Vees Win the West

Post Game_WCC Final

Photo: Rob Murray / Fort McMurray Today

Photo: Rob Murray / Fort McMurray Today

  • Two down, one to go. The Penticton Vees grabbed their second piece of hardware of the spring, winning the Western Canada Cup championship in overtime, 4-3 over the Portage Terriers on Saturday night. Connor Chartier was the OT hero, scoring 2:59 into the extra frame, as he tapped-in a dribble in the Portage crease.
  • One of the more peculiar gamewinning championship-winning goals you’ll see. Dakota Conroy came in wide on the right-wing and threw the puck at the net from the boards. His floater somehow slipped through Justin Laforest and dribbled out from underneath his arm / pad. It was like a slow-motion sequence, as the puck squirted across the crease and laid flush on the goal-line. Connor Chartier’s eyes must have been like saucers seeing the puck slide right in front of him. He was just going to the net, as he has done a hundred times before, hoping to force a whistle. Well, he one-upped that, tapping-in the surprise rebound from inside the crease and winning the Vees their first Western Canada Cup championship in franchise history. His name will now be part of a trivia question.
  • Odd but true? The Vees last four overtime games dating back to the Fred Page Cup Final have all ended before the three-minute mark. Chartier’s winner last night came at 2:59. Conroy’s Fred Page Cup-winning goal came at 2:06 in game six against Nanaimo. In game three, Tyson Jost scored 57-seconds into OT and one game prior, Brett Roulston scored 20-seconds into OT for Nanaimo in game two. You had a feeling last night it wasn’t going to be a marathon OT, as both teams were playing to win and win now. Portage had some early position but couldn’t get a quality shot off. The Vees then came down and scored on their first attempt at the Portage net. Maybe they should have extended the third period to 24-minutes for the Vees.
  • A really gutsy effort from the Vees. I think the WCC Final was a snapshot of their entire playoff run; overcoming one obstacle after another. Portage is an older, experienced squad who’s built to win an RBC Cup (they’re the hosts remember). As allowed in the MJHL, the Terriers dressed 9 20-year-olds for the game. The Vees dressed five (Cam Amantea hurt) and had two ’98’s and one ’99 in their line-up. The Vees then went down to five defenseman in the third when one of those ‘98’s, Dante Fabbro, left the game after taking a second questionable hit up high. So, the Vees won that game with just 11 regular forwards in the line-up and with just five defensemen for the majority of the third period and the brief overtime, and against a team that was ranked number one in Canada all season and swept their way through the MJHL playoffs. Hats off.
  • The Vees wouldn’t have won the WCC if it wasn’t for Hunter Miska. If people were whispering about his tournament MVP award prior to the game, he silenced them with his performance on Saturday night. He stopped 35 of 37 shots but the timing and quality of some of those saves were simply put, special. I had my jaw on the floor a few times, especially when he darted out the pad on lightning-fast reactionary saves on Brad Bowles (maybe brother Shawn) and again on Jaryd Wiebe. He also made a pad save on Terriers Captain Tanner Jago when Portage was on a power-play in the third. Jago one-timed the puck from the blue-line and somehow, with a screen in front, Miska had the sense to kick-out his left leg. There were also countless in-close stops on second and third chances around his net both in the second and third periods when the Terriers were pressing for an equalizer. Miska showed why he was the MVP of the tournament. Maybe, just maybe, his best single-game performance as a Vee. It was that special. Heck, even the Terriers Head Coach Blake Spiller mentioned Miska’s performance in his post-game interview; so did Patrick Sexton.
  • Like I said earlier, the Vees had their share of adversity in the final, including a couple of controversial moments. In the first, they thought they had a second goal when Riley Alferd put a rebound into an open-net but the referee blew the whistle early, despite the puck clearly laying in the crease. That was tough to swallow, especially in a game where you knew it was likely going to be settled by one goal. The Vees did a great job of shaking off that missed call and not allowing it to throw them off. The referee who made the error did apologize to the Vees coaching staff between periods but that was little consolation at the time; imagine if the Vees lost by a goal? The Vees were also none too pleased with the Tyson Jost holding-the-stick penalty with 2:48 left in the third when they were up 3-2. Is it a textbook penalty? Sure, but the punishment didn’t fit the crime, especially given how the game was being called up until that point. Portage did score on that power-play, which again, could have easily derailed the Vees but they showed great poise and regrouped for overtime and it paid off.
  • Composure was a theme on our post-game show with Assistant Coach Steve Cawley. He touched on both those incidents above and praised his team for how they handled them. In a Final, with a Cup on the line, they could have easily let their emotions get the better of them but they kept their cool and persevered. Time and again, this team has shown incredible poise. Whether it was being down 3-2 in the Interior Division Final to Vernon, or going down 2-0 to Nanaimo in the Fred Page Cup Final, this team has found a way to bear down and pull through in the clutch. I guess that’s why they’re off to the national championship in Portage, Manitoba.
  • In a game like Saturday’s, you need your veteran players to step up and did they ever. 21-year-old Connor Chartier scored the game-winner, Steen Cooper, in his fourth season of junior, scored on the power-play and another 20-year-old and Co-Captain Patrick Sexton, chipped in with two assists. The “Vitamin C” line combined for two goals and four points in the win. Chartier and Cooper each had a goal and Conroy had a pair of helpers. Those three have really come into their home since the playoffs started and that’s exactly why Fred Harbinson pulled the trigger on two trades back in the fall that brought in Chartier and Conroy. The Seeds of May were planted in the October.
  • Much better start from the Vees compared to their last encounter with the Terriers. In the round-robin, Portage had a 2-0 lead after 20-minutes and outshot the Vees 14-8. Fast-forward to last night and the Vees and Terriers were tied 1-1 after one and the shots were 12-10 for the Vees. Doesn’t seem like much? Wrong. That’s a two-swing and the Vees finish the tournament a perfect 4-0 when scoring first; Portage 0-2 at the WCC when surrendering the first goal. If you pool together the regular season, BCHL playoffs and WCC, the Vees are 45-6-2-4 when scoring first. Candidly, Coach Harbinson said to me before the game, being at worst tied after 20 was going to be critical. He got his wish. Also critical was the Vees taking a lead into the third period. To date, they’re now 51-2-1-3 when leading after two periods. Nearly lights out. They did cough up a goal right after they made it 3-1 but they hung in there and didn’t allow the Terriers to tie before the break. A small win after two periods. Second periods were key for the Vees at the WCC, as they ended up outscoring the opposition 9-1. Also it was the Terriers worst period, as they were outscored 6-4 in the middle stanza. Two big second period goals from Penticton.
  • The Vees are travelling home as I write this, doing the 18-19 hour bus ride back from Fort McMurray. The team should land in Penticton in the wee hours of Monday morning and they’ll be back on the OHA ice on Tuesday afternoon. Ice times aren’t confirmed yet but once there are, we will put out practice times on the Vees Twitter and Facebook accounts. The team is set to fly out to Winnipeg sometime Thursday morning and then make half-hour commute from Winnipeg to Portage.
  • Penticton opens the RBC Cup on Saturday, May 9th at 12 pm PST / 3pm EST against…the Portage Terriers. Yes, as the “West 1” seed, the Vees play the host in the first game of the 2015 national tournament. The Vees complete RBC Cup schedule can be found at hockeycanada.ca/rbccup. Four of the five spots for the RBC Cup have been decided. The Vees are joined by Hosts Portage Terriers, Melfort Mustangs as “West 2” and the Soo Thunderbirds as “Central” representatives. The “East” seed will be decided today in the Fred Page Cup Regional Final between the Carleton Place Canadians (defending champions) and the Dieppe Commandos.
  • Every Vees game will be broadcasted live on EZ Rock AM 800, starting half an hour prior to puck drop with the pre-game show. The RBC Cup will also be broadcasted live on fasthockey.com. I’ll try to post plenty of pictures and hopefully some video on the Vees journey to and stay in Portage for the national championship. Sounds like the town of Portage has really rallied behind the tournament and I look forward to seeing it in person.
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About CBeauchemin

Director of Broadcasting & Communication for the Penticton Vees
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