Radio: EZ Rock AM 800
Webcast: Fasthockey Pay-Per-View
The Penticton Vees look to close out their Interior Division Semi-Final series with the Merritt Centennials tonight, in game four at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. The Vees lead the best-of-seven series 3-0 after Friday’s 5-4 overtime.
Brad McClure was the overtime hero Friday, scoring nine and half minutes into the sudden victory period. McClure wired a shot from the slot after a nice feed from Erik Benoit from behind the net.
It was a dramatic ending to the third period, as the two teams combined for three goals in under three minutes. With the Vees leading 3-2, Payton Schaefer tied the game, on a shot from the slot at 17:05, but just twenty-three seconds later, Paul Stoykewych tipped-in a centering pass to put the Vees back ahead 4-3. The dramatics didn’t end there, as the Cents’ once again drew level, as Tyler Martin’s point-shot found its way through a crowd with just forty-one seconds left in the third.
Stoykewych led the Vees offensively, collect a pair of goals and Brad McClure (1-1-2), Jack Ramsey (0-2-2) and Erik Benoit (0-2-2) each had two points. Olivier Mantha picked up his second win of the playoffs in as many starts, stopping 30 of 34 Merritt shots.
The Vees are one win away from sweeping the Cents’ and earning some much-needed rest. Dating back to the regular season, the Vees are now 7-1-1-1 against Merritt; 2-1-1-0 in Merritt. If the Vees win, it would be the second straight season they’ve swept their first round opponent; the disposed of Salmon Arm in four games last spring.
Cody DePourcq comes into tonight’s game as the Vees scoring leader with three goals and seven points through three games; he’s third in the BCHL playoff scoring race. Right behind DePourcq is Brad McClure, who has five goals and six points. Nic Pierog (2-4-6) and Erik Benoit (0-6-6) are also tied on points with McClure. Eleven Vees already have two or more points in this series, eight with four or more.
The only change to the Vees line-up is once again in goal, as Hunter Miska will get the start between the pipes. He won game two, making 18 saves on 21 shots in a 6-3 win. If you include the regular season, Miska is 3-1-1-1 against the Cents’ this season, with a 2.23 goals-against average, while sporting a .921 save-percentage.
Merritt is trying to stave-off elimination and avoid being bounced from the first round of the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years, and if they’re going to stay alive they’ll need their big guns to continue to produce.
Sebastien Pare has picked up a goal and four points in his last two games and had three assists in game three’s loss to Penticton. Jeff Wight found the scoresheet for the first time last night and now has a goal and three points. Regular season goal-scoring leader, Scott Patterson, had an assist Friday and now has two points in as many games.
Injuries however, have been the main storyline for the Cents’, as they did not have the services of Diego Cuglietta upfront Friday and Jason Bird and Dane Birks on the blue-line. Birks and Cuglietta have yet to dress for any of the three games in the series and Bird was hurt in game two. Rhett Wilcox did return to the Cents’ line-up last night.
The Vees will have some extra encouragement tonight, as there will be a Fan Bus arriving from Penticton; 45 loud Vees will be taking in game four in person. If you can’t make it to Merritt, listen to the game on EZ Rock AM 800, starting with the pre-game show at 7pm.