The Penticton Vees dropped their first match at the Western Canada Cup in Fort MacMurray on Tuesday, in a close 3-2 loss to the Portage Terriers.
Dan Shioler netted what proved to be the winning marker at 12:26 of the third period to put the Terriers up 3-1. Portage broke into the Vees end on a 3-on-2, and Tyler Jeanson dropped the puck to Jordyn Boyd who sent a cross-ice pass to Shioler who beat a sprawling Vees goalie Hunter Miska top shelf.
The win puts the Manitoba team into a tie with Penticton with 2-an-1 record. The Terriers lost their opening match to the Fort MacMurray Oil Barons 3-1 on Saturday before beating the Melfort Mustangs 6-3 Sunday.
Penticton opened the WCC with 11-3 and 6-0 drubbings of Spruce Grove and Fort Mac respectively, and may have been overconfident going in.
“I wouldn’t say we underestimated them, but there were definitely some passengers on our side,” Vees coach and GM Fred Harbinger told a WCC reporter after the game. “We weren’t playing with the pace we had been the last couple of days, there’s no excuse for it with the day off yesterday, but you have to give Portage credit they created a lot of the problems for us, the were playing a real strong game, and we got behind the eight ball in the first period.”
Portage, the top ranked team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, got most of its offence from its top line as Brad Bowles set up Zack Waldvogel who beat Hunter Miska at 9:31 in the first period. They were at it again six minutes later as Bowles buried a shot set up by his brother Shawn and Waldvogel to go up 2-0 as the Terriers outshot the Vees 14-8 in the period.
In the second frame, the Vees cut into the lead on a shorthanded goal by Matthew Serratore at 3:08 who wired one over the shoulder of Portage goalie Zac Robidoux. It was the lone goal of the period as both teams fired 11 shots on goal.
Shioler would make it 3-1, but it didn’t take long for the Vees to get back to within a goal as 12 seconds later Cam Amantea scored his first of the tournament after a clearing attempt hit a stick then deflected off of him and past Robidoux.
The Vees pressed late but could not find the equalizer, as Gabe Bast’s wrist shot hit the post behind the Terriers goal on his blocker side with just minutes remaining.
“We want to play four lines get everyone involved in the game and generate our chances off energy, and tonight for whatever reason our energy seemed off a little bit,” said Harbinger.
Robidoux made 25 saves for the win while Miska finished with 34 saves.
The Vees returned to action Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. when they hosted the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champs, the Melfort Mustangs but the score was unavailable at press time. The Mustangs are 1-1 entering the game. Depending on their result against the Mustangs, the Vees are still positioned well to play in the first versus second-place game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.