Connor Chartier is picking the perfect time to get on a role for the Vees. Chartier scored the game-winner, 2:11 into double-overtime, as the Vees held off the Vernon Vipers 4-3 in game one of their Division Final. Chartier got his stick on Miles Gendron’s point-shot and redirected it past Jarrod Schamerhorn for the game-winner. “Charts” now has a three-game goal-scoring streak dating back to game four, round one against West Kelowna. If you include the regular season, the Vees are now a perfect 11-0-0 when Chartier scores. In the playoffs you need your veterans, your 20-year-olds to lead the way and that was Chartier doing just that in game one.
Lots of chatter about the Tyson Jost disallowed game-winner in the first overtime. Jost took the puck in the right-circle, and at full speed cut along the goal-line before forcing the puck around and over a sprawled Jarrod Schamerhorn. Jost did make contact with Schamerhorn and the goalie’s mask did come off. The Jost shot did end up tucked up underneath the cross-bar but the referee called it off due to “incidental contact.” I thought Jost got guided into the net by the defenseman but upon reviewing the video there was no push, so I was wrong there. But Jost isn’t trying to bowl the goalie over either, as if you watch the highlights, he’s trying to jump up and over the stretched out Schamerhorn. Jost’s trailing leg makes contact with Schamerhorn and the goalies mask came off. Now, I think the Vees argument was the “incidental contact” came after the shot attempt and didn’t impede the goalie from making the save. Jost ran out of room, as when he cut along the goal-line, Schamerhorn was sprawled out post-to-post, and there was nowhere to go for the Vees forward. When pouring through the video, it looks like contact is made after Jost’s shot attempt and after Schamerhorn commits to the shot. I think that’s what the Vees were arguing, that the scoring chance happened, then the contact. I’m still in that camp on the play but I do see why the ref made the call he did. If Schamerhorn’s helmet stays on, does the goal count? It’s one of those situations, where “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I may not like the call but I can live with the officials decision. They don’t get the benefit of video and have to make that call at full speed and in a split second. Just another story line going into game two.
Jost almost ended the game on a similar goal-line move minutes later, as he again cut down the right-wing and came across the net but that attempt rang off the cross-bar. Jost was celebrating his 17th birthday on Saturday and he had an extra gear. He at one point was double-shifting in the first overtime, playing with Cody DePourcq and Matt Serratore; kid was feeling it.
This game had pretty much everything, controversial calls, a big lead for the Vees, then a big comeback by Vernon, ended by the Vees pulling it out in OT. We all expected a dramatic and entertaining series but did we expect to get all of that in game one? Sometimes the first game can be a feeling out process, as both teams test the waters, but on Saturday the entertainment level was through the roof. Both teams went at each other from the start and that tenacity was there right to the end. I hope game two can live up to game one and boy, what is this series going to look like if we hit games five, six or even seven?
Great to see Dante Fabbro get rewarded with some offense tonight. He has been such a rock on the Vees blue-line in the playoffs but his stat line might not tell you that (one assist coming into Saturday’s game). He showed some great smarts by jumping up with Demico Hannoun on that two-on-one rush in the first, tapping in the centering feed. Then he scores again, this time on the power-play midway through the second, on a well-placed point-shot. Fabbro, along with Gabe Bast, are really good at getting shots through from the blue-line and we saw that from Fabbro in the second. He also was very sound in his own end and played with an edge. Really good stuff from the 16-year-old rearguard. His first period goal snapped a 13-game goalless drought dating back to February 7th.
If I’m talking about individual performances, I have to mention Vernon’s Thomas Aldworth. The Texan was the best Vipers player on Saturday, scoring twice and was an inch away from a hat-trick, when he rattled the cross-bar at the end of the third period. Aldworth scored a clutch goal right from a face-off late in the second to make it 3-2 and then was credited with the tying goal in the third, when it went off a skate in front of the Vees net. Aldworth almost won the game with another set play off an offensive zone face-off but that attempt hit the middle bar and stayed out-right at the buzzer too. He’s got great wheels and a heavy shot and it’s no surprise why he scored 37 times in the regular season.
It’s been a funny playoffs for the Vees, as they seem to make life difficult for themselves but still find ways to win games. Tonight was an example, as they were up 3-1 but saw that two-goal lead slip away with Vernon goals late in the second and midway through the third. Then they take a penalty just before regulation ended and you started to think if this game was going to slip away? But the Vees regrouped, came out with a strong push in twenty-two minutes of overtime. Saturday was the fourth time in this post-season the Vees surrendered a third period lead but the third time they won when doing so. A great characteristic is the Vees resiliency in this post-season and it showed in game one; mental toughness.
OK, the power-play came up clutch. After starting the game oh-for-three, the Vees scored on their last two power-plays and at opportune times. The man-advantage was just 1-21 heading into this series but now 2-5 after one game against Vernon. The Vees have been winning games in these playoffs because their five-on-five play but it was encouraging to see their special teams, the penalty-kill too, get them a win in game one tonight. The PK was clutch, especially when Vernon had that full two-minute power-play to start overtime. The Vees didn’t offer up much to Vernon there, Thomas Aldworth ripped a one-timer but Gabe Bast stepped in front of it. You hope the power-play can have a good showing Sunday and get the teams confidence, swagger back with strong back-to-back showings.