Penticton Vees Fall Just Short in Bid to Repeat as BCHL Champs
No one expected the Penticton Vees to duplicate the dominance they displayed in the 2011-12 season, when they posted a 54-4-0-2 regular season record and rolled through the BCHL playoffs with little resistance before winning two more tournaments on their way a national championship.
However, the 2012-13 season was an extremely exceptional campaign, especially considering that only Captain Troy Stecher, Cody DePourcq, Wade Murphy and goaltender Chad Katunar returned from last season's championship squad. Unfortunately for the Vees, the campaign ended just a tad too early for their liking.
Adam Tambellini scored at 2:34 of double overtime in Game 6 of the BCHL Finals, as the Surrey Eagles edged the Vees 3-2 on Sunday, clinching the series for the Eagles as they captured their first Fred Page Cup since 2005. Tambellini's goal came after a first overtime period that was played at a frantic pace, with both teams going end to end and missing a number of glorious chances to win it. Both Katunar and Eagles netminder Michael Santaguida were outstanding between the pipes, particularly in the aforementioned first overtime period when they were faced numerous point-blank scoring opportunities.
The exciting overtime session was preceded by a minor miracle for the Vees as they trailed 2-1 with less than a minute to go before Michael Rebry tied the game at two in the dying moments of the third period, saving the season momentarily. The goal came after Sam Mellor threw the puck from the right-wing wall towards the Surrey net and, through heavy traffic, the puck managed to deflect past Santaguida, sending the 3,142 fans in attendance at the South Okanagan Events Centre into a frenzy. The goal was originally credited to John Siemer but later given the Rebry; his first of the post-season officially tying the game at 19:34.
At the very least, Penticton played a thrilling game to end their season, even though they eventually fell short of the ultimate prize. The Vees say goodbye to graduating players in Stecher, Katunar and Murphy, as well as Sam Mellor, Sean Flanagan, Bryan Sinz, Rob Mann, James De Haas, John Siemer and Thomas Nitsche.
One question mark for the Vees heading into next season will be status of BCHL Rookie of the Year Ryan Gropp, who was drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round of the WHL draft. Gropp has also been named one of ten finalists for the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) 2013 Rookie of the Year Award, but it remains to be seen whether he will return to the Vees or join the WHL next season.
Adam Graham - Penticton