Sunday, 27 March 2016

Interior Division Champions

Break Game 6 down into two categories...the first 55:31, and the last 4:29 and I guarantee almost everyone will talk about the last 4:29. A 3-goal lead that goes down to 1 goal, a miraculous save off the goal line by Matthew Greenfield, and a disallowed PP goal for the Vees that would have tied it with 8 seconds left. For the record crowd on hand at Royal LePage Place, they got their monies worth, and then some.

West Kelowna opened the scoring in the game, and picked up the first two goals in that opening frame, both off of face-off plays. Bryan Basilico sent one past Zach Driscoll to give the Warriors a lead, before a win off the draw by Garrett Forster was off the stick of Jonathan Desbiens before it had even fully been on it, and in the back of the net for the edge. The Vees though controlled good chunks of play and out-shot the Warriors but it would be 2-0 after the opening 20.

In the second period, Desbiens again would get a goal, this time on the power play when he wrapped one around from behind the goal, bouncing it off something in the crease and in. It was tough to tell if it hit the leg of the goaltender or of a defenseman, but it was over the line and the Warriors looked to be in control. Shortly after a delay occurred which seemed to slow the momentum of West Kelowna, as the Vees came out flying after the glass issue was finally fixed. The Vees would count one on a 5 on 3 to get back within two, as Nicholas Jones was able to slip one over the line past Matthew Greenfield. The Warriors headed to the locker room again with a 2-goal lead.

In the third, it is almost impossible to recall exactly what happened in the first 15 minutes of the frame, but the Warriors weathered the Vees storm throughout that stretch, and then it went crazy. Garrett Forster won a foot race with the Penticton net empty and less than five minutes to go against Dante Fabbro, spinning around and sliding it into the yawning cage, as the Warriors fans in the building figured the game was over. Well it wasn't.

It was Jones who made it 4-2 for the Vees with just under three minutes remaining, then Tyson Jost scored 58 seconds later and all of a sudden it was 4-3. You could feel the pure jubilation from the crowd turn into pure fear, as the Vees looked to tie the game with all their offensive weapons on the ice. There was one defense to those weapons in the final minute, as Matthew Greenfield made the save of the year maybe, reaching out and robbing Jones from the top of the crease with a glove save (video below)

Now you'd think that was the final piece to the end of the night and a Division Banner, but you'd be wrong again (your percentage at this point if you didn't watch would be low.) Kylar Hope got called for a penalty with 12 seconds remaining, and the Vees won the face-off for a last ditch effort. The point shot was thrown towards the goal, re-directed, and into the net behind Greenfield to tie the game at 4. But wait, the referee in the corner immediately waves it off, saying it was a high stick and after the officials conference, it would indeed remain no goal, and a Warriors 4-3 lead. The final 8 seconds would see one shot by the Vees, a clearance to the corner, and a collective sigh of relief along with a lot of noise for the Warriors first Interior Division Championship.

Series Thoughts:
  • Skill, grit, and determination, those are the words you probably use to describe the Warriors in this series. They blocked shot after shot, played ruthless man on man coverage, and they shut down a pair of 50-goal scorers after Game 2. Scott Conway did not score in the four losses and Tyson Jost scored just once (last night) as Kristian Blumenschein and Rylan Yaremko (plus some other defensive zone company) took away time and space repeatedly and made it difficult. West Kelowna allowed 5 goals in their last 4 games, and two were scored 6 on 5, one on a 5 on 3 PP, another on a 5 on 4 PP, and the fifth was even strength in Game 5. The Warriors gave up just one goal while in an even-strength situation in the last four games of the series. Stingy. 
  • Nicholas Jones was one player the Warriors actually didn't contain, as he scored four of his teams five goals in the last four games of the series, and was maybe the Vees best forward in the latter parts of this series. He may be seeing Matthew Greenfield's glove in his nightmares after that huge save kept it 4-3. Jones left Ohio State earlier this season and ended up in Penticton, then committed to North Dakota, but will have to sit out the first semester of action if he heads to school. He is technically (I believe) to play junior next season as a 20-year-old, and could be a 60+ goal scorer in the BCHL.
  • A lot of credit must be given to the Penticton Vees, as they showed why they were the Regular Season Champions, flexing their offensive muscle in Game 1 and finding a way to win Game 2, tying it late and winning in overtime. There was so much talent and leadership on that ice and bench in the final minutes of Game 3, 4, 5, and 6 that the Warriors had their hands full each shift. Rylan Ferster said following the game that there was a ton of respect and classy comments from the Vees players in the hand shake line, and that reflects the organization as a whole. From Fred Harbinson on down, that was a team that didn't give up, took nothing for granted, and battled all the way to the final buzzer. To the Vees graduating players and others moving on, good luck in your hockey careers. To those who are returning next year, the rivalry will always be here. Should be fun in 2016/2017.
The Warriors now move on to the Division Champion Round-Robin, as they'll join the Nanaimo Clippers and Chilliwack Chiefs in a race to 3 WINS, as the teams play in a double round-robin format. I'll post again in the morning and lay out the schedule and possibilities/probabilities etc of this format. Mark your calendars though, the Warriors will play at home on Thursday March 31st vs Nanaimo, and Wednesday April 6th vs. Chilliwack.

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