A pair of third period goals just seven minutes apart by captain Owen Sillinger lead the Penticton Vees (28-9-2-3) to 4-1 win over the Merritt Centennials (17-22-2-1) Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Nolan Hildebrand stopped all but one of 28 shots between the pipes to keep the Vees unbeaten in 2018 and earn their second win in as many nights with the Trail Smoke Eaters in town Saturday for a 6 p.m. Pink in the Rink start.
For the first time in four games it was the Vees opening the scoring as Jonny Tychonick let a wrist shot go from the blue line that fluttered past Jacob Berger 5:13 into the game.
Merritt would even the game one second after a power play expired in the second period.
Joey Berkopec’s shot was steered aside by Hildebrand, but the rebound bounced off a Vees defender in front of the net and deflected back to Hildebrand’s blocker side. He was helpless to stop Zach Court who had a wide open net to tie the game.
The majority of the action occurred during the third period Friday night; just over a minute into the period Owen Sillinger fired a back hand shot from the slot that beat Berger on the blocker side to restore the Vees lead.
Seven minutes later, the crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre was on the officials case for an apparent missed hit on Cassidy Bowes, but changed their tune as Sillinger scored his second of the game off a shot from the left circle.
Just 15 seconds after the goal, Dakota Boutin was on the receiving end of a heavy hit in the neutral zone from Zach Zorn which brought every player on the ice together.
Boutin needed help getting off the ice and would not return. The end result of the scrum saw Kenny Johnson ejected from the game with Jackson Keane getting the extra penalty for roughing.
The physicality ramped up in the third period as the game went end to end before Merritt got some sustained pressure with Berger on the bench for the extra attacker.
After Hildebrand made a number of saves, Chris Klack was able to lift the puck from just outside the Vees zone into the empty net to seal the win for the Vees.
Penticton climbs to within two points of the league-leading Vernon Vipers following the win and the Vipers loss in Prince George.
The Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters met last Friday which ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw at the SOEC.