Connor Chartier sure feels right at home playing at Royal LePage Place. Chartier scored the game-tying goal, then helped setup the game-winning goal in the third period, as the Vees turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win in game four. Chartier’s two-point night follows his hat-trick performance at RLP back on January 20th, in an 8-4 win.
That second line was very good for the Vees all night, as Chartier along with Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Dakota Conroy played a really heavy and effective game. Zerts’ wired a shot off the cross-bar back in the first and Conroy had a few chances around the slot before his game-winner late in regulation. Chartier was good in the face-off circle, as he went head-to-head against the Warriors Andrew Johnson and started to win his share of draws in the third. It seems like a different line is stepping up in every game for the Vees and that’s what they’ll need if they’re going to have a long post-season run.
Speaking of clutch draws, Riley Alferd was a beast in the circle at the end of the game, when the Warriors had the extra skater out trying to tie. Alferd took several draws in his own end and kept winning and against the Warriors best face-off man, Andrew Johnson. He played a big role in helping preserve the in.
Speaking of face-offs, if you look at the game-winner scored by Conroy, it came off a won draw in the offensive end. The puck was put back to the point, then sent in deep around the boards. Chartier fed Zerter-Gossage and he tried to bring it out on a wrap-around. That puck went off the pad of Stephen Heslop and luckily for the Vees, right to a waiting Conroy on the opposite side of the net. The Vees started to win more key draws in the third period and I think that helped play a part in the come from behind win. You can’t attack, press if you don’t start with the puck first.
The RLP is a home away from home for the Vees. If you include the regular season, after game four’s win, the Vees are now 5-0-0 in West Kelowna this season. In those five games, they’ve outscored the Warriors 26-11 and they mixed in a shutout as well. A big reason why they’re so successful there this season? The fans. Last night there was almost three full sections of Vees fans that started behind their bench and carried down into the end they defend twice. That was the opposite side of my broadcast location and right below me there was another smattering of fans clad in blue and white. The Vees have always received outstanding road support in West-K but last night takes the cake. They were loud and never stopped cheering. When the Vees scored it almost sounded like we were at the SOEC. The last few minutes was terrific, with the Warriors desperately trying to tie and both sets have fans making a whole lot of noise. Fans need to know that doesn’t go unnoticed and that energy they threw off definitely helped fuel the team. Great theatre last night.
Speaking of Conroy, this is exactly why the Vees traded for his CJHL rights back in October. 28 points in 33 regular season games, that somehow just went under the radar but now he’s got two goals and four points in four playoff games. Sneaky good. He’s such a smart hockey player and he demonstrated that on the game-winning goal. Everyone converged at the far-post when Zerter-Gossage was trying to force it in at the post. Conroy camped out on the near side, edge of the crease, waiting for a bounce or a pass on the backdoor. Well, the puck goes off the goalies pad and right to Conroy and the rest is history. Conroy is a veteran of junior hockey, in his final season and this is his last kick at the can to win some hardware. He’s sure playing like it.
An odd stat but the team that has carried a lead into the third period, has lost three of the four games. The Vees have the only win when leading after two periods and that came in game three. West Kelowna rallied in the third to force OT and Mitch Newsome finally won it for Penticton in the third extra period. Odd because these two teams were a combined 60-3-1-2 when leading after two periods in the regular season. SIXTY. THREE. ONE. AND. TWO. In this series they’ve combined for a record of 1-1-0-2 when leading after forty. That tells me that no lead is save, no matter how big and that both teams have no quit. Makes for fantastic finishes.
Again, I must commend the Vees blue-line as they were playing a man short and have done so since the third period of game three. Miles Gendron and Jarod Hilderman have both really elevated their game in the post-season, in particular the last two games. Gendron was flying out there last night, had two-three scoring chances and assisted on the game-tying goal. He’s playing with so much confidence right now and it shows, because he is flying out of his own zone with the puck, head up and firing break out passes right on the tape of his forwards. Hilderman has not only become more physical in his own end but he’s making smart reads at the other end of the ice. He should get an assist on Mitch Newsome’s OT goal in game three and last night there’s a case for him to get an assist on Connor Chartier’s tying goal in the third. If the corrections are submitted, Hilderman could have four assists in four games. Both Gendron and Hilderman have relished an increased role and have really elevated their play and when it’s mattered.