COUGARS TOP VEES, ADVANCE TO RBC CUP FINAL
JASON LA ROSE
COBOURG, Ont. – Theo Lewis scored the winner with 8:05 left and set up Spencer Roberts for the empty-net insurance goal, sending the host Cobourg Cougars to the championship game at the 2017 RBC Cup with a 3-1 semifinal win over the Penticton Vees on Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars are the third consecutive host team – and fourth in five years – to reach the final; they will meet the winner of the Brooks Bandits-Cobras de Terrebonne semifinal on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET, TSN 1/3/5).
Lewis, who has played 223 regular-season games with Cobourg over the last five seasons, found a loose puck in the slot and wired a wrist shot just under the cross-bar past Penticton goaltender Mat Robson.
Daniel McKitrick had the other goal for the Cougars, getting the comeback started late in the second period.
Nicholas Jones was the lone goal-scorer for Penticton, which came up a couple of wins short after a marathon postseason; the Vees played 32 of a possible 32 playoff games, facing elimination seven times and winning the first six.
Penticton decidedly carried the play in the first period, outshooting Cobourg 11-7 on the strength of a pair of power-play chances, but Cougars netminder Stefano Durante got the game to the intermission scoreless.
The Vees broke through with the man advantage just past the midway mark of the second period; Chris Klack got the puck on the halfboards and threw a shot towards the net that Jones redirected off the far post and past Durante for the 1-0 goal.
Cobourg answered on a power play of its own in the last five minutes; Nick Minerva found McKitrick at the backdoor, and he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick before beating a sprawling Robson to tie the game at 15:05.
The teams traded chances in the third period, but it was Lewis who broke the deadlock, exciting the hometown crowd at the Cobourg Community Centre.
Penticton put Robson on the bench for an extra attacker with 90 seconds to go, and Gabe Bast came inches from getting the Vees even, hitting the post behind Durante.
Lewis flipped the puck into the neutral zone off the ensuing scramble in the Cobourg crease, and Roberts outraced a Penticton defender before tapping his tournament-leading fifth goal into the empty net.
Shots finished even 28-28.