a member of the Prince George Spruce Kings. However, Gordon’s feat may well be a BCHL playoff record.
• The shot totals of 36-20 meant that the Vipers have out shot their opposition in 64 of 68 games this season.