Veteran scorers propel Vees

After a hot start from the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday, veteran goal scoring was the difference for the Penticton Vees as they staged a comeback to win 5-3 in game one of their second round series.

Down 3-1 past the game's halfway point, 20-year-old Wyatt Sloboshan scored shorthanded on an odd-man rush at 12:36 of the second, bringing the Vees back within one.

With eight seconds remaining in the second, assistant captain Taylor Ward shovelled in his fifth of the playoffs to even things up at three.

After catching on late in the second, the Vees caught fire in the third — a frame Penticton led 12-4 in shots.

Another 20-year-old and assistant captain in Chris Klack scored 48 seconds into period, which would stand up as the eventual game-winner. Veteran d-man Jordan Henderson scored an insurance marker at 4:28 of the period.

Assistant coach Matt Fraser said Sloboshan's goal was a turning point for the Vees.

"You find yourself shorthanded and in a 3-1 hole, if they capitalized on that powerplay that could be the nail in the coffin right there," Fraser said postgame on EZ Rock 800.

"But in turn, we created a turnover to go in on a two-on-one, we make a nice shot and momentum's in our favour, and we didn't stop there."

Rookie Jack Barnes had the Vees first goal on the night. James Miller, Jonny Tychonick and Dakota Boutin had two assists each.

Announced attendance in the building was 3,288 — the largest attendance of any team so far in the BCHL playoffs.

All three of the Vees' home games so far in the postseason are the three highest-attended games any team has had so far.

Game two of the series goes at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

In game one of the other Interior division semi-final on Friday, the Vernon Vipers scored a touchdown at home, beating the Wenatchee Wild 7-1.


Vipers will get Wild tonight

They took care of the Silverbacks and now the Vernon Vipers are hoping to tame the Wild in round two of BC Hockey League playoff action.

The Vipers swept the Salmon Arm Silverbacks four games straight in round one of the Interior Division play offs.

Round two begins tonight when the Vipers take on the Wenatchee Wild at Kal Tire Place.

The puck drops at 7 p.m.

The Vipers will host the Wild again Saturday for a 6 p.m. start, before the action shifts to Wenatchee for games three and four March 20-21.

Should a game five be necessary, the teams will return to Kal Tire Place March 23. Games six and seven will alternate between Vernon and Wenatchee March 24 and 26.

Stage set for Vees, Smokies

Beginning Friday night, division rivals Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters will clash in the BCHL playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

Both teams have had a nine-day break after sweeping their respective first round series. 

The top-ranked Vees downed the 16th-place Coquitlam Express in four games, winning two games by 2-1 scores and the two others by a combined 16-4 score.

The Smokies, meanwhile, blew away the West Kelowna Warriors in four games. After a 6-5 overtime win in game one, Trail won the next three games by a collective 17-5 margin.

Penticton won four out of six games against Trail in the regular season; the Smokies won one and the two teams tied on one occasion.

The Vees will have home-ice advantage in this series and any other playoff series this season.

Team broadcaster Craig Beauchemin said having home-ice advantage could be huge for the Vees, but he acknowledged the Smokies have made their home rink a difficult place to play as well. 

"(Trail's) fans are excited about their rejuvenated franchise, and every game between Penticton and Trail this year was exciting. I’d expect nothing less throughout the course of this series," Beauchemin told bchl.ca.

The last time these two clubs met in the 2005 playoffs, Penticton won their first round series in six games.

Game one is at 7 p.m. on Friday at the South Okanagan Events Centre, while game two is at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the SOEC. The series will shift to Trail for games three and four for Tuesday and Wednesday. 


Vees prepare for Round 2

Colton Davies

After a decisive sweep in the opening round of the BCHL playoffs against the Coquitlam Express, the Penticton Vees are preparing to face the Trail Smoke Eaters in the second round.

The Vees and Smokies haven't met in the postseason since they played in the first round in 2005 — a series Penticton won four games to two.

"This is going to be an exciting matchup ... for the fans it should be a new and exciting playoff series and I know for our guys we're looking forward to it," Vees head coach, general manager and president Fred Harbinson said.

Trail was atop the BCHL standings early in the season but slipped from the perch as the year went on. Nonetheless, they finished with a 32-21-4-1 record and 69 points — the most wins and points they've had in 11 seasons.

The Vees, who finished the year atop the league standings with a 40-12-3-3 record, won four out of six games in their season series with the Smokies.

Harbinson said his team will be confident, but also pointed out Smokies forward Kale Howarth didn't play in some of the team's matchups.

Howarth was a fifth-round NHL draft pick last June, and he has 121 points in 95 games over the past two seasons. 

As for Trail's team as a whole, "they're one of the more explosive offensive teams," Harbinson said. "So your details away from the puck are going to be real important."

Both clubs swept their first-round series and will have nine days off before the series begins with games at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Mar. 16 and 17. 

Trail, the fourth-seeded team in the Interior division, swept away the fifth-seeded West Kelowna Warriors, outscoring them 23-10 in those games.

The Vees outscored the eighth-seeded Express 20-6 in their series. Harbinson gave Coquitlam credit for their series, pointing out a pair of 2-1 wins for Penticton.

"In the end we got to see a couple big wins in between tight ones. The tight ones are the game we'll have to draw on going into the next round."

Depth was apparent in the Vees goal scoring in the first round, as 10 different players had one or more goals. Harbinson said the impact of players up and down the lineup stretched beyond that, however.

"At different points, there was a blocked shot here, a great clear from somebody else, a big save. There was a little bit of everything and that's what you need this time of year."

The other Interior division second-round series will have the Vernon Vipers meeting the Wenatchee Wild, as both of those teams swept their first round series as well.

Four more first round series still need to be decided, and all will be wrapped up by Sunday at the latest. 

Vees sweep first round series

The Penticton Vees pulled out the brooms in their playoff set with the Coquitlam Express on Wednesday, earning a 2-1 win in game four to sweep their first round series.

Captain Owen Sillinger scored his first goal of the playoffs to give the Vees a lead at 1:22 of the second period on Wednesday. 

Three minutes later, Express forward Joshua Wildauer scored to tie things up one. That's where the score would be after 40 minutes, despite a 42-21 shot advantage for the Vees.

Taylor Ward scored the series-winning goal at 7:48 of the third, his fourth of the series after a weekend hat trick. 

Penticton pounded 59 shots on goal on the night, while Coquitlam finished with 26 shots. Both totals were series-highs for both teams.

Adam Scheel was the busiest he needed to be in the series, stopping 25 of 26 shots. Express goalie Clay Stevenson was the game's first star with 57 saves.

While the second round is still nine days away from beginning, the Vees already know they will be facing the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Penticton had finished 51 points ahead of Coquitlam in the regular season, and were 17 points ahead of Trail. They went 4-1-0-1 against the Smoke Eaters in the season series.

The top-four teams in the Interior division — the Vees, Vernon Vipers, Wenatchee Wild and Smoke Eaters — all swept their respective first-round playoff series.

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