Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Joy of Sexton: Vees Oust Vernon In Game 7:
Joy of Sexton: Vees oust Vernon in Game 7
Mon Mar 23, 2015
David Crompton/Penticton Herald
The unlikeliest of scoring heroes helped the Penticton Vees exorcise their biggest playoff demon.
Defenceman Patrick Sexton’s goal off a fortuitous bounce with 2:53 to play snapped a scoreless tie as the Vees beat the Vernon Vipers 2-0 in the seventh and deciding game of the BCHL Interior Division championship series Sunday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“That’s sweet, sweet revenge after they broke our hearts last year,” said the Vees co-captain, who scored just his second goal this season and first since Dec. 19. “That was … for sure, the biggest goal of my career, by far. It was such an intense series and I’m just so happy for the guys right now.”
Tyson Jost won the draw cleanly to Sexton at the left point, whose quick wrist shot struck a Vernon defender’s stick out high and fluttered over goalie Danny Todoyschuk’s shoulder and into the net.
“Fabbs (defenceman Dante Fabbro) and I talked before the faceoff and we just said ‘let’s get the puck to the net right away’ and see what happens,” said Sexton. “Their guy got out to me pretty quick and deflected it, and I didn’t know it was in until Fabbs raised his arms and then the fans went crazy.”
Sexton said the Vipers came hard in the last 2:53 before Matt Serratore skated the puck into a vacated Vernon net with four seconds left to ice it.
“(Hunter) Miska showed why he is the best goalie in the league,” said Sexton. “He had to fight through a lot of traffic to stops some pucks at the end there.”
Miska ended up with 27 saves for his second shutout of the post-season, while Todosychuk also made 27 saves for Vernon.
The Vees came back from the dead after losing Game 5 in double-overtime Friday at the SOEC on a much flukier goal than the one Sexton scored. Penticton set up the deciding game by winning 5-1 in Vernon on Saturday.
“We could have easily folded the tent, but before I could even address the guys after Friday’s game, the captains had already grabbed hold of the team and talked about winning in Vernon and getting back here for Game 7,” said Vees GM/head coach Fred Harbinson. “The veterans, all the 20-year-olds followed up and led the way in Vernon. And Miska … after all he got put through in this series, came up huge when we needed him most.”
Last year, it was the Vipers winning the Interior final with a Game 7 overtime win over the Vees at the SOEC. Overtime looked likely again before Sexton’s timely intervention.
“We’ve had all the regular season success but when it happens like it has the last few years in the playoffs, you start to wonder and question things a bit,” said Harbinson. “(Vernon) has been a bit of a thorn in our sides and again it comes down to the last few minutes of Game 7. They’re a helluva team.”
The Vipers appeared to be methodically taking the game over in the late stages of the second period and into the third. Liam Coughlin lost control of the puck on a breakaway early in the third period as Vernon pushed for the go-ahead goal.
But Sexton felt the Vees were owed a lucky bounce.
“Vernon had a lot of lucky bounces in the series and it was our turn,” said Sexton. “In the end, I don’t really care how the puck went in. We’re moving on to the next round and that’s all that matters.”
The Vees will open the three-team round-robin semifinal round at home on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Nanaimo Clippers. The Vees will play home and away against both Nanaimo and the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Chilliwack swept the Mainland Division title in four games, while Nanaimo beat the visiting Powell River Kings 3-2 on Sunday to win the Island Division final in seven games.
The top two teams from the round-robin advance to the Fred Page Cup BCHL championship series.
“We played a lot of hockey in the first two rounds with the five overtime games and all,” said Sexton. “But we roll four lines and six defencemen and we’ll be fresh and ready to go on Wednesday. We’ll definitely have some momentum going after this win.”
Have to reiterate one last time the terrific job Mark Ferner did reloading this Vernon team into a contender. He took over just as the regular season got going and didn’t have the luxury of working with the team in training camp and pre-season. Ferner has won two RBC Cups and lost in the final of another in his prior stint with the Vipers, and he may well have taken a run at another if Vernon got that decisive bounce in Game 7. Could it be Penticton and Vernon are the best two Junior-A teams in the country? Time will tell, but if the Vees go on from here and win it all, you could definitely make that argument.
The Vees will visit Chilliwack on Sunday and host the same Chiefs on Tuesday, March 31. Their last round-robin game will be Thursday, April 2 in Nanaimo.
ICE CHIPS: Attendance was 3,203 … Sexton, Miska and Todosychuk were the three stars … Vees F Lewis Zerter-Gossage returned to the lineup, while F Mitch Newsome was scratched.