Vees force Game 7 in BCHL Interior Division final with shutout win

ERIK BENOIT and the Penticton Vees intend to keep Vernon Vipers goalie Austin Smith distracted in Game 7 of the BCHL
ERIK BENOIT and the Penticton Vees intend to keep Vernon Vipers goalie Austin Smith distracted in Game 7 of the BCHL's Interior Division final Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre at 6 p.m.
— image credit: Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

Olivier Mantha stopped 28 shots as the Penticton Vees forced Game 7 in the BCHL's Interior Division final Thursday night with a 2-0 win in Vernon's Kal Tire Place.

Of the 28 shots Mantha faced, the Vipers peppered the La Tuque, Que., native with 14 shots in the middle stanza. Vees rookie defenceman Jarod Hilderman opened the scoring at 4:14 of the opening period beating Vipers goalie Austin Smith on a play started by Brad McClure.

The crowd of 2,557 wouldn't see another goal until McClure sealed the victory with an empty net tally with a minute remaining in the third period.

"I thought it was a hard fought battle from two great teams," said Vees coach Fred Harbinson. "We were fortunate enough to get the first goal, we had so many chances to make it 2-0 but Smith made some great saves. Then there was a push back by Vernon and our guy made some big saves."

"Our start wasn't that good, unfortunately we didn't get the result we wanted tonight," said Vipers coach Jason Williamson.

The power-play wasn't a factor for either team as they went 0-for-4.

The win for Mantha is his fourth of the playoffs with two shutouts. When asked who will start Game 7, Harbinson said, "I won't even think about the lineups until tomorrow morning."

The final game of the Interior Division final returns to the South Okanagan Events Centre Saturday at 6 p.m.

"It is very exciting to be able to play at home in Game 7," said Harbinson. "It's gonna be a great night for our league. We got two great franchises going to Game 7, how perfect is that?"

In other league playoff action, the BCHL reported on its website that the first win for a road team in the Island Division finals went to the Victoria Grizzlies and their 4-2 victory in Powell River over the Kings Friday puts them through to Round 3 as the top seed.

Cole Pickup and Gerry Fitzgerald put the Grizz up 2-0 after one, but it was Jacob Kearley's second-period goal, after Jarid Lukosevicius got the Kings on the board, that was the winner. Luke Nogard got Powell River within one going to the third, but couldn't muster another past Alec Dillon who got his fourth win of the playoffs.

The Grizzlies are the Island Division champions and as the remaining playoff team with the most regular-season points, are the No. 1 seed for Round 3. They will host the No. 2 seed (either Penticton or Vernon) on March 28.

Jace Hennig, Canon Pieper and Zach Hodder scored in the third to turn a one-goal deficit into a 5-3 Coquitlam Express win on home ice over the Langley Rivermen. The win gives the Express the Mainland Division title and they will be the No. 3. Coquitlam led 2-1 after one on goals by Ryan Rosenthal and Brendan Lamont, but former Express forward Will Cook and Tanner Johnson scored power-play goals in the second to give Langley the lead. Gordie Defiel closed the door in the third and made 30 saves.

Coquitlam plays on the road versus the No.2 seed March 30. They'll be at home April 1 against Victoria.




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