Penticton, BC: The Penticton Vees (33-14-2-2) were holding on to a 2-1 lead in the final minute, but the Vernon Vipers (23-19-7-3) scored with 17 seconds to go before winning the game in overtime at the South Okanagan Events Centre Friday night.
The opening 20 minutes saw the Vees jump out to a 1-0 lead thanks to Eric Linell’s 26th of the season. After Peter Muzyka threw the puck on net from the left point, the shot went off a Vipers defender and right to Linell who ended an eight-game scoring drought.
Early in the second Muzyka threw a massive open-ice hit on Ben Hegelson who laid motionless on the ice for a few moments after the hit. Helgeson was helped off the ice, didn’t return to the game and Muzyka was given a five-minute blow to the head major and ejected from the game.
Despite the Vipers being on the power play for five mintues, they couldn’t seem to get the wheels all spinning in the right direction and managed just one shot on net during the major.
After the Vees killed off another minor penalty, Penticton was given a power play as Ty Pochipinski was hauled down at his own blue line.
On the man advantage, Massimo Rizzo threw the puck across the slot for Mason Snell and his centring feed went off a Vipers skate and past Aidan Porter to extend Penticton’s lead to 2-0. Jack LaFontaine was stellar in net with 24 saves through 40 minutes.
Early in the third, Rizzo took a slashing penalty in the offensive zone, giving the Vipers their seventh power play of the game. They finally made the Vees pay as Jack Judson wired a slap shot from the left circle over LaFontaine’s glove to cut it down to 2-1.
In the final minutes of the game, the Vipers pulled Porter for the extra attacker. With the pressure mounting, Vernon finally tied the game when Lane Zablocki found a loose puck on LaFontaine’s glove side with 17 seconds to go.
In overtime, both teams had excellent chances to end the game, but it was a mental error by the Vees that cost them the game.
With the puck in the neutral zone, the two Vees on the backend didn’t catch Zablocki behind them before he took a stretch pass, came in on a breakaway and slid the puck past LaFontaine’s left pad to end the game.
The Vees have a chance to quickly put the game behind them as they head to Kal Tire Place for the rematch Saturday night at 6:00.
Announced attendance was 3,086.