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Vees gave it all in loss against the Vernon Vipers
It was Game 7 heartbreak for the Penticton Vees in the BCHL’s Interior Division final Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre, as the Vernon Vipers skated away with a 4-3 overtime win.
Vipers forward Michael McNicholas cashed in on a loose puck in front of Vees net and hammered it past goalie Olivier Mantha.
“(Dexter) Dancs turned it over and he just kind of threw it to the net, it hit their goalie and came out right to me,” said McNicholas. “I just shot it in. Didn’t even look. It happened pretty fast.”
The Vipers exploded onto the ice in front of a crowd of 3,142 that was mostly Vees fans. Mantha, Cody DePourcq, Chris Rygus and Max Coatta were down on a knee together after what had happened.
Mantha said he didn’t see the shot.
“It was a great game,” said Mantha, adding that they played hard. “I’m proud to be part of that game, that group of guys. We gave everything we had. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The teams traded goals in the first period as Ben Dalpe opened the scoring 2:43 in with assists from Max Coatta and Travis Blanleil. The Vipers replied 16 seconds later on a goal by Brett Mulcahy.
In the second period, the Vees scored 5:40 in as Brad McClure fed DePourcq on a four-on-four play to beat Vipers goalie Austin Smith. Steen Cooper gave the Vees added cushion, beating a diving Smith after Erik Benoit skated into the slot and dished the puck off to Cooper. In the third, Vipers forward Brendan Persley was sent off for elbowing, giving the Vees a chance to put the game away.
Benoit came inches from making it 4-1. Instead, the Vipers clawed back in. They got their own goal on a power-play from Colton Sparrow, who chipped the puck over Mantha’s shoulder to make it 3-2. Mulcahy then got the equalizer over a minute later. The Vipers ended up edging the Vees in goals for the series, 22-21.
Vees coach Fred Harbinson his players gave everything they had.
“Obviously we had the 3-1 lead going into the third, but I didn’t think we sat back,” said Harbinson.
“They got a power-play goal, we almost had one just before that.
“On the power-play we didn’t score, gave them momentum and then they got a bounce to tie it and then a bounce in overtime.
“You have to give them credit, they didn’t quit when it was 3-1,” continued Harbinson. “I think we got a lot out of this group.”
He added they went to the BCHL final last year and won the RBC Cup the year before. DePourcq is the lone remaining member of that team. He praised the leadership of his group and said it filtered down to the rest of the players.
“I thought our guys got better as the year went on,” he said. “We won a banner in the regular season, again one goal away from continuing on to the next step.”
“I think we’re an outstanding organization. I feel bad for the people that put so much effort into it,” he said. “We changed a lot of things with our organization off ice this year.
“This is junior A hockey and we had 3,100 people in here. The place was rocking. We led the league in attendance this year. A lot to do with the people behind the scenes that worked their butts off. You want to win those championships for them and our players. It’s hard for them.”