Penticton Vees Grant Cruikshank gets hauled down by Chilliwack Chiefs defenceman Davis Bunz during Game 4 of the BCHL Fred Page Cup finals. The Vees won the game 4-3 in overtime to take a series lead of 3-1. Mark Brett/Penticton Western News

Risling nets overtime winner for Vees

Penticton Vees down the Chilliwack Chiefs in Game 4 of the BCHL Fred Page Cup final

A smudge from their eyeblack, ok. A smudge on their spotless record on the road, not so much.

The Chilliwack Chiefs, who were 8-0 as the visiting team in the BCHL playoffs, took exception to the Penticton Vees beating them just one night earlier at the South Okanagan Events Centre to take the 2-1 lead in the Fred Page Cup Final.

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That couldn’t be more apparent by the way they jumped out to what appeared to be a commanding lead in Game 4, but ended with a Vees 4-3 overtime win.

Jordan Kawaguchi, the BCHL leading scorer in this playoffs, fed a cross crease pass to Kale Kane who, left unmanned in front of a gaping cage, hammered the puck across the line to give the Chiefs the 1-0 lead at 14:32 in the first period.

Just over four minutes later the Chiefs connected again, this time on the powerplay. Connor McCarthy floated the puck on net from the top of the circle beating Vees goaltender Mathew Robson over the blocker giving them the 2-0 lead.

Skating into the second period the Chiefs continued to pour it on, while their goaltender Mark Sinclair remained razor sharp. Jamming at the side of the Vees net, an all too familiar name would show up to tap it in the give the Chiefs a 3-0 lead. While Kane poked and prodded at the to toe of Robson who thought he had the gap between him and the post sealed, the puck squirted out behind the goalie. And there Kawaguchi appeared, uncontested, as he quieted the 3,000-plus fans at the SOEC.

“I didn’t think we were playing all that bad, but it seemed like every time we made a mistake it ended up in our net. It was one of those games and in the playoffs it is one of those game where you could end up losing the game in a 10-minute span,” said Harbinson.

While it appeared to be headed that way, Harbinson said a few encouraging words amongst the players and a shift in attitude made it otherwise.

Starting with the Vees captain Nicholas Jones, who seemed to be apart of every play that was slowly bringing the crowd back into the game. He found the puck bouncing behind the Chiefs net and his chip pass out front found its way to Grant Cruikshank who swatted it mid-air over the shoulder over the goalie to get the Vees on the board at 11:13 in the second period.

Less than two minutes later, it was once again Jones quarterbacking the offensive zone while they had the man advantage. He caught a pass along the goal line needling it through two Chiefs defencemen right onto the stick of Taylor Ward who fired it into the net, cutting the Chiefs lead to 3-2.

Turning the tide at the end of the second the Vees continued to surge into the third period when they got a boost of teenage spirit. Cassidy Bowes, the Vees 17-year-old affiliate player, booted down the ice around two Chiefs players and with space to roam he fired a shot on net and single-handedly tied the game up at 5:51 in the third. It would remain that way for the rest of the period sending the teams into overtime.

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“That was unbelievable. It was a great play and individual effort and a huge goal for us to tie it 3-3 and take us to overtime,” said Jones.

Just 2:06 into the extra period, Ryley Risling called for the puck right in front of the net. Taylor Ward rifled a pass to him from below the goal line right to his tape. From the slot Risling ripped it past Chiefs netminder Sinclair raising his hands in the air and the Vees to a 4-3 win.

“We came out hard tonight and got the 3-0 lead but again we made the mental mistakes and again it cost us big time,” said Chiefs head coach Jason Tatarnic. “We made a D-zone coverage mistake and its 3-1. Then you take a penalty you don’t need to take and they score on a power play where we are missing assignments. Then the third goal the same thing, another mental mistake in the neutral zone and they tie it up. Their game winner same thing, a break down in our D-zone. We lost our coverage and you lose the hockey game.”

With a 3-1 lead in the BCHL Fred Page Cup finals, the Vees could clinch on Saturday when they battle the Chiefs at Prospera Place in the Fraser Valley. If the Chiefs win, the teams will next play on Monday (April 24). Game 7, if necessary is on April 25.

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