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Vees now face elimination against the Vipers
Back-to-back goals by Liam Coughlin netted the Vernon Vipers a 3-2 win against the Penticton Vees in the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Vees defenceman Patrick Sexton said they made three mistakes that the Vipers capitalized on.
"It's tough. We know we have to play a full 60 minutes," said Sexton. "We still have two games left. There's nobody inside our room that doesn't think we can't do this. This loss is already behind us."
The crowd of 2,513 were given a reason to stand and cheer as the Vees opened the scoring 7:17 into the first period on the power-play. Erik Benoit kept his eye on the puck that bounced off the shoulder of Vipers goalie Austin Smith back to the ice. Smith lost sight of the puck and Benoit tracked it and was able to bang it in.
"I thought we battled pretty hard. We came out a little slow I thought," said Vipers forward Michael McNicholas. "They were all over us the first 10 minutes of the first."
That lead lasted just 22 seconds as Coughlin set up McNicholas, who finished off a cross-crease pass and tapped it past Vees goalie Hunter Miska. The Vees took a 2-1 lead 3:35 into the second period when Steen Cooper pounced on a rebound and blasted it past Smith inside the slot.
The Vees were given a two-man advantage leading into the final five minutes of the second, but failed to capitalize. Less than three minutes after killing that advantage, Coughlin scored the 2-2 equalizer with 30 seconds remaining.
"We knew they were going to have a push when we got up 2-1," said Sexton. "Unfortunately, it ended up in them scoring a goal with less than a minute left in the second. We believe we're the better team. We're going to come out an prove it tomorrow night."
McNicholas said killing off the two-man advantage gave them momentum.
"We built off that. We scored some big goals there at the end," said McNicholas. "In the third period I thought we dominated."
Coughlin's winning goal came with 3:31 remainiing in the game. Miska finished with 22 saves on the night, while Smith stopped 21.
The Vipers now return home with a 3-2 series in the BCHL Interior Division final. Game 6 is at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 7 is at the South Okanagan Events Centre Saturday at 6 p.m.
Vees notes: Ben Dalpe and Shane McColgan returned to the lineup after missing three and two games, respectively due to injury. Cam Amantea has not played since Game 3 on March.17