The Penticton Vees handed the Chilliwack Chiefs their first road loss in nearly three months, with a 5-2 win Tuesday night in Game Three of the Fred Page Cup Final.
The Vees now lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game Four Wednesday at 7 pm at the SOEC.
It was the young guns leading the way again, as 15-year-old Massimo Rizzo scored his first career BCHL goal in the first period (VIDEO), and the Vees also got goals from Gabe Bast, Grant Cruikshank, Chris Klack and Jared Nash. Cassidy Bowes, who scored his first BCHL goal Saturday, added an assist in the win and has points in each of his first four playoff games.
Jordan Kawaguchi scored both of Chilliwack’s goals in the second period, one on the power-play and the other short-handed, as the Chiefs lost their first road game since January 21st.
Rizzo, in just his third playoff game, opened the scoring just shy of the four-minute mark in the first period. On the Vees’ first power-play, Rizzo showed great poise cutting to the net, grabbing a bouncing puck, before quickly going to his backhand, sliding the puck past Mark Sinclair at 3:56; fellow call up Cassidy Bowes picking up an assist on the goal.
The Vees were tested almost immediately after that goal, as they were forced to fend-off a 54-second five-on-three Chiefs power-play. Penticton kept the Chiefs off the scoresheet during that stretch but couldn’t do so early in the second.
The Chiefs tied it up on their third crack at the man-advantage in the middle stanza, and it was who else, but Jordan Kawaguchi finding the back of the net. Kawaguchi had his shot from the circle go off a Vee in front and deflect underneath Mat Robson at 6:48. Kawaguchi and the Chiefs weren’t done there.
Short-handed, Kawaguchi was fed a pass out from the corner and he wasted little time firing a wrist-shot over Robson’s blocker from the slot at 11:45 to give the Chiefs their first lead.
Cruikshank brought the Vees back level late in the second, cashing in on an odd-man rush. Cruikshank, catching the Chiefs on a line change, broke in down the left-wing and snapped a shot short-side on Sinclair at 18:41 to tie it late 2-2; Cruikshank bagging his fourth of the playoffs.
The Vees pressed in the third and it was Bast getting the lead back and what turned out to be the game-winner, midway through the frame. Bast broke free from the defender in front and as he did, Nicholas Jones fired a pass out front, which Bast one-timed through the legs of Sinclair at 8:58; Bast picking up goal number six of the playoffs.
Jared Nash added an insurance marker three and a half minutes later to put the Vees up two. Taylor Ward stole the puck at the Chiefs blue-line, darted down the wing and then centered for Nash at the back post for the tap-in at 11:34; Nash scoring for the first time in eight games.
Chris Klack capped off the night with an empty-net goal with just 37-seconds left.
Final Score: 5-2 Vees
Shots: 31-19 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 1-5 Chiefs 1-4
Three Stars: 1) Cassidy Bowes 2) Jordan Kawaguchi 3) Massimo Rizzo
Notes: Nicholas Jones finished with a game-high three assists in the win. Jones is now second in BCHL playoff scoring with 22 points leap-frogging Chilliwack’s Kohen Olischefski for second. Bast leads all BCHL defencemen with 16 points. The Vees are now 8-1 in the playoffs when scoring first.
The Vees look for a convincing 3-1 series lead tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19th, when they face the Chiefs in Game 4 of the Fred Page Cup Final at the SOEC; puck drop is 7 pm. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and local students and children (18 and under), get in free courtesy of Peter Bros. Construction. Fans can buy tickets at the SOEC box office, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com