The Vernon Vipers will have to wait a little longer to see who they will face in the BC Hockey League Interior Division finals.
The Merritt Centennials are refusing to go quietly in their best-of-seven series with the Penticton Vees, forcing a game seven after besting the Vees 2-1 in overtime Friday.
Penticton native Tyrell Buckley was the OT hero, scoring midway through the extra frame, sending the 1,080 fans at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena into a frenzy
After a back and forth start to the game, the Cents’ struck first late in the first period, with of Zach Zorn potting the opening marker.
Penticton tied it up midway through the second, when Matt Gosiewski found himself alone in the slot.
The deciding game of the series will be played in Penticton March 27.
The winner will face the six-time national champion Vernon Vipers who dispatched the Trail Smoke Eaters earlier this week in five games.
The Penticton Vees failed to close out the interior division semifinals on Thursday night at home.
The Centennials forced game six in Merritt after a 5-4 win, and a game-winner from rookie Rylan Van Uten late in the third period.
The Vees remain in command of the series 3-2 and will have another chance to end the series on Friday night.
After nine goals were scored between the two teams in the last two games, they combined for nine goals in game five alone. Merritt got goals from Van Unen, Cade Gleekel, Zach Zorn, Stephan Seeger and Zach Risteau.
Penticton responded tallies from Owen Sillinger, Mitch Meek, Jared Nash and Grant Cruikshank.
The Penticton Vees have a chance to shut down the Merritt Centennials at the South Okanagan Events Centre Thursday evening, with a 3-1 lead in the Interior division semi-finals.
After two games in Merritt – with the first going to the Centennials and the second going to the Vees – the teams will be heading to the Vees' home ice, where head coach Fred Harbinson says he wants to end the series.
"We'd rather not have to go back (to Merritt). I mean, who would?" Harbinson said in this week's Vees' View with Coach Harbinson. "You've got a chance to close them out here in our building. As cliche as it, we always know the fourth game is always the hardest to win."
That means the team will have to bring their top game to the SOEC on Thursday, following a hit and a miss earlier this week in Merritt.
"Game three we just weren't on task. I think some of the guys maybe didn't prepare like they should," Harbinson said. "Give Merritt credit – they were desperate, they played desperate. Different game in their building, obviously."
Harbinson says the third period in that game saw an improvement, which carried into game four, which saw a 2-1 overtime win for the Vees.
The Penticton Vees’ defeated the Merritt Centennials in overtime of game four of the Interior Division Semi-Finals on Tuesday night.
Nicholas Jones scored the game winner, his second of the game, 4:25 into the overtime period to give the Vees’ the 2 - 1 win.
Going into game four, the team that had scored first in the series had won every game, and Jones’ got the Vees off on the right foot nearly nine-minutes in. However, a short handed goal by Tyler Ward wiped that out and set the stage for overtime drama.
Mat Robson was very good a night after losing his first playoff game Monday, stopping 30 of 31 shots for Penticton.
With the win, the Vees’ can close out the series at home in game five on Thursday night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
Former West Kelowna Warrior Max French is embarking on the next road of his hockey journey.
French, a former captain of the Warriors, signed an amateur tryout contract with the American Hockey League's Utica Comets over the weekend.
The 24-year-old West Kelowna native recently completed his senior year at Bentley University, about 20 kilometres west of Boston.
French finished his senior year with 17 goals and a team-leading 22 assists in 38 games.
He was named to the NCAA (AHA) first all-star for a second consecutive season.
Over four seasons at Bentley, French amassed 67 goals and 76 assists in 138 games.
The native of West Kelowna did not suit up for the Comets during games over the weekend.
The Comets are the American Hockey League affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.
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