Black Press Sports/Morning Star Staff
Scott Conway doesn’t think the Penticton Vees could have played any better against the Vernon Vipers in their home-opener Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Vees forward earned first-star honours on banner raising night as he scored twice, his second helping Penticton dispatch the Vipers 3-2 in front of 2,318 fans.
“We have been working hard all week. It paid off tonight,” said Conway, who led all freshmen with the Nittany Lions last NCAA season before being released for violating Penn State team rules.
Mitch Brooks scored the other Vees goal, while captain Tyson Jost collected a pair of assists and was named the second star. Anthony Brodeur turned aside 23 shots in his first win as a Vee.
Peter Tufto, named third star, and Steven Jandric, scored for the Vipers as they were handed their second loss in three games.
Conway opened the scoring 42 seconds into the first after he squeezed a low shot past Vipers starter Andrew Shortridge at the near post. Shortridge finished with 25 saves.
“It was my best game for sure. I can’t thank my linemates enough,” added Conway. “They all worked hard out there. We had a lot of zone time. It’s hard to beat us when we’re like that.”
Vernon matched Conway’s opening goal seven minutes later when Tufto shoveled a rolling puck across the goal-line. Jandric’s shot was stopped by Brodeur, but it squirted underneath his arm and Tufto tapped it in at 7:45.
The Vees’ pressure paid off later in the opening frame. Brooks put the Vees back out ahead on a solo effort down the left wing. Jason Lavalée found a streaking Brooks and took the pass in stride before flipping it over Shortridge at 11:12.
Easton Brodzinski had a great chance at the end of the period to put the Vees up by two. He found himself on a breakaway but was stuffed by the long leg of Shortridge.
Conway’s second goal came early in the second when he cleaned up his own rebound. Shortridge stopped his first attempt from in tight but Conway found daylight at the post at 4:32.
After killing off a Vees’ two-man advantage in the third period, the Vipers cut into the 3-1 lead with their own power-play six minutes in. Jandric blasted a one-timer underneath the crossbar after a couple of quick passes out of the corner. Vernon pressured in the final moments with the extra attacker and came close to tying it with a point shot that was redirected but smacked the crossbar and stayed out.
“We knew that was going to be a big factor in the game if we’re up,” said Conway. “We just played some good defence at the end. We’re all a little bit nervous. That was our first one of the year. I think good teams win with pressure.”
Colton McCarthy, the Vipers captain, said they came out slow in the opening period, saying it might have had to do with the defending BCHL champion Vees’ home-opening introductions.
“We came out hard in the second and even harder in the third. We had a pretty solid third period and we will probably use that to build into the next game,” he said.
McCarthy said the pressure they put on the Vees in the final minute was one of their better shifts. He was also happy with their play in the final 10 minutes. They outshot the Vees 7-5 after the home team had the second period advantage, 13-8.
“We were pushing the Vees back in their defensive zone, creating lots of scoring chances,” he said, adding that he felt the Vipers competed hard. “We just couldn’t beat Brodeur in net. I thought he was a little shaky. Came up with some big saves that kept them in the game and … we kept shooting pucks on him and he ended up making saves he needed to make. It was a tough loss and we will rebound for next game (tonight at home vs Coquitlam).”
SNAKE BITES: Former Viper Mike Zalewski helped the Vancouver Canucks ground the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 in Monday actino at the Canucks Young Stars Tournament in Penticton. Zalewski, who was part of the Utica Comets Calder Cup run last season, beat Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck 34 seconds into the third period to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead…F Chase Zieky of the Langley Rivermen has committed to play for defending NCAA champion Providence College Friars for next season. Zieky put up 27 goals and 45 points in 26 games with the Avon Old Farms Academy in Connecticut last year. His uncle is Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville…Vernon F Cole Woodliffe has been released by the Merritt Centennials and has returned to the KIJHL Summerland Steam, where he compiled 22 goals and 48 points in 48 games. He will be eligible to play for the Cents as an affiliate after five games with the Steam.