Jared Nash of the Penticton Vees slides this shot past Battlefords North Stars netminder Joel Gryzbowski in the second period of Saturday’s matinee Western Canada Cup hockey tournament at the South Okanagan Events Centre. The Vees won 4-0 and will play again on Sunday. Mark Brett/Western News

Vees earn shutout against North Stars in WCC

Vees advance to WCC RBC Cup second berth game with shutout win over North Stars

Taylor Ward scored the winner and Mat Robson made 23 saves in a 4-0 win for the Penticton Vees over the Battlefords North Stars in the Western Canada Cup.

The victory advances the Vees to Sunday’s second RBC Cup berth game at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 4 p.m.

Robson credited his team for playing strong defensively and praised Gabe Bast for blocking a shot headed to the empty net late in the third period.

“There is no shutout without him. I think he can have the whole thing if he wants it,” said Robson.

The Vees goalie said after the initial shot, the North Stars took three more whacks at the puck, while also pushing him out of his crease.

“I talked to the ref after, it wouldn’t have been a goal,” said Robson, who was thinking here comes a goal when the puck came out to the top.

There was big cheers from the crowd of 2,579 when Bast protected the net.

Leading 3-0 in the final period, Grant Cruikshank put the dagger into the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champs at 10:43 with a shorthanded marker while on a 2-on-1 with Nicholas Jones. Cruikshank’s shot beat Joel Gryzbowski low stickside.

The Vees had a strong middle stanza outshooting the North Stars 15-7 scoring twice on goals by affiliate player Massimo Rizzo and Jared Nash.

Rizzo’s goal came 3:23 into the period on the power play. Bast handed off the puck to Jones, who set up inside the blueline and found Rizzo skating into the slot. The 15-year-old fired a wrist shot that beat North Stars goalie Joel Gryzbowski high glove.

Nash gave the Vees a 3-0 lead after Chris Klack fired a shot on goal from the side of the net. As Gryzbowski allowed the rebound free, Nash cut around him at the crease and whacked a backhand shot through his five-hole. Near the end of the period, Cruikshank gave himself a good scoring opportunity when he was able to kick the puck to his stick as he hit the blueline and in full stride then went to the North Stars goal, but was stopped by Gryzbowski twice. The North Stars goalie finished with 34 saves.

“I think it was a little bit kind of heart breaking to see what we worked for all year come to an end, at the end of the day I think we did what our team hasn’t done in 17 years. We brought an SJHL championship back to our hometown,” said North Stars captain Kendall Fransoo. “I think that’s a great achievement that we still have to remember we did.”

Fransoo said they felt they played not too bad.

“I think we work hard all game,” he said. “We got in a little bit of penalty trouble but we were working hard. You could tell everyone wanted it.”

In the first period the Vees outshot the North Stars 13-7, but goalie Mathew Robson had to make a few big saves. One was on Ben Allen at the side.

On the power play, Taylor Ward gave the Vees a 1-0 lead with 4:54 remaining. Jones threaded a pass through the top of the North Stars crease and Ward was able to bury his shot in the opening left for him at the side.

The Vees power play went two-for-eight and killed both penalties they took.

The Vees will now play the loser between the Brooks Bandits and Chilliwack Chiefs, who play tonight at 7 p.m.

Vees notes: Rizzo has four points in five WCC games. The goal against the North Stars was his first of the tournament.

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Penticton Vees captain Nicholas Jones looks down ice on this rush against the Battlefords North Stars at the South Okanagan Events Centre Saturday in Western Canada Cup action. Jones picked up two assists in the win. Mark Brett/Western News

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