Advantage Vees in race for top spot

The Penticton Vees have a leg up in the battle for top spot in the tight Interior Division of the BC Hockey League.

The Vees moved two points up on the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday with a convincing  6-3 victory over the Warriors before 1,400 fans at Royal LePage Place.

With just four games left for each team the Vees hold the first two tie breakers - total wins (33 to 31) and head-to-head (4-3).

Nic Pierog scored twice for the Vees while Riley Alferd had a goal and two assists.

Adam Osczevski, Carl Hesler and Seb Lloyd all scored for the Warriors.

Osczevski opened the scoring with the lone goal of the opening period. Hesler beat three Vees to a loose puck in the Vees corner and found Osczevski who beat Olivier Mantha with a one-timer to the far corner.

The Vees took over from there scoring five unanswered goals.

The back breaker came 12 minutes into the middle period.

Already leading 2-1 Alferd scored what appeared to be the 3-1 goal. The referee, positioned directly behind the net immediately waved the goal off saying the puck was directed in with a high stick.

After conferring with the other three officials, the call was changed - the goal was allowed to stand.

Warriors coach Rylan Ferster says he was baffled by the explanation given following the call.

"The back referee did not see it, then the back referee said he did see it. That was the exact explanation to me," says Ferster.

Replays appeared to show the puck was directed in with a high stick.

Ferster didn't point to that goal as the reason his team lost.

"I had a pretty good feel for it and we came out and got the first goal. I don't think we should be able to give up five goals on that many shots," says Ferster.

"I thought their goalie played well for them. They had some chances and they buried them. They're a good team."

The Vees out the game out of reach with two goals 52 second apart midway through the third.

The Warriors got a pair of late power-play goals to give themselves some life before Brad McClure hit the empty net to ice it.

West Kelowna held a 40-28 edge in shots including a 21-9 advantage in the third, however, Mantha made some spectacular saves to keep the Warriors at bay.

He was particularly sharp stopped Lloyd on a second period breakaway with the Warriors clinging to a 1-0 lead and a clutch blocker save off Reid Simmonds on a shorthanded breakaway in the third with Penticton up 3-1.

The Warriors, who entered the game minus key defencemen Taki Pantziris and Ben Tegtmeyer lost the services of defenceman Ryan Ivey.

Ivey, who returned to the line-up Tuesday after missing a month with an upper body injury, left the game in the second period with what Ferster described as a lower body injury.

He will be re-evaluated later in the week. The Warriors were also without injured forward Jason Cotton Tuesday.

The Warriors, losers of three in a row, are just four points up on third place Vernon.

The Vipers also have four games left.

The Warriors head off to Merritt Friday before finishing the season with three straight against the cellar-dwelling Trail Smoke Eaters.

They host Trail Saturday and close out the regular season at home to the Smokies March 1. In between they travel to Trail a week Friday.


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