Execution was a problem for the Penticton Vees in their 4-2 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs Tuesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Anthony Vincent iced the win for the Chiefs, their second straight in the Western Canada Cup, presented by Sun Life Financial, on the power play into an empty cage with five seconds remaining in regulation. It was just their fourth shot of the frame, while the Vees pressured trying to get the equalizer, firing 15 on Mark Sinclair, who finished with 29 saves.
The loss dropped the Vees to 1-1-1, while the Chiefs jump to second with two wins and a loss.
“I thought we were absolutely horrendous in the first period,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson. “One of the dumbest hockey periods we played in months, maybe the whole season. I’m not sure, can’t put my finger on why. We looked pretty good in our skate this morning. Maybe too many people told them how great they played the other night.”
The Chiefs outshot the Vees 10-3 in the opening frame. Early in the period, Mathew Robson was forced to deny Cole Poliziani on a breakaway as he was sent in alone from the Vees blueline. The Vees only had one shot on net in the opening half of the period.
With 5:16 remaining, the Vees hit the scoresheet first on an odd-man rush. Leading the way on a 2-on-1, Duncan Campbell, named the Vees player of the game, had Nicholas Jones on his left. As he got closer to the Chiefs goal he elected to shoot and made good on it beating Sinclair with a low stickside shot. That lead lasted just under two minutes when Will Calverley, who finished with two goals, got the Chiefs back even as he cut across Robson and beat him with a backhand shot. Not long after that goal, Robson stoned Anthony Vincent twice, but the Vees were unable to clear the puck and the Chiefs scored their second three minutes after Calverley’s tally. Robson finished with 18 saves.
The teams traded goals in the second period. Under seven minutes into the frame Taylor Ward roofed a shot over Sinclair’s glove to knot the game at two on the power play. Grant Cruikshank started the play at the blueline and fed the puck to Nicholas Jones down low and he made a slick cross crease pass to Ward.
The game remained tied for less than two minutes when Jordan Kawaguchi, named the Chiefs’ player of the game, set up Calverley for the 3-2 lead.
“I thought we played a pretty fast game up and down,” said Calverley. “They are a quick team and we were able to match their speed. We were able to get the bounces in tonight. Sincy played huge for us tonight. Our goalie stood on his head. Really helped us.”
Along with lacking execution as the Vees failed to convert on several chances, Harbinson said they lacked an understanding of what they needed to do. He also felt they didn’t win many battles.
“We slowly tried to get into it. We had a better second period. Still made a mistake after we tied it to give them the goal,” he said. “(In the) third we played desperate but again. We don’t find a way to score a goal.”
Part of the pressure the Vees were able to put on came from the power play. James Miller hit the post with a slapshot, then Cruikshank fired a high shot that Sinclair stopped. Later in the period Cruikshank had a good chance with his backhand. In the dying minutes of the period, Jones broke in on Sinclair and couldn’t beat him five-hole on the backhand.
The Vees then took two penalties in the final four minutes of the frame and they pulled Robson to keep the pressure on.
“We gave a way a chance of trying to win the tournament,” said Harbinson. “Now we have to find a way to make it in the other way to get to the Royal Bank Cup.”