Black Press Sportsd
The Penticton Vees’ powerplay struck often in a 5-2 win over the winless Soo Thunderbirds Thursday afternoon at the Royal Bank Cup in Portage la Prairie, Man.
The Vees went 3-for-6 on the man advantage to finish the round-robin portion of the national junior A hockey championship at 3-1. Penticton is in the semifinals Saturday.
“It was definitely clicking tonight. We found the open lanes,” said Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson. “We didn’t over handle the puck. We were really crisp with our puck movement.”
Patrick Newell, named the BCHL’s player of the week, buried the winner on the powerplay at 6:23 of the second period. Newell had an easy tap in after Steen Cooper found Connor Chartier at the side of the net from the high slot. Chartier then spun around and dished a backhand pass cross crease to Newell.
The Vees had tried the exact play earlier, but couldn’t finish. That goal also spelled the end of Culina, who made 20 saves and was relieved by Brian Kment at 3-0.
The Vees opened the scoring at 7:28 of the first period when Cooper stole the puck off the stick of Owen Headrick and raced into the Thunderbird zone with Headrick and Matt Busby in pursuit. Cooper went forehand to backhand and beat Culina.
In the second frame, Gabe Bast and Demico Hannoun set up Newell for his first goal as he made a move, then fired a shot low blocker on Culina to make it 2-0. Trailing 3-0 and with seven minutes remaining in the period, Brett Jeffries got the Thunderbirds on the board beating Hunter Miska as the Vees failed to clear the puck from their zone.
Early in the third period, Jeffries struck for his second goal at 1:28, but then the Vees got back on track following a time out. At 3:55, after taking a pass from Hannoun, Newell found Tyson Jost open in the slot and the young phenom scored top shelf on the powerplay. Dakota Conroy then made it 5-2 on the powerplay as he took a feed from Hannoun.
The Melfort Mustangs met the Portage Terriers Thursday night. If the Mustangs lost, they would face the Vees and the Terriers would meet the Carleton Place Canadians of Ottawa.
“I think we had our ups and downs. You’re playing the top teams,” said Newell, who leads the Vees with four goals and six points. “It’s going to be tough. I think we played well and just have to build on it for Saturday’s game.”