For the third time in four years, the Penticton Vees will play for the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup championship.
The Vees punched their ticket to the league championship with a 5-2 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre in front of a crowd of 2,508.
“It feels great. It’s a season goal of ours to play for the title,” said Vees assistant captain Steen Cooper. “We’re playing some good hockey right now. I think all the boys are pretty excited.”
After a scoreless opening period in which the Chiefs outshot the Vees 8-7, the home team surrendered the opening goal at 6:08 of the second when Jake Hand beat Vees goalie Hunter Miska on a screen shot. The play started after Scott Davidson chipped the puck into the Vees zone and Hand grabbed it, then circled back near the blue line coming back down the wing when he fired a shot.
That lead lasted seven minutes when Dakota Conroy fed Connor Chartier for his ninth goal of the playoffs. Chartier scored the equalizer as he caught David Jacobson sliding the wrong way and the puck tucked inside the far post. Cooper said they showed heart after the Chiefs opened the scoring.
“We didn’t get down,” said Cooper, who buried the Vees’ fifth goal on the power play into an empty net. “We kind of just all linked arms and went on our way. That shows a lot of character out of each and every one of the guys. It was a good team effort.”
Four minutes after Chartier’s marker, Vees d-man Jarod Hilderman, named the second star, gave the Vees a 2-1 lead when his shot deflected off of Roberts’ stick for his first goal of the season.
“I feel all playoffs I have been getting some pretty good looks at the net, finally this one went in,” said Hilderman. “It’s nice to get that one. Big goal to go up 2-1. I just think after they got one we sagged for about a minute there. Then we got on our high horse and grounded them down for the rest of that second period. To go up into the third was huge.”
King Kong off my back tonight #1in15
— Jarod Hilderman (@J_rodHildy) April 1, 2015
In the third period, the Vees distanced themselves on goals by Tyson Jost, the winner, and Cam Amantea. Jost won a battle for the puck behind the net then skated into the slot, spun and fired a shot past Jacobson. The fourth goal was the result of great patience by co-captain Cody DePourcq, named first star with a two-assist performance, as he held onto the puck behind the net then moved to the side before finding Amantea at the top of the crease where he banged home a shot high past Jacobson’s blocker.
“We had ups and downs in the game. There were definitely times we were on the ropes as well,” said Conroy, who finished with two assists on the night. “We found a way to win. Getting pucks to the net. Scoring from a whole bunch of guys tonight. Even my roommate (Hilderman) decided to put one in for the boys. Pretty big night for the kid.”
When Hilderman scored, Conroy and Chartier, the other roommate, looked at each other on the bench started hugging.
“It was pretty hilarious. Him coming by the bench looking all fired up,” said Conroy, adding the they would likely bug Hildermand about the goal that night.
The Chiefs made it 4-2 when Mason Boh beat Miska in tight at 10:52. At 18:32 on the power play, Steen Cooper, the third star, scored an empty netter after Conroy was dumped to the ice attempting to score himself. Miska finished with 20 saves on 22 shots, while Jacobsen also turned aside 20.
Roberts said the Chiefs battled hard, but the Vees had bounces go their way. He said both teams played well.
“It was fun to be a part of, unfortunately the result didn’t go our way,” said Roberts, who is committed to Alaska Achorage Seawolves. “After we got the lead I think we just tried to settle in and try to keep playing the way we started.”
Once the Vees took a 2-1 lead, Roberts didn’t sense momentum shifting away from them.
“The guys tried to stay focused. They just kept pushing on us,” he said. “We tried to push back. They are a fast skilled team. We’re a fast skilled team and the games have been fun to play.”
While the Chiefs were without forwards Luke McColgan, who has played just three playoff games, Liam Ferguson, and d-man Brandon Tkachuk, Roberts felt others stepped up including affiliate players Ryan Roseboom and Jesse Lansdell.
“We skated well, we were physical,” added Robets. “Excited to hopefully get another chance.”
The Vees will now travel to Nanaimo to take on the Clippers at Frank Crane Arena on April 2. A Vees win would give the Chiefs another chance to advance as they would face the Clippers at home on April 4. The Chiefs are now 0-3, while the Clippers are 1-1 after Tuesdays action.