A second period collapse lead to the downfall of the Penticton Vees who lost Game 1 of the Fred Page Cup 5-2 against the Nanaimo Clippers Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“It is obviously disappointing because I don’t think we got scored on five times at home all year. But, it is just the start of the series and we have to find a way to bounce back,” said Vees head coach Fred Harbinson.
The series is a battle of the BCHL titans. The top two teams in regular season play who hold the two best goaltending records in the league. The Penticton Vees come armed with a stingy defence while the Nanaimo Clippers roster boasts six 20-plus goal scorers. Something was bound to break.
In the end it was the Vees defence that crumbled under the speed of the Clippers forwards.
“We had couple mistakes on the back end and got caught with three guys low and with extended shifts. We spent too much time in the offensive zone and they countered on it and made us pay,” said Harbinson. “Sometimes you spend so much time in the offensive zone because you think you are going to get one more chance at the net but we have to have smarter changes. We got caught and beat back up the ice on back-checking. We were exhausted coming back. We have to make sure we don’t get caught with three guys below the circle.”
The Vees, who have traditionally come out slow at home this season, jumped to a 1-0 lead thanks to Demico Hannoun. The forward picked up a loose puck that a Clippers defenceman backed away from in the Vees blueline. Hannoun tore down the open ice along the wall past a backpedaling defenceman. With another Clippers player hanging off his back, Hannoun flipped the puck towards the net at an awkward angle. What seemed like a harmless attempt squeaked through the pads of Guillaume Decelles giving the Vees a 1-0 lead.
Then there was a stumble, a trip and finally an all out collapse by the Vees defense. First the Clippers capitalized on a point shot that bounced off the back wall straight to the front of the net where Anthony Rinaldi was waiting. He shoveled the puck past Vees netminder Hunter Miska to tie the game 1-1.
On the other end, Clippers goalie Decelles looked shaky allowing what should have been an easy glove save on Mike Lee shot fly past him. Lucky for the Clippers a whistle had been blown as the referee called a bench minor on the Clippers before it trickled into the net. The goal was disallowed disappointing 2,341 fans, who voiced their disapproval. Harbinson said the referees admitted it was the wrong call, but his squad also had plenty of time to get over it and move forward.
Decelles showed to be a different goalie in the second period stopping one of the Vees most offensive threats in the playoffs Connor Chartier at the doorstep. The confidence for the Clippers flowed up the line and they burned the exhausted Vees defence.
Trying to force plays, the Vees got caught too deep resulting in four Clippers goals scored within a span of 11 minutes.
That run started with Yanni Kaldis sneaking past the defence and putting the puck in top corner giving them a one goal lead. It was deja vu for the Vees, when on almost the identical play the Clippers Rinaldi scored.
“We played them four times this year and know how each other play. We just had to come out and play better than them with better systems,” said Rinaldi. “We had a slow start and it was nice to see all our guys putting in the effort to get to pucks and score goals. I think we had more energy than they did in the second and that is how a team gets the edge in a period. This is the Fred Page, it is the finals, and we needed to bring energy and did.”
The next two goals for the Clippers came 26 seconds apart. The Vees coughed up the puck in front of their own net giving Sheldon Rempal all the time in the world to deke out Miska and then a bounce off the post led to Clippers Ryan Forbes finding the puck on his blade and an empty net to shoot at. With the Clippers up 5-2, Vees backup goalie Brandon Barry relieved Miska.
The Vees had several chances thwarted by Decelles after his somewhat rough first period showing. A sea of orange jersey’s prevented any dangerous rebounds and stymied the Vees from potential scoring chances.
With 46 seconds left in the second Vees forward Jack Ramsay provided the team with a glimmer of hope. Cradling the puck on the faceoff dot he wristed a shot beating the Clipers goalie glove high to make it 5-2.
Down three goals as they headed into the third the Vees battled back outshooting the Clippers, but could not close the gap.
The loss means the Vees lose home ice advantage. The two teams meet again on Saturday at the SOEC at 6 p.m. A Party on the Plaza kicks off at 4:30 p.m.