Morning Star Staff
Eddie Johnstone played most of his NHL career in storied Madison Square Gardens in New York.
And while MSG brings back fond memories, Johnstone also has a soft spot for good old Vernon Civic Arena, where he played for and coached Junior A teams.
Johnstone, who turned 61 Tuesday, was an assistant under head coach Keith Chase with the Vernon Home Hardware Centre Vipers this season.
The Vipers clipped the Penticton Vees 2-1 Saturday afternoon before 600 fans at Civic Arena to sweep the best-of-three Okanagan Mainline Midget Tier 2 Hockey League final.
Vernon advances to the B.C. Championships, March 12-17, in Prince George.
“That was my last game at Civic,” said Johnstone, who is retiring from coaching. “I won the first one and won my last one at Civic.”
Johnstone gave the entire Home Hardware roster the Player of the Game honours.
“We were shorthanded with a few guys under the weather, but they sucked it up and beat a pretty good team,” said Johnstone, a Junior A and minor pro coach over four decades. “The boys got ‘er done.”
Johnstone began his coaching career as an assistant under Ernie Gare with the 1987-88 B.C. Junior Hockey League Vernon Lakers. Johnstone, a Medicine Hat Tigers grad, guided the Lakers to back-to-back Centennial Cups in 1990-91.
Viper goalie Connor Webb made several outstanding saves in the first period to keep a pressuring Penticton side from scoring.
Vernon pushed back in the second period and took the lead when a streaking Nick Cherkowski buried a sweet feed from Stephane Richard.
Late in the second, Cherkowski forced a turnover and fed Reed Cashato, who connected for the 2-0 snipe. Vernon’s Carl Main just missed on a breakaway moments later.
Penticton struck five minutes into the third but the Vipers worked hard to limit any further scoring chances.
Vernon was without tireless forward Connor Johnston and smooth skating defencemen Gage Kopp and had several players fighting the flu.
“Coach Keith Chase along with assistant coaches Eddie Johnstone, Jared Barendregt and Hayden Chase did an amazing job preparing the team for the long playoff run,” said Viper GM Doug Imrich.
Johnstone will make the trek to Prince George and then head to New York to watch the Rangers play Florida and Boston as part of a Rangers Alumni /Fans celebration March 21-23.
The Sun Valley Source For Sports Vipers iced the Kelowna Rockets 6-1 in the third and deciding game of the Okanagan Bantam Tier 2 final series Sunday afternoon at Kal Tire Place.
Kelowna shaded the Vipers 3-2 in Game 2 Saturday afternoon at the Rutland Arena. Trevor Kennedy and Lucas Wood had the Vernon goals.
Tier 3 call-up Gavin Fleck bagged two goals in Sunday’s win, singles going to Lee Christensen, Cole Johnson, Nick Bolin and Corbin Hanson. Drew McKenzie pocketed two assists.
Brad Teale’s Sun Valley crew move on to the provincials, March 12-17, in Salmon Arm.
The Watkin Motors Mustangs brushed off Penticton 2-1 in Game 3 of the Okanagan Pee Wee Tier 2 final series Saturday afternoon at Civic.
The Mustangs, coached by former Vernon Laker Wes Elliott, qualify for the provincials, March 12-17, in Fort St. John.
Zach Funk fired the first Vernon goal, assisted by Steel Quiring, who later posted the winner.
Penticton scored in the late going and pulled their goalie for a sixth attacker, but were denied by a marvellous Cayden Hamming.
The Thompson Okanagan Lakers are in the B.C. Female Midget AAA semifinals after eliminating the Kootenay Wildcats in two straight games, winning 1-0 in double overtime Friday night and 3-0 Saturday, in Vernon.
On Saturday, Samantha Head of Vernon scored in the first period, while insurance tallies came from Jenna Fletcher of Vernon and Riley Henderson of West Kelowna. Ripley Burd of Kelowna had three assists in support of Sydney Carter (Kamloops).
The Lakers move on to play the Northern Capitals next weekend in Prince George.
Kelowna iced the Vernon Coca-Cola Vipers 6-3 Saturday at Civic to take the Midget Tier 3 final series 2-0.
Birthday boy Damian Coljee-Fehr tapped in a Joe Eggert pass early before Kelowna rang up three unanswered goals. Bryce Stilborn fed Caden Bracken for a break away top-shelf Viper goal late in the second.
Tyson Sampert converted on a point shot to complete the scoring. Goalie Kieran Watts was sensational to keep Vernon in the game.
The father-son combination of Sam and ex-Viper D Max Mowat stepped up to coach the Tier 3 team at the last minute.
“I am very proud of the season our guys had. They showed continuous growth in their collective determination and work effort as the year unfolded,” said Sam Mowat.
Trevor Seibel’s Valley Wood Remanufacturing Vipers finished third in the Atom A playoffs, losing 8-3 to Kamloops, tying West Kelowna 6-6, shading Kelowna Chiefs 3-2 and losing 3-2 to the Kelowna Rockets.
Taryk Filipuzzi and Deagan McMillan scored versus the Rockets, while JJ Milne (2) and Terry Johnson connected against the Chiefs. McMillan (3), Zack Milne (2) and Erik Pastro (1+2) clicked in the tie with West Kelowna.
McMillan, Taryk Filipuzzi and JJ Milne counted goals and Brady Kuziw earned two helpers in the loss to No. 1 Kamloops.
The H&L Glass Atom C Vipers finished a very successful season by going 2-2 in Revelstoke.
The semifinal could have gone either way with all three H&L Glass forward lines creating chances. (Maguire Nicholson, Hudson Kibblewhite, Ryan Cox, Charlie Swartz, Marcel Green, Riley Beer, Austen Vandenbrand, Lyndon Carleton, and Jeffrey Curtis.)