Kelowna midget Tier 1 team advances to provincial championship

Tough two game series over Vernon advances local club to BC's

Vernon's Colton Thibault dives for the puck ahead of Kelowna's Eric Spring and chips a shot up over challenging netminder Brennan Claypool for the second Vernon goal of the game Saturday during Tier 1 hockey action at the Civic Arena.

The Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Rockets are heading to the midget Tier 1 provincials after a hard fought playoff series with the Vernon Home Building Centre Vipers.

The Rockets advanced in two straight games over Vernon, including a thrilling Okanagan Mainline Midget Tier 1 hockey championship final before 400 fans last Saturday night at Civic Arena.

Trevor Berisoff finished off a 2-on-1 with Cory Hochhausen with 27 seconds left in overtime as the defending B.C. champion Rockets edged the Vipers 5-4 to sweep the series 2-0 and move to the provincials starting March 20 in Nanaimo.

It was Berisoff’s second goal of the game. Josh Wickenheiser, Andrew Macleod and Morgan Johnston also scored.

Both teams played an inspired game in what was an entertaining contest as the Okanagan rivals for their playoff lives.

Justin Mitchell opened the scoring for Vernon going five-hole from close range with just over a minute to play in the opening period. The Rockets cut the lead in half with a buzzer beater before the end of the first period.

After Kelowna tied the score in the second period Vernon would again take a lead in the back and forth affair.

But the Rockets again tied it up in the fast-paced second period before defenceman Jayce Polman-Tuin’s seeing-eye shot from the point restored the one-goal lead.

The Rockets again tied it up before the end of the second period, setting up an exciting but scoreless third period with both teams having excellent scoring chances.

That set the stage for overtime and the Kelowna win.

“Our team needed to play a game with pressure and we responded,” said Kelowna head coach Brent Gilchrist, a Vernon minor hockey grad. “I thought we showed a lot of patience against Hails, who is the best goalie in the league, and always gives us fits. I thought Vernon played the best game Vernon has played in maybe two years.”

Prince George, Comox, host Nanaimo and a Vancouver entry will join Kelowna in the B.C.s.

“It’s nice to see the boys put everything they learned all year into a 60-minute effort,” said Vipers head coach Jim Armstrong. “I’m very proud of our team.”

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