It was a very consistent effort from start to finish for the Vernon Vipers as they defeated the Merritt Centennials by a score of 4-0. All four lines contributed and the defensemen really stepped up as Ryan Renz was a late scratch. Austin Smith was very solid for the third time getting his first shut out of the season turning aside all 31 shots. The powerplay converted for the first time in 4 games and really got the ball rolling.
The Merritt Centennials came out very strong in the first five minutes getting pucks deep and banging bodies. The Vipers, as they did all night, were smart and efficient in their own end and were able to get pucks out quickly. There was a lot of neutral zone play through the middle portions of the period with both teams clogging up the middle, but there weren't many whistles so it was a fast moving period. The Vipers had two powerplays in the frame and had some good looks in the first without success. The second man advantage took all of 9 seconds to convert as Colton Sparrow banked a centering pass off the Centennial defender and through Devin Kero to give the Snakes a 1-0 lead.
The second period at times was controlled by the Vipers with a ton of time spent in the Merritt zone. Vernon would get a powerplay, but couldn't score on it. However, they were able to keep the Cents hemmed in their own zone and Demico Hannoun would snap a shot far side on Devin Kero to increase the lead to 2-0. Less than two minutes later the Vipers would get a two on one break and Chase McMurphy would get the pass and slip it past Kero to make it 3-0. The flood gates would remain open as Hannoun would score his second of the night on 3 on 2 rush, as the seas parted for him and he let a hard wrister go from the high slot to make it 4-0.
Things got a little chippy in the third period as frustration seemed to boil over for the Cents. There were a few scraps and a lot of big hits. Neither team would score goals in the period, but the Cents had the best chance as a shot from the point hit the inside of the near post and rebounded along the goal line and out the other side. Austin Smith would continue his strong play in the period and end the night with his first shut out of the season.
My 3 Key Thoughts
1) - Consistent Effort - Including this game, I have counted 3 full 60 minute efforts from start to finish from this Vipers team. There have been games very close to 60 minutes, but not quite there. Tonight was a great effort from end to end. This team continues to improve on a nightly basis and it is showing as their goals against numbers are going down and the goals for are going up.
2) - Rattling Tenders - I don't think Devin Kero was rattled on Friday night, but he sure wasn't comfortable in the Centennial goal. Slight bumps, lots of traffic and trying to dig out loose pucks were just some of the things Kero had to deal with. He's the type of goalie who will make the saves he sees and the Vipers did a great job of creating disturbances in front of him.
3) - Don't Wake Me Up When November Ends - This is one month I know the Vipers won't want to end. The Snakes only lost once in regulation and had at least one point in 9 games. Home ice has been a big reason for the Vipers success and has allowed them sole possession of first place in the division and whether or not that lasts through the weekend or not remains to be seen, but so far through the midway mark of the season there are a lot of positives for the RBC Cup hosts.
December kicks off for the Vipers with a Sunday matinee at Kal Tire Place against the Trail Smoke Eaters. If you can't make it to the rink, I'll have the call starting at 1:45 on the Vipers MixLR.