By DAVID CROMPTON
It doesn’t matter the time, the Penticton Vees own the Place.
Michael Rebry scored at 2:06 of the first overtime period as the Vees edged the West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 in a rare Tuesday morning (11 a.m.) game for their third win in as many games at Royal LePage Place this season.
“Winning another game on the road, in their barn again with a big crowd on hand, it was huge for us,” said Rebry, now tied for the league lead in goals with 11.
Rebry deflected all the credit on the goal to linemate Sam Mellor. Mellor patiently hung on to the puck, drew some traffic to the front of the net and fired a low shot that Tyler Briggs blocked, but Rebry was right there to slam home the rebound.
“It was a great play by Sam,” said Rebry. “It bounced right to me and I had a lot of time and net to put it in.”
Wade Murphy scored to run his league-best points streak to 12 games, and Troy Stecher and James De Haas connected in the third period as the Vees charged back from a 2-0 deficit to grab a 3-2 lead.
Shawn Hochhausen tied the game and earned the Warriors a point on a power play with two minutes to play in the third period. He also assisted on the other Warriors goals by Marcus Basara and Ambrose Firkus.
Briggs was the main reason the Warriors got a point as he made 45 saves – many of the point-blank variety - as the Vees came in waves in the final two periods and overtime.
Nic Renyard was also solid with 28 saves for the Vees, who improved to 12-2-0-1 and opened up a five-point lead on both West Kelowna (8-2-0-4) and Merritt atop the Interior Division.
Rebry chalked up the victory up to the same thing that has sparked the speedy, young Vees team this season: hard work.
“We get down a goal or two but we don’t panic,” said Rebry. “We just keep pushing our work ethic and it paid off again.”
Vees GM and head coach Fred Harbinson said the team could easily have “crumbled” after giving up the late power play goal to tie the game.
“We hung in there and I thought we had a real solid game pretty much from the get-go,” said Harbinson. “Their defence had some trouble handling our speed. When we don’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone, that’s when we’re at our best, driving hard at teams with our speed. We got behind early but we just kept coming at them. Their goaltender was amazing in the second period and Renyard played real well for us, too.”
The Warriors took the play to the Vees early and nearly had the lead on a power play but Jetlan Houcher’s one-timer from the edge of the right circle rattled off the post and crossbar but stayed out.
Basara put the Warriors ahead at 12:58, zipping a high shot into the open side after Hochhausen’s fanned shot landed on his stick to the left of the crease.
The Warriors scored a strange goal 23 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0. Firkus whiffed on a shot from in close, but Renyard had set for a harder shot and the puck ended up glancing off his stick and trickling across the line.
The goal seemed to generate a sense of urgency – at least for the Vees.
On a 5-on-3 power play, Murphy corralled a rebound of De Haas’s point blast and stabbed a fluttering shot over a fallen Briggs at 7:17. Mellor also had an assist.
Late in the period, Vees’ Ryan Gropp raced in alone from the blueline in after two Warriors defencemen collided. The gifted rookie deked Briggs but hoisted a backhander well over the top.
Penticton finally tied it at 3:36 of the third. Captain Stecher – who was justifiably named the game’s first star – jumped into the offence and beat Briggs with a deceptively hard snapshot that just snuck in under the crossbar on the short side. Brad McClure tallied an assist.
“Stech is just a great leader for us,” said Rebry. “He’s the perfect captain for this team and he had a huge game.”
Stecher’s defence partner, De Haas, put the Vees up for the first time at 6:53 with a terrific individual effort. The Detroit Red Wings draft pick dashed between the Warriors defence and ripped a perfect shot past Briggs and into the far corner of the net. Gropp and Noah Henry earned the assists.
The Vees appeared to be in control after the goal, but a needless roughing after the whistle penalty to defenceman Bryan Sinz with 3:45 to go opened the door for the Warriors.
Hochhausen tied it with 15 seconds left in the penalty. Josh Monk’s point drive was deflected and then bounced off the end boards to Hochhausen, who did a nifty job of controlling the puck and hoisting a backhander in just under the bar.
In the 4-on-4 overtime, Mellor did all the spadework on the winning goal, with Rebry driving hard to the net and calmly steering home the rebound. Cam Amantea also picked up a helper on the goal.
“To have three wins already in this building against a real good team, we’re pretty fortunate,” said Harbinson. “It’s going to be a battle with them all season long.”
ICE CHIPS: Murphy leads the BCHL with 23 points, while Rebry is tied with Basara and Chilliwack’s Josh Hansen for the leads in goals … West Kelowna’s Seb Lloyd had his eight-game points streak stopped. Lloyd did get into a fight with Stecher midway through the first period … Attendance was 1,345, with the vast majority of the total being school students from the West Kelowna and Peachland area … The two teams will do it all over again on Friday, with the Warriors making their first visit of the season to the South Okanagan Events Centre in a 7 p.m. puck-drop. The Vees also host Victoria Grizzlies Saturday at 5 p.m.