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Penticton Vees complete ‘special’ comeback, advance to BCHL Finals

Vees score two goals in 13 seconds to stun Salmon Arm Silverbacks in Game 7
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Penticton Vees defenceman Nolan Stevenson (No. 4) celebrates with his teammates after scoring two goals in Game 7 and leading his team past the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the Interior Conference Finals. (Photo- Cherie Morgan)

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Nolan Stevenson dreamed of being a Game 7 hero.

The rookie defenceman lived it Tuesday night, May 14, scoring two goals — including the game-winner with 14 seconds left in the third period — to lift the Penticton Vees past the Salmon Arm Silverbacks en route to the Fred Page Cup Finals.

“It’s pretty special,” the Shaunavon, Sask. product said, after the Vees’ 4-3 victory in Game 7 of the Interior Conference Finals at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“It’s something you think about when you’re younger. Tonight, I didn’t really think it was going to be me.”

Penticton trailed 3-1 in the third period but scored three unanswered markers in the game’s final five minutes to eliminate Salmon Arm.

The Vees will now play the Surrey Eagles in the 2024 Fred Page Cup Finals.

“This shows how resilient we are,” Stevenson said. “We have done this throughout the season, the playoffs, coming back late in games.”

Stevenson, 19, started the Vees’ comeback when he scored his first of the night at 15:16 of the third period.

Down 3-2 with less than 27 seconds left, Vees forward Conyr Hellyer scored his fourth of the playoffs to tie the game.

Stevenson’s winner came 13 seconds later after took a pass from Zack Stringer and hammered a one-timer from the blue line past Silverbacks netminder Eli Pulver.

His goal propelled Penticton to its third straight Interior Conference championship.

Pulver made 45 saves in the loss.

Vees goaltender Will Ingemann, meanwhile, stopped 22 shots and recorded his ninth playoff win.

After a scoreless first period, Stringer found the back of the net at 1:52 of the middle frame to open the game’s scoring.

Salmon Arm’s Cole Cooksey responded about 12 minutes later to tie the game at 1-1.

Nathan Mackie would then score two goals in the third period to give the Silverbacks a 3-1 lead.

Salmon Arm led the best-of-seven series 3-2 but was blanked by Penticton in Game 6 to set up Tuesday night’s showdown at the SOEC.

Penticton and Surrey will meet in the Fred Page Cup Finals starting Friday, May 17, at the South Surrey Arena. It marks a rematch of the 2013 BCHL championship series.

The series’ third and fourth games will be in Penticton on May 21 and 22.

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The 2023-2024 Penticton Vees after capturing the Ryan Hatfield Memorial Trophy as Interior Conference champions. (Photo- Cherie Morgan)

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