It was game of bounces and breaks as the Vipers battled the Victoria Grizzlies on Sunday afternoon. The breaks went for and against both teams. The biggest break went against the Vipers in double OT, combined with a great individual effort from Kevin Massy and the Victoria Grizzlies would leave Vernon with 5 of 6 points on a long Interior road trip.
The first bounce of the game went Vernons way as Liam Coughlin put a shot wide of the goal, only to have it ricochet off the end boards off the pad of Nic Renyard and squeak just across the goal line. Seventeen seconds in the Vipers had the lead. That was the only goal of the first period as both teams had a few chances although not a lot of shots were taken.
The second was where the majority of the action was. Gerry Fitzgerald who nearly made a costly mistake in his own zone would make up for that by showing a lot of patience to out wait the Viper defense and goaltender as he would backhand home his team leading 14th of the season to get the game tied. Three minutes later on a powerplay, Dexter Dancs would end a nice passing play with a beautiful backhand shot past Renyard and the Vipers re took the lead. That was short lived as just 37 seconds later the Grizzlies would push back as another crazy bounce off the end boards went right to Mark McLellan and he would make no mistake to tie the game. Less than 4 minutes after that, Storm Wahlrab would pounce on a rebound to give the Grizz their first lead of the game. Just as the second period was winding down, Liam Coughlin would get his second lucky bounce as his original shot rebounded off Renyard, then off the Grizzly defenseman and in to get the game tied up late in the second frame. The dislike between these teams escalated quickly as a few fighting majors would occur, setting the scene for a great final period.
The third started with some chippy play and some obvious dislike. Eventually that would settle down and the two teams played solid defensive hockey to end regulation tied at 3.
The first period was where the final bounce would go against the Vipers. Jason Bird appeared to have scored the game winner 40 seconds into OT, but the goal would be called off as it was said McNicholas impeded Renyards ability to make the save. On the replay, it appeared McNicholas was directed in and couldn't avoid the Grizzly netminder. Thats why the call was most likely the right one, not to give McNicholas a penalty, but to waive the goal off. Without question it was a tough break for the Vipers and it set the scene for Overtime number 2.
Very late in the second OT, Kevin Massy would outwait the Viper D and Stiliadis and put home his first BCHL goal and win the game for the Grizzlies by a score of 4-3.
My 3 Key Thoughts
1) Effort Not Enough - This thought was echoed by Assistant Coach of the Vipers Dave Robinson, who said in the post game show, for whatever reason, the squad didn't have the same jump they did on Friday against Salmon Arm. The talent level is there, its just a matter of finding that consistent effort level from everyone.
2) Close But No Cigar - For the second straight time the Vipers had outplayed an opponent in overtime, but lost the extra point on a tough break. In Penticton, it was a tripping call to force a penalty shot, yesterday, it was the no goal. Its important to get at least one point, but it has to be frustrating for the team knowing they're doing everything, but finishing the opposition off.
3) Grizzlies Depth - Coming into the game, these two teams had nearly identical records. They seem to play a similar style of game, and both have impressive depth. Case in point, Myles Fitzgerald left the game in the first period with an injury, the Grizz didn't miss a beat and whether it was Jesse Schwartz or Dante Hahn, whoever Bill Bestwick put on that line fit in nicely.
Three out of four points is a nice rebound from last weekend for the Vipers. They now get set for a big weekend set against West Kelowna and Prince George. Both games will be at home at Kal Tire Place.