It’s been a series of season firsts for the Penticton Vees.
Back-to-back losses, 108 minutes without a goal and now heading back to the friendly confines of the South Okanagan Events Centre for Game 5 on March 25 against the West Kelowna Warriors, the team is hoping for not just a Good Friday but a great one.
“That is the first time that has happened to us all year and something we have learned from. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy series but we are refocused and the guys are really fired up to play (Friday),” said Penticton Vees captain Tyson Jost.
The Vees were 8-0 after coming off a loss in the regular season. A bounce going the Warriors way found the Vees on the losing side, 2-1, in Game 3. Then the Vees were shutout 3-0 in Game 4 to knot the series at two apiece. However, they are playing against a team that has been their equal since December. Almost identical records in fact.
“We took a couple steps back but learned from it and are going to take this as positive action going forward,” said Jost. “We need to get in front of the goalies eyes, make them work for everything and finish our checks.”
Warriors goaltender Matt Greenfield has stopped 50 of 51 shots in the last two games. That snapped Vees’ forwards Scott Conway and Jost’s eight-game point streaks.
“He’s been outstanding,” Warriors coach and GM Rylan Ferster said of Greenfield’s play. “In the playoffs, you need good health, good luck and good goaltending … so far we’ve had all three.”
Not that the Vees goaltending has been any lesser. Zachary Driscoll earned third star in the 3-0 loss for his stellar performance, especially in the first period of that game where he turned away 17 shots.
Game 5 on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the SOEC is going to be a big one. The team that has won Game 5 has gone on to win the Interior Division four out of the last five seasons. The only team to lose Game 5 then win the series was the Vees last year.
Vees coach/GM/president Fred Harbinson said he knew all along this series with the Warriors wouldn’t be a cakewalk.
“This is playoff hockey and there isn’t a lot of room out there. Guys are blocking shots for both teams and it isn’t very fun taking those shots off the shin pads, the chest or the face,” said Harbinson. “It is what hockey players have to do in the playoffs, it is those extra things, like last year when Cody DePourcq blocked a shot with his face. It is that effort and laying it all out that it will take here.”
Game 6 will be in West Kelowna on March 26 at 7 p.m. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played Sunday, 6 p.m. in Penticton.
Nine Vees alumni are playing in the NCAA Div. 1 opening round on the road to the Frozen Four.
Troy Stecher (North Dakota), Mario Lucia (Notre Dame), Steven Fogarty (Notre Dame), Chad Katunar (Notre Dame), Lewis Zerter Gossage (Harvard), Patrick Newell (St. Cloud State), Joey Benik (St. Cloud State), Travis St. Denis (Quinnipiac) and Michael Garteig (Quinnipiac) are all Vees alumni.