Just as it was a week ago, the two teams took a little while to set the pace. It was a fairly docile period without too much hitting, not much risk taking and really a timid first 20 minutes. The Vipers had a chance on an early powerplay to set the pace, but the Cents really slowed up the Viper breakout and didn't let them get set up on the man advantage. The Vipers had opportunity just past the midway mark of the period, but again couldn't capitalize, despite having more offensive zone time for the first minute. The second minute wasn't very good as the Cents would try get a break going the other way forcing Liam Finlay to take a penalty forcing 60 seconds of 4 on 4. The Cents tried to get something going on an abbreviated powerplay, but couldn't score. It wasn't until the final 2 minutes where Ryan Coghlan cleared the puck off the wall and sent Colin Grannary in on a 2 on 1, Grannary would look off Shortridge and place it high glove to give the visitors a 1-0 lead after 1 period.
The Vipers at times this season have struggled in the middle period, but tonight was a different story as they came out flying right off the drop of the puck. It started with a thunderous body check from Riley Brandt and the Vipers would keep the puck in the offensive zone and Griffin James found himself open in the corner, walked to the front of the net and on the backhand elevated a puck straight up under the bar for his second goal of the season. The Vipers were able to keep the momentum on their side thanks to 3 straight powerplays as Gould, Forbes and Coghlan would all be assessed minor penalties. To the Cents credit, their PK was very solid killing off all 3, including a PK where the Vipers controlled the puck for the full 2 minutes in the Centennial zone. Despite all the pressure, the Vipers and Cents were deadlocked at 1 after 40 minutes.
The 3rd period was a bit of a wild one with a ton of scoring as both teams pushed for the 2 points. The Cents would take the lead early in the period off an end wall scrum and a centering pass from Regush right onto the tape of a wide open Zach Zorn who ripped it over the glove of Shortridge to make it 2-1. The Vipers were able to tie it up less than 2 minutes later as Jagger Williamson would find Liam Finlay open with a cross ice pass, a one timer later and it was 2-2. The Vipers then used an offensive zone faceoff to their advantage as Williamson again would feather a puck in front, a waist high pass, that was knocked out of mid air by Christian Cakebread to give the Snakes a 3-2 lead. The Cents hadn't been given many powerplays throughout the night, but they did capitalize on one in the third as a net front scramble had a loose puck go right to Gavin Gould and he would bury it into the empty cage to tie the game up at 3. With Zach Zorn in the penalty box for goaltender interference, the Vipers would try take the lead with a powerplay, but it was the Cents with the first chance as Gavin Gould would have an unimpeded breakaway from center, but was robbed by Andrew Shortridge to keep the game tied. Gould and Pellah would be penalized for a skirmish at the end of that play and the Vipers would stay on the powerplay. That save proved crucial as Latrell Charleson would rip home his 3rd goal of the season to give the home side a 4-3 lead with just under 4 minutes to play. The Cents were forced to pull Kehler and Liam Finlay would seal the game into an empty net to make the final score 5-3.
Here is the official box score:
|1-0 Merritt Centennials at 18:50 - Colin Grannary from Ryan Coghlan|
|1-1 Vernon Vipers at 0:56 - Griffin James from Colton McCarthy|
|2-1 Merritt Centennials at 3:29 - Zachary Zorn from Michael Regush|
|2-2 Vernon Vipers at 5:09 - Liam Finlay from Jagger Williamson and Christian Cakebread|
|3-2 Vernon Vipers at 8:47 - Christian Cakebread from Jagger Williamson and Liam Finlay|
|3-3 Merritt Centennials at 11:33 (PP) - Gavin Gould from Brett Jewell and Colin Grannary|
|4-3 Vernon Vipers at 15:36 (PP) - Latrell Charleson from Riley Brandt and Jagger Williamson|
|5-3 Vernon Vipers at 19:03 (EN)- Liam Finlay from Christian Cakebread and Ben Butcher|
|STARS OF THE GAME|
|1st STAR||2nd STAR||3rd STAR|
|Merritt Centennials||1 for 4 (25.0%)|
|Vernon Vipers||1 for 6 (16.7%)|
For the Vipers this was a big win after falling behind early in the third period, despite having a phenomenal second that only saw them score once. Cole Kehler was outstanding for Merritt all night and stymied the Viper offense frequently. The big difference in this one was a save by Andrew Shortridge and a powerplay goal.
I have two players who stood out for either side, one is Colin Grannary. He is a big bodied 18 year old that oozes talent and skill. His goal in the first period was a thing of beauty and everytime he touches the puck it could be a scoring chance. For the Vipers it was Jagger Williamson. He had a 3 point night, all assists including one on the game winning powerplay goal. What the Viper coaching staff really like about Williamson is his defensive abilities, but there is no question the 17 year old Lumby product possesses the offensive prowess as well.
The Vipers have a big challenge ahead of them on Friday night as they head to Royal LePage Place for a date with the West Kelowna Warriors. The Warriors defeated the Vipers 3-2 at KTP earlier on and the Vipers will be looking for redemption. You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 or watch live on FastHockey.