Garrett James Photography

Vees defeat Clippers in game four to claim franchise’s 13th BCHL championship

The Penticton Vees are the 2022 Fred Page Cup champions.

After BC Hockey League teams didn’t play for a championship trophy in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vees reached the pinnacle of junior A hockey in British Columbia and won the Fred Page Cup.

It’s a record-setting victory for the Vees as it gives them the most BCHL titles ever, one more than Vernon’s 12 championships. For Penticton president, general manager, and head coach Fred Harbinson, it’s his fifth career BCHL crown since joining the Vees 15 years ago.

The Penticton franchise’s 13th-ever BCHL championship was secured with a convincing 3-0 victory over the Nanaimo Clippers in game four on Wednesday.

It was a goal from defender Ryan Hopkins just 128 seconds into the game that got the Vees off to a strong start. From the corner, the puck was fed back to Hopkins at the blueline and he waited for a screen to form in front of Clippers netminder Cooper Black before teeing up a slapshot that found the goal.

Defender Frank Djurasevic doubled Penticton’s lead at the 8:52 mark of the first period. Beanie Richter set up the play, feeding a loose puck back to Djurasevic who wristed it and beat Black from almost the exact same spot where Hopkins did.

With 4:57 left in the first period, the Vees opened a 3-0 lead after a Richter pass bounced off the glass in the neutral zone to Thomas Pichette. He broke into the Nanaimo zone, cut to just outside the right faceoff circle, and wristed a tricky shot that got by Black.

The Vees opened a 4-0 lead when Adam Eisele intercepted a Luca Grabas pass at the Clippers blueline and broke in on a 2-on-0 with Bradly Nadeau. Eisele got Black moving right to left and passed to Nadeau who scored on a one-timer at 5:09 of the middle frame.

The Clippers finally beat Kaeden Lane when Jérémie Payant moved into the Vees zone with speed and fed a seeing-eye pass across the slot. Charles Tardif broke to the net and deftly deflected it past Lane to bring Nanaimo to within three.

Three minutes and 14 seconds later, the Vees’ third-ranked power play went to work after Michael Craig was called for tripping and it only took 29 seconds for Penticton to capitalize. It was a tic-tac-toe passing play from Bradly Nadeau to Luc Wilson, who fed Joshua Nadeau on the back door to make it 5-1 Vees.

Defenders for the Vees continued to contribute offensively as Spencer Smith took a pass from Joshua Niedermayer in the high slot and he fired a shot that eluded a beleaguered Black on the blocker side. The 6-1 marker came as a delayed penalty was coming against the Clippers but the Vees didn’t get the extra attacker into the offensive zone before Smith found twine.

Nanaimo didn’t go away quietly though. 55 seconds after Smith’s goal, Alek Sukunda fired a puck from the corner that Lane kicked right to Cole Hansen in the left faceoff circle. He one-timed a hard shot past the Vees netminder to bring the Clippers to within four.

As was the story of the game, Penticton had an answer each time Nanaimo scored. It was the second power play goal of the night for the Vees with Payant in the penalty box to give them a 7-2 lead with 3:17 left in the second period. Wilson passed the puck across to an uncontested Bradly Nadeau in the left faceoff circle and he rifled a one-timer that Black had no chance on.

Bradly Nadeau capped a hat trick 5:07 into the third period when a shot from the right point made its way to Black and he kicked out the rebound to a wide-open Nadeau. The 2005-born sniper shoveled the puck in for his third goal of the night to make the final 8-2 Vees.

Lane was solid once again between the pipes for Penticton, stopping 21 shots, including 13 in the first period. Despite allowing all eight Penticton goals, Black still finished the night with 50 saves for the Clippers.

Riding a 15-game winning streak, the Vees once again rewrote the record book en route to finding a way to get it done in the Fred Page Cup playoffs. They’re the 2022 champions.