Sunday, 22 December 2013

Vipers Crowned By Kings 7-2.

It was a fantastic start to the game for the Vernon Vipers, but penalty trouble, frustration and a smothering Kings defense led to a tough end to 2013 for the Vipers.  It was they type of game that had flow at times, but penalties squashed most of that flow and it seemed to work to the Powell River advantage.

To start the game the Vipers had jump and determination, using their speed  and forecheck to swarm the Powell River defense.  Vernon would draw first blood as Liam Coughlin would poke home a loose puck to make it 1-0 at the seven minute mark.  The Vipers weren't done as three minutes later a point shot from Ryan Renz would find its way through the crowd and past Jonah Imoo to make it 2-0.  At that point it seemed like things would go the Vipers way, but in fact it would be the last thing to go right on this night.  A late powerplay for the Kings would convert as Stephen Hiff would get credit for his 5th to make it 2-1 after 1.  The seed of frustration was planted in the opening period as both teams felt that penalties were missed and the ones that were called weren't justified.  That issue would only get worse for the Vipers in the remaining 40 minutes.

The second period was a very slow moving period as the Vipers were penalized 3 times and the Kings would make them pay.  JJ Coleshaw would score on a rebound to tie up the game at two.  That seemed to spark the Kings as Luke Nogard would tally 4 minutes later to make it 3-2 PR.  Less than two minutes later a nice individual effort from Kurt Keats would make it 4-2.  Then another powerplay later Vernon product Jordan Burns would score his first of the season to end the period 5-2.  After the Burns marker, that would spell the end of the night for Austin Smith, who I thought couldn't really be faulted on many of the goals, but the entire team was lacking focus and a change was necessary.  In the period Mason Blacklock would be ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct which just went to show how frustrated the team really was.

The Vipers started to play better in the third as they attempted to get some building blocks heading into the Christmas Break.  The flow and speed picked up, but at that point the Kings were playing shut down hockey knowing the Vipers have the fire power to get back into it.  Credit to the Kings of taking away the time of space and when the Vipes opened up the ice, the Kings struck.  Kurt Keats would score his second of the night to make it 6-2 and 11 seconds later Jarryd Leung would slip one through the legs of Todosychuk to make it 7-2.  After that the game tidied up and finished by that margin.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Managing Frustration - The Vernon Vipers couldn't manage their frustration and emotion on Saturday night and let it get the best of them.  The team was uncharacteristically frustrated and it only seemed to motivate the Powell River Kings.  I think this could be viewed as a nice lesson for the team.  Against a team with the number 2 ranked PP, you can't be taking 8 penalties.  Its extremely important to remain composed throughout the entirety of a game.  This Vipers didn't do that and they paid for it.  I firmly believe that this team will come back from the break re-focused and motivated and put this one behind them.

2) Kings Are For Real - I liken this team to a well oiled machine.  When they got down, there was no panic in their game and they chipped away and continued to build momentum until the flood gates opened in the second period.  I would be very interested to see how these two teams stacked up in a seven game series.  This game had enough dislike to fuel a very good series.  Not only are the Kings solid defensively despite missing the likes of Luke Ripley, but they explode offensively scoring 15 goals in two games.  They are a three headed monster and look well on their way to making hay in the Island Division.

3) Referees - When one team gets 8 powerplays and the other gets just 2, I feel like an explanation from my viewpoint is required.  Were the Vipers guilty of taking 8 legit penalties...yes.  Do I think the Kings deserved more than just 2 penalties...absolutely, but I've said this before, one referee CANNOT effectively manage a game without missing, sometimes crucial calls.  There were high sticks, slashes and high hits that went undetected because they were behind the play.  In the broadcast I said I don't envy the job this referee has to do, but how does this problem get remedied?  More officials!  With only 5 games in the league that night, how come only one referee is scheduled?  It seems to happen all to often.  In my humble opinion, one set of eyes isn't enough for a game that is so fast and physical as the BCHL offers.

The Vipers will be happy to get to the Christmas Break and get home for some well deserved family time.  I would like to wish everyone reading this blog a Happy Holidays and Happy New Years.  I look forward to 2014 and hope you'll join us on Friday January 3rd as the Vipers head to Trail to face the Smokies!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Game 37 Preview - Kings @ Vipers

Its the final game of 2013 for the Vernon Vipers and it is quite the matchup.  The Powell River Kings make their first and only visit to Kal Tire Place in the regular season.  The Vipers have loved playing at home this season and will look to end the year in style.  The Vipers haven't lost in regulation at home since October 26th against the Centennials.  The Kings come in after a great start to the season getting out to a huge lead in the Island Division only to be tracked down by the Grizzlies.  The Kings have three games in hand on the Grizz and look to end 2013 the way their season began.

Here's the break down:

Season Series - October 18 - Vipers 2 Powell River 1 - Hap Parker Arena

Vernon Vipers 

Record - 20-9-3-4 - 2nd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 10-2-3-3       Away Record - 10-7-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Michael McNicholas (19)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (31)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (50)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 19 GP - 9-4-3-2, 2.59 GAA, .917Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 16 GP - 10-4-0-1, 2.95 GAA, .902Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 13th in the league - 24 for 143 - 16.78%
                       - Penalty Kill - 5th in the league - 121 of 145 - 83.45%

Powell River Kings 

Record - 23-7-2-2 - 2nd in the Island Division

Home Record - 14-4-1-0          Away Record - 9-3-1-2

Leaders - Goals - Drew Dorantes (20)
             - Assists - Ryan Scarfo (23)
             - Points - Ryan Scarfo (38)

Goaltending - Jonah Imoo - 20 GP - 12-5-1-1, 2.77 GAA,  .906Sv%
                   - Jeff Smith - 16 GP - 11-2-1-1, 2.03 GAA, .933Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 2nd in the league - 29 for 142 - 20.42%
                       - Penalty Kill - 3rd in the league - 140 of 166 - 84.34%

If tonights game is anything like the last one between these two teams, it will be hard hitting, tight checking and very disciplined.  Goaltending will have to be good and the Vipers will want to feed off the crowd and keep it 5 on 5.  If you can't make it to the game, catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Vipers Continue To Roll At Home and Win 3-1

The Vernon Vipers continued their home dominance with a very determined 3-1 effort over the West Kelowna Warriors.  Both teams were very solid defensively and it was a matter of capitalizing on a chance and powerplay goal that made the difference for the Vipers.  Austin Smith was outstanding and for the second time this season was just 30 seconds away from a shutout.

The first period was a very entertaining, back and forth affair with both teams getting chances, getting key saves and playing smart defensive hockey.  There was no scoring in the opening frame with the shots being 12-10 after 1.

It was more of the same in the second although I thought it was more defensive than the first.  Both teams were very smart and disciplined.  Effective neutral zone play was a big piece of the period and it was looking like the first mistake would be the difference in the game.  That fact proved true as the Vipers would get an odd man rush midway through the period and beautiful effort from Demico Hannoun got the Snakes on the board and it was 1-0 after 2.

The Vipers knew they needed to have a solid effort in the third period knowing the Warriors were going to push to get the game tied.  The Vipers would receive a powerplay early in the period and were able to take advantage as Mason Blacklock tipped in a point shot to make it 2-0.  Michael McNicholas would score an empty netter to make it 3-0.  A late powerplay marker from Jason Cotton would make the final score 3-1 ending the shut out bid with just 30 seconds left.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) 60 Minute Effort - You could look at the box score and see 38 shots against and think the Warriors controlled the play, but that wouldn't be accurate.  The Vipers were strong in all three zones all night long and minimized the quality chances.  It was nearly mistake free hockey from Vernon and another effort like that will be needed Saturday.

2) Austin Smith - There are times in a game when you need your goaltender to make a key save.  Tonight, Austin Smith made a few stellar saves combined with the saves he usually makes.  He was 30 seconds away from his second shut out and made the whole night look easy.  The Warriors have a ton of offensive talent and Smith was most deserving of tonights first star selection.

3) Home Ice Advantage - This team continues to roll on home ice.  Out of 18 home games this season, the Vipers have only been defeated twice in regulation.  That means they have at least one point in 16 of 18, that is a phenomenal statistic.  The team continues to treat fans to impressive performances and the fans continue to reward the players as the attendance begins to climb.  Kal Tire Place is quickly becoming a place teams don't want to play at and that bodes well for the club heading into 2014.

The Vernon Vipers will end 2013 on Saturday as they play host to the Powell River Kings.  It should be a fantastic game and if you can't make it to Kal Tire Place in person, you can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Game 36 Preview - Warriors @ Vipers

With just two games remaining before the end of 2013, the Vernon Vipers look to gain a little traction and a little momentum as they get set to face a division foe tonight at Kal Tire Place.  The West Kelowna Warriors come to town for the third of four meeting in the friendly confines.  The last time these two met, it wouldn't be a stretch for me to call it the most entertaining game I've been a part of all season.  A 2-2 draw with both teams bending but not breaking in the extra period.  The matchup has been even all year with both teams scoring 10 goals and giving up 10 goals.  Without question the West K fan bus will provide a little more noise to a great rivalry.

Having said that, here's the matchup:

Season Series - September 17 - West K 5 Vipers 3 - Royal LePage Place
                      - November 8 - Vipers 5 West K 3 - Kal Tire Place
                      - November 23 - Vipers 2 West K 2 - Kal Tire Place

Vernon Vipers 

Record - 19-9-3-4 - 2nd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 9-2-3-3          Away Record - 10-7-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Michael McNicholas (18)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (30)
              - Points - Michael McNicholas (48)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 18 GP 8-4-3-2, 2.68 GAA, .913 Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 16 GP 10-4-0-1, 2.95 GAA, .902Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 15th in the league - 23 for 141 - 16.31%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 119 of 142 - 83.80%

West Kelowna Warriors

Record - 18-11-1-2 - 4th in the Interior Division

Home Record - 9-8-0-0              Away Record - 9-3-1-2

Leaders - Goals - Jason Cotton/Jordan Masters (15)
             - Assists - Seb Lloyd (21)
             - Points - Jason Cotton (33)

Goaltending - Andy Desautels - 29 GP 16-8-1-1, 2.47 GAA, .912Sv%
                   - Cody Porter - 6 GP 2-2-0-1, 4.18 GAA, .854Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 25 for 155 - 16.13%
                       - Penalty Kill - 16th in the league - 101 of 136 - 74.26%

Its the fourth of seven meetings this season in a rivalry that is fun to watch.  Hope to see you down at the rink, but if you can't make it, all the action will be on Vipers MixLR starting at 6:45.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Vipers Can't Hold Lead and Fall 4-2 to Backs

It was the perfect start for the Vipers on Saturday night as they scored early and controlled the Silverbacks.  However, they were unable to sustain the pressure and the advantage through the remaining forty minutes and the Backs were able to chip into the lead then take it with three unanswered in the third period.

The Vipers couldn't have scripted a better start in an opposition Teddy Bear Toss night.  Salmon Arm would take a penalty in the opening few minutes and Liam Coughlin would convert his 11th of the season to give Vernon a 1-0 lead.  The teams traded chances throughout the remainder of the period with Salmon Arm putting shots on goal from absolutely everywhere.  They made one mistake however, which allowed the Vipers to break out on a 3 on 1.  Hannoun would score the goal after a beautiful feed from Michael McNicholas with only 90 seconds left in the period.

It was a very evenly matched second period, but I thought the Backs started to get their legs a little more and all three lines were getting their share of ice time.  The Viper penalty kill was very solid in the middle period, but a quick wrist shot from Landon Smith turned the tide and the teddies would go flying.  The period would end with it 2-1 Vernon.

The Vipers more often than not are able to steer home leads after two periods of play.  They didn't take their foot off the gas, but an early powerplay would give Salmon Arm some life and once again the spark came from Landon Smith as he would snipe a shot through legs and over the shoulder of Austin Smith to get the game tied up.  The Vipers had a nice response, but it was Adam Clarks turn to shine as he shut the door on a number of nice chances for Vernon to get the go ahead goal.  A well executed 3 on 2 rush would result in the Silverbacks completing the comeback as Jeff Kennedy tallied a few minutes after the game was tied.  Just as Vernon was starting to press in the late stages of the game, the Backs would get a back breaker from Bryden Marsh as he snapped one just inside the post to seal the victory for Salmon Arm.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Consistency - For this team, quick starts are a recipe for a victory, Saturday night the consistent play just wasn't there.  In the post game show, Dave Robinson eluded to not having that full elusive 60 minute effort.  They were the better team for 20 minutes, but often times, especially in the Interior Division games aren't won with winning one period.  The team learned a valuable lesson on Saturday and will look to adapt for Wednesday.

2) Landon Smith - This guy can play.  He single handedly took his team on his shoulders and carried them through portions of this game.  His quick release was deadly and he drew an important penalty that directly led to the tying goal.  There's a reason why he's leading the BCHL is scoring and we had a first hand look at it Saturday.

3) Rivalry - Its been a season series that has been fun to watch.  All but one game has been right down to the wire with a ton of animosity and dislike.  Neither team has had a distinct advantage in the games and I'm thoroughly looking forward to the two final games.

The Vipers are back at it Wednesday Night at Kal Tire Place as they host the West Kelowna Warriors.  The last time these two teams met it was a thrilling 2-2 tie.  It promises to be a fun night in Vernon.  It's an internet only broadcast starting at 6:45.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Game 35 Preview - Vipers @ Silverbacks

For the second straight night, the Vernon Vipers will participate in a Teddy Bear Toss.  This time it will be in Salmon Arm as the Silverbacks play host to the great event.  It has felt like an eternity since these two teams last played November 1st in a very tight checking game.  In all four meetings so far, the games have been very chippy as both teams don't seem to like each other very much.  There are two very important points up for grabs as second in the division plays third in the division.

Here's the breakdown:

Season Series - September 13 - Salmon Arm 6 Vipers 1 - Shaw Centre
                      - September 14 - Salmon Arm 6 Vipers 5-2OT - Kal Tire Place
                      - October 5 - Vipers 3 Salmon Arm 2 - Shaw Centre
                      - November 1 - Vipers 2 Salmon Arm 1 - Kal Tire Place

Vernon Vipers 

Record - 19-8-3-4 - 2nd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 9-2-3-3            Away Record - 10-6-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Michael McNicholas (18)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (29)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (47)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 17 GP 8-3-3-2, 2.60 GAA, .914Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 16 GP 10-4-0-1, 2.95 GAA, .902Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 14th in the league - 22 for 136 - 16.18%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 116 of 138 - 84.06%

Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Record - 17-11-1-4 - 3rd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 10-5-0-2               Away Record - 7-6-1-2

Leaders - Goals - Landon Smith (27)
             - Assists - Landon Smith/Evan Anderson (25)
             - Points - Landon Smith (52)

Goaltending - Adam Clark - 22 GP 10-8-1-2, 2.96 GAA, .908Sv%
                   - Angus Redmond - 14 GP 7-3-0-2, 2.90 GAA, .907Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 6th in the league - 26 for 135 - 19.26%
                       - Penalty Kill - 8th in the league - 113 for 137 - 82.48%

Tonights game will feature two of the top three scorers in the BCHL.  I anticipate a lot of emotion that should entertain fans all night long.  If you're not making the trip to the Shaw Centre, you can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Vipers Win 6-3 on Teddy Bear Toss Night

The Vernon Vipers scored the all important first goal Friday Night, the Teddy Bears were thrown and the Vipers would roll to a 6-3 victory in front of 1675 fans at Kal Tire Place.  The Vipers were very good for most of the night, played physical and had the powerplay running on all cylinders.  With the win, the Vipers have taken all 4 meetings with the Smokies and three of those by a 6-3 margin.

The big question was when is the big goal going to go in.  It didn't take too long as Colton Sparrow would slip home the goal that would send the Teddy Bears onto the ice.  The powerplay would then get back on track as Demico Hannoun would sneak in back door and increase the lead to two.  The game got a little ugly as Dylan Mascarin took a vicious swing at a Viper and would be slapped with a 5 minute major for slashing and a game misconduct.  The Vipers couldn't capitalize on the man advantage due to some penalty trouble of their own, but would end the first period up by a goal.

I thought Trail had a very good second period as they used their speed and picked up their physical play.  A few defensive mistakes were bailed out by Danny Todosychuk who was very solid all night long.  The Vipers would utilize a stretch pass to send Dexter Dancs in alone and he would increase the lead to 3-0.  Overall the middle frame was pretty even and the Smokies looked like they were close to getting on the board.

It was a wild third period as both offenses had a chance to shine.  For the second time Dancs would find his way behind the D and after a nice pass from Jason Bird, Dancs would score his second of the night.  It was a quick response from Trail as Scott Davidson made a nice move to work his way in and slip it over Todosychuk to make it 4-1.  The Viper powerplay would get a few chances to go to work in the frame and Mason Blacklock got it started again with his first goal since October to make it 5-1.  3 minutes later on another powerplay Michael McNicholas would tally his 6th goal in 4 games to make it 6-1.  Once again the Trail Smoke Eaters refused to roll over as they would get a powerplay goal of their own as Travis Stephens re-directed a point shot past Todosychuk.  A little over a minute later Jake Kauppila would score to make it 6-3 with just minutes to play.  The Vipers would tighten up the rest of the way and take it by that final score.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Powerplay - Wow did that powerplay ever look good.  Three goals on four tries was the best conversion rate the team has had all season.  The nice thing to see was the different ways those goals went in.  A back door pass, a speed burst down the wing and a pass from behind the net.  The man advantage throws a few different looks at the opposition and really seemed to confuse and disorient the Smokies PK unit.

2) Mason Blacklock - He returned for the first time in 17 games and didn't look out of place or show any sort of "rink rust".  Not only that, but he put up a goal and an assist.  His addition really adds the depth this team really needs to make a run.  The team played well without him, and will look to play even better with him in the lineup

3) Ugliness - In the first period Dylan Mascarin lost his cool and in what I have to hope was a momentary lapse in judgment took a vicious two hand slash at a Viper player.  The good news is no one was hurt and the slash was to the leg and shin pad region of the player.  Josh Bryan came to the aid and tussled with Mascarin at the bench.  I thought the response from the Vipers was adequate without being overblown.  I firmly believe that is not the philosophy Nick Deschenes employs on his players and that it was just frustration.  I'm not sure if the league would look at something like that, but two handers like that have no place in the game and can be quite dangerous.

Next up for the Vipers is a huge road game in Salmon Arm on Saturday night.  It's the final road game of 2013 for Vernon and they'll look to end the year on a good note against a tough division foe.  All the action is on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45

Game 34 Preview - Smokies @ Vipers

It's teddy bear toss night at Kal Tire Place.  The Trail Smoke Eaters are in town and the Vernon Vipers look to put another win streak together.  The Vipers are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Coquitlam Express on Sunday afternoon and after a nice week of practice and recuperation will be looking to pick up right where they left off.  For the Smokies, they've lost 8 in a row, but don't let that stat fool you.  In their last 4 games, all losses, they've lost by a goal in three of those four games and against talented teams like Langley, Merritt, Salmon Arm and Penticton.  Under Nick Deschenes this team has remained competitive despite losing and they will give the Vipers all they can handle.

Here's the matchup:

Season Series - October 15 - Vipers 6 Trail 3 - Kal Tire Place
                      - November 22 - Vipers 4 Trail 1 - Cominco Arena
                      - December 1 - Vipers 6 Trail 3 - Kal Tire Place

Vernon Vipers

Record - 18-8-3-4 - 2nd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 8-2-3-3            Away Record - 10-6-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Michael McNicholas (17)
              - Assists - Michael McNicholas (28)
              - Points - Michael McNicholas (45)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 17 GP 8-3-3-2, 2.60 GAA, .914Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 15 GP 9-4-0-1, 2.95 GAA, .903Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 19 for 132 - 14.39%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 110 of 131 - 83.97%

Trail Smoke Eaters

Record - 7-24-2-1 - 6th in the Interior Division

Home Record - 4-14-2-0             Away Record - 3-10-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Travis Stephens (9)
             - Assists - Braden Pears (17)
             - Points - Travis Stephens (24)

Goaltending - Dustin Nikkel - 20 GP 4-14-2-0, 3.94 GAA, .891Sv%
                   - Adam Todd - 8 GP 1-5-0-1, 4.03 GAA, .887Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 10th in the league - 24 for 133 - 18.05%
                       - Penalty Kill - 10th in the league - 114 of 141 - 80.85%

It's the fourth of seven meetings between these two teams and it should be a fun night.  If you can't make it down to Kal Tire Place for Teddy Bear Toss night you can catch all of the action on 107.5 KissFM or follow me on twitter @GrahamT_Vipers.  The pregame show begins at 6:45!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Vipers End Weekend With 4-2 Loss

The Vernon Vipers came into Sundays game with the Coquitlam Express tired and sick, as a flu bug was running wild through the dressing room.  Despite a valiant effort from the team, they just couldn't hold onto a lead and the Express were able to come back with three goals in the third to defeat the Vipers for the first time in 5 games.

The Vipers found themselves behind early while shorthanded as the Vipers failed to clear the zone.  Once the puck stayed in, despite a great try to get back in position, Marc Biega was able to snap a shot over the shoulder of Austin Smith.  The shift after a goal is said to be one of the most important and the Vipers had a very good one.  Just 18 seconds after giving up the goal, the Vipers went on the attack with a simple strategy shot to the goal, rebound, centering pass and a goal.  Michael McNicholas would score his 5th of the road trip.  I thought that would be a rallying point and a strategy that would be employed throughout the rest of the game.  However, the Express clogged up the neutral zone preventing much access into the Coquitlam zone.  At times it seemed the Vipers had trouble getting through the middle and the Express were using their speed to slow down the Viper offense.  The period would end in a 1-1 draw.

The second was the Vipers best period.  They killed off 3 penalties and moved their feet and drew one of their own to make it 4 on 4 and Vernon seemed very comfortable as Jared Wilson would walk into slap shot to beat Gordie Defiel and give the Vipers a lead they would take into the intermission.

A carryover powerplay in the third would give the Express their 5th powerplay and they would tie it up early as Ryan Rosenthal would tip the shot and put home a rebound to make it 2-2.  I'm not sure if it was fatigue, but the Vipers didn't look as sharp in the third.  The Express would catch the Vipers looking at the puck and Ben Israel would wire a slap shot to give Coquitlam a 3-2 lead.  Canon Pieper would put it away with an empty netter to seal a 4-2 victory for the Express.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Heck Of An Effort - For a team that had 2 tough wins, a ton of travel adversity a flu bug run through their dressing room, the Vernon Vipers gave it everything they had.  Even while down a goal, this team still put pucks in deep doing whatever they could to try tie the game up.  This time they would come up short, but hard work has been there and it shows in the standings.

2) Penalties - In the end it would be the Express powerplay that proved to be the difference.  The Vipers took 5 penalties and most of them were stick infractions.  Most nights the PK has bailed them out, but the Express powerplay moved the puck well and no fault could be put on the penalty killers.  The only reason I make note of the penalties is because it factored in the end results.  This team has been discipline all season and will put it behind them.

3) Start A New Streak - The nice thing about a winning streak of 4 games coming to an end, is that the players are that much more motivated to start a new one with more wins.  The team knew they weren't at their best, but they are a determined group from the coaching staff down to the players and will look to end 2013 the right way in their final 3 games.

Next up for the Vipers is teddy bear toss night on Friday against the Trail Smoke Eaters at Kal Tire Place.  The game will be on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Game 33 Preview - Vipers @ Express

The Vernon Vipers look to end their road trip in style this afternoon as the face the Coquitlam Express.  The Vipers come into the afternoon winners of their last 4 games.  Last night it was a solid 3-2 effort over the Cowichan valley Capitals. The Express score a lot of goals, but give up their fair share as well so this could be a high scoring affair.

Here's the matchup:

Vernon Vipers

Record - 18-7-3-4 - 2nd in the Interior Division

Home - 8-2-3-3         Away - 10-5-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Michael McNicholas (16)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (27)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (43)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 16 GP 8-2-3-2, 2.57 GAA, .916Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 15 GP 9-4-0-1, 2.95 GAA, .903Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 19 for 128 - 14.84%
                       - Penalty kill - 4th in the league - 107 of 126 - 84.92%

Coquitlam Express

Record - 15-14-0-2 - 3rd in the Mainland Division

Home - 6-9-0-2        Away - 9-5-0-0

Leaders - Goals - Ryan Rosenthal (19)
             - Assists - Adam Rockwood (31)
             - Points - Adam Rockwood (39)

Goaltending - Gordie Defiel - 11-11-0-1, 3.69 GAA, .883Sv%
                   - Pierce Dushenko - 4-3-0-1, 4.61 GAA, .869Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 10th in the league - 22 for 128
                       - Penalty Kill - 11th in the league - 116 of 145

All the action for this afternoons game will be on 107.5 KissFM starting at 1:45 with the pre game show and the play by play starting at 2.

Vipers Take Season Series From Caps With 3-2 Win

The Vernon Vipers scored three goals in the first 22 minutes of play and were able to hold down the fort to win their 4th straight by a score of 3-2.  The Vipers had only 11 shots through 40 minutes but led from the get-go.  They would then have a solid final period to frustrate the Caps and take the all important 2 points.

The first period got out to a great start for the Vipers as Michael McNicholas would score 85 seconds into the game to get the ball rolling.  It all came from some great work down low and the ability of McNicholas to find space in the slot.  Despite the Vipers having the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches, they didn't get any love on the shot clock.  That didn't seem to phase them as the game started to get chippy.  Kyle Horsman would be the only one taken from a scrum and the Vipers made them pay as Dexter Dancs scored a pretty goal from in tight to give Vernon a 2-0 lead.  Danny Todosychuk made a handful of quality saves as the Caps really tried to shoot for rebounds off the pads and Danny was up to the challenge.

The second period started just like the first, with Michael McNicholas scoring his second of the game just 87 seconds into the frame.  The key to that goal was Hannoun and Dancs crashing the net and McNicholas taking full advantage of that snapping it far side.  The three goal lead was very short lived as the Caps would finally get some bounces going their way.  Sam Curleigh would jam away at a loose puck to get the game within 2.  The Caps continued to push and once again were rewarded 12 minutes later as Jordan Topping would snap a wrist shot high over the glove of Todosychuk.  The Vipers would get to the intermission on their heels a little bit despite scoring 3 goals on just 11 shots.

Something changed in the Vipers as they came out for the third period as they started to push the pace, get some shots and keep the puck out of their own end.  The Snakes seemed to frustrate the Caps as they just couldn't get anything going.  Cowichan did get a powerplay late in regulation but the Vipers killed it and let the time expire for a 3-2 victory.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Great Shooting Percentage - The Vipers didn't shoot much in the first period and that seemed to make Robin Gusse very uncomfortable as he gave up 3 goals on the first 11 shots.  He seemed to be fighting it, but Vernon just didn't get anything on goal.  The ones they did were quality.  They had the same number of shots in the third period as they did in the entire first 40 minutes so they seemed to feel the urgency to shoot the puck.  Normally, you win by outshooting the opponent, tonight not the case and the Vipers will take it.

2) PK Clutch - The penalty kill was only out there three times, but they limited the Caps to almost nothing.  That was crucial in the third period when Cowichan had the PP down by a goal with only a few minutes left.  All year long the PK was been the key piece for the Vipers special teams.  Now with the powerplay scoring in 4 straight, thing are heading in the right direction

3) Referees - Not too often will I make reference to the officiating in a game.  Both teams had reason to argue at times, but in my humble opinion it was even.  Were there missed calls?  Definitely!, but there usually are missed calls.  It's the detriment to a one referee system.  The referee called what he saw, if he didn't see it he didn't call it.  The only way to resolve that would be to have two refs, until that happens what can you do???

The Vipers will look to put a cap on a nice weekend with a trip to Coquitlam for Sunday afternoon.  You can catch all the action once again on 107.5 KissFm starting at 1:45 with the pregame show!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Game 32 Preview - Vipers @ Capitals

The Vernon Vipers look continue their hot play as they make the trek to Duncan to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals.  This building is never an easy place to play, much like Alberni Valley, the fans are passionate and very loud no matter how their team has been playing.  For the Caps they come in sputtering having won just 1 game in their last 10, nearly polar opposite of the Vipers who have won 7 of their last 10 and haven't lost in regulation in 5 straight games.  The big challenge for this Viper team will not to take this Cowichan club lightly as there are no easy games in this league.

Tonights Matchup:

Season Series - November 17 - Vipers 5 Cowichan 1 - Kal Tire Place

Vernon Vipers 

Record - 17-7-3-4 - 2nd place in the Interior Division

Home Record - 8-2-3-3            Away Record - 9-5-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Mason Blacklock (15)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (27)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (41)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 16 GP 8-2-3-2, 2.57 GAA, .916Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 14 GP 8-4-0-1, 3.02 GAA, .901Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 18 for 126 - 14.29%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 104 of 123 - 84.55%

Cowichan Valley Capitals

Record - 12-20-0-1 - 4th place in the Island Division

Home Record - 7-5-0-1             Away Record - 5-15-0-0

Leaders - Goals - Myles Powell (12)
             - Assists - Myles Powell (18)
             - Points - Myles Powell (30)

Goaltending - Robin Gusse - 29 GP 11-16-0-1, 3.03 GAA, .908Sv%
                   - Francis Marotte - 6 GP 1-4-0-0, 5.11 GAA, .864Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 6th in the league - 28 for 150 - 18.67%
                       - Penalty Kill - 14th in the league - 114 of 144 - 79.17%

You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 with the pregame show and the play by play starting at 7 from the Island Savings Centre.

Vipers Win Streak at 3 with 4-3 Overtime Win Over the Grizzlies

The Vernon Vipers battled back from just about everything on Friday night in Victoria as they would erase a late deficit to force OT then win it in the extra frame.  From a malfunctioning bus, biting winds and a sluggish start, the Vipers were able to take an important two points in a tough building against a very tough Victoria team.

The Vipers arrived an hour later than anticipated after issues with the bus and it really looked as if the team was playing a little behind in the first twenty minutes.  Passes weren't connecting, they weren't skating as hard as we've seen and they just weren't generating chances.  Luckily for them, I don't think the Grizzlies were at their best either.  They did strike first however, on a Powerplay as Jesse Schwartz would score his 11th of the season to give Victoria a 1-0 lead and the Vipers were more than happy to hear the first period horn sound.

Then for whatever reason, Vernon came out with a complete 180 and pushed the pace, played physical and ultimately controlled the middle period.  They were rewarded for their hard work as late in a man advantage Michael McNicholas would score his first of two on the night from the slot to get the game tied.  One line that had their legs all night long was the combo of TJ Dumonceaux, Logan Mick and Tyler Povelofskie.  They would chime in on the scoreboard off a beautiful goal from Logan Mick as he put on the after burners and snapped a wrist shot over Alec Dillon to give Vernon a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.

The Vipers continued to play very well in their own zone.  They had a handful of very quality chances, but Alec Dillon was outstanding robbing Demico Hannoun, Dexter Dancs and Michael McNicholas and that would give the Grizz some life as Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald would score 39 seconds apart to quickly give Victoria a 3-2 lead.  The Vipers, as they have all season long, didn't panic and got back to the type of game that had them leading.  A good forecheck allowed a puck in the slot to find Michael McNicholas and he would get the game tied with just 3 minutes left in regulation.

It wouldn't be a long overtime as Liam Coughlin would feed Dexter Dancs streaking to the net and he redirected the puck right up under the bar to give the Vipers the 4-3 win.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Unsung Heroes - This team continues to get fantastic efforts from everyone.  The veterans lead by example.  Case in point, Colton Sparrow throwing a number of big hits early in the 2nd period.  Jason Williamson said that he doesn't have to say much in the intermission, because his guys know when they need to be better.  That fact really seemed magnified as they played nearly a perfect final 40 minutes with the exception of that 1 minute span where Victoria scored two goals.

2) Powerplay Clicking - Slowly but surely, the Vernon Vipers powerplay is improving.  To think the man advantage would do an about face and jump to the top of the league would be unrealistic, but it has now scored in 3 straight games and coincidentally 3 straight wins.  Its no secret a good team needs a good powerplay and lately, the Vipers have had a good one.

3) Alec Dillons Glove Hand - In a word Wow!!!  This kid has a fantastic glove hand and he showed it off frequently against the Vipers.  He made at least 5 stellar glove saves that prevented sure goals.  Without his play the Vipers would have cruised to a victory.  Some would argue how he was awarded first start with only 20 saves on 24 shots and they would probably be right, but there is no denying the number of fantastic saves he was forced to make that kept his team in it.

The Vipers will look to sweep the season series with the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night at the Island Savings Centre.  It is a loud and rambunctious crowd and the Vipers will have to be as good as they were in 42 minutes of the game Friday night in order to have success.  You can catch all the action starting at 6:45 on 107.5 KissFM.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Game 31 Preview - Vipers @ Grizzlies

The Vernon Vipers have hit the road to the provincial capital getting set to kick off their final Island road swing of the season.  On the previous trip the Vipers took two of three, which is always a nice feeling against some competitive teams.  The competition will be high tonight as the Vipers will face the Victoria Grizzlies for the second and final time.  The last time these two teams met it was a high scoring entertaining affair that saw the Grizzlies win in double OT in the final few seconds.  The Snakes will look for a little redemption at the Bear Mountain Arena.

Here's the matchup

Season Series - November 3 - Victoria 4 Vipers 3 2OT - Kal Tire Place

Vernon Vipers

Record - 16-7-3-4 - 2nd place in the Interior Division

Home Record - 8-2-3-3              Away Record - 8-5-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Mason Blacklock (15)
              - Assists - Michael McNicholas (27)
              - Points - Michael McNicholas (39)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 15 GP 7-2-3-2, 2.54 GAA, 9.17Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 14 GP 8-4-0-1, 3.02 GAA, .901Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 17 for 123 - 13.82%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 102 of 120 - 85%

Victoria Grizzlies

Record - 19-7-3-1 - 2nd in the Island Division

Home Record - 6-3-1-0              Away Record - 13-4-2-1

Leaders - Goals - Gerry Fitzgerald (16)
             - Assists - Myles Fitzgerald (24)
             - Points - Myles Fitzgerald (38)

Goaltending - Nic Renyard - 17 GP 9-5-1-1, 2.57 GAA, .917Sv%
                   - Alec Dillon - 14 GP 10-2-2-0, 2.45 GAA, .921Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 4th in the league - 28 for 140 - 20%
                       - Penalty Kill - 8th in the league - 88 of 107 - 82.24%

Its a battle of teams in second and if the last one was any indication of how this one could end up, we should be in for a treat.  All the action starts at 7 oclock on 107.5 KissFM.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Vipers Double Up On Smokies 6-3

It wasn't the complete 60 minute effort the Vipers had on Friday night, but the team did enough things right and generated enough chances to defeat the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-3.  The powerplay scored for the second consecutive game and the PK was perfect once again.  Both of those were key factors in the Vipers winning this game.

The Vipers quickly struck as TJ Dumonceaux would put home a rebound in front of Adam Todd who fought the puck early.  Guenther would increase the lead with a well placed wrist shot just over 3 minutes later.  Trail would start to come out firing and picked up their game significantly and it started with Joel Webb scoring from a point shot off a face off win.  The period was a good and bad scenario for the Vipers who looked overmatched at times in the latter parts of the period.

The second was back and forth with neither team able to generate goals.  Both teams PK's were good and the goalies made the saves they needed to make.

The goals came fast and frequent in the final period as the Smokies got the game tied early with Colby Livingstone's first goal in the BCHL.  The Viper powerplay wasn't able to get anything past Todd in the first 3 attempts, but the 4th they would make no mistake as Jason Bird walked into a rocket and blew it past Todd to give the Vipers a 3-2 lead.  Less than a minute later Josh Bryan would find himself in the slot and beat Todd with a wrist shot to double the Viper lead to 4-2.  Once again, the Smokies refused to go away and to their credit they deserved to get the game closer.  I had Greyson Reitmeier getting his first BCHL goal, although on the stat sheet it says Livingstone.  Whomever is credited with the goal they can thank Braeden Pears who started the play from his own zone, went end to end and was stopped by Smith before the rebound was slipped home.  One thing I liked about the Vipers game is they didn't hang back while up by a goal, they pushed the pace and were rewarded as Dexter Dancs found a rebound and put it home to get the Snakes 2 goal lead back.  Chase McMurphy would score an empty netter to seal the 6-3 victory.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) Offense from Defense - When half your goals are scored by defensemen, you know things are going well.  The defense core of this team are so good in their own end, its nice to see them rewarded with goals.  Guenther would be named first star with a multi point game.  Josh Bryan and Jared Wilson had multi point games as well and a big powerplay marker from Jason Bird finished off the defensive scoring.

2) Greasy Roadgame at Home - This was the type of game most coaches would call a greasy road game.  The only difference for the Vipers was that it was at home.  Not every home game can be pretty, but the team battled through spells where they were ineffective and were being outworked.  Good teams find ways to win, this afternoon was a perfect example of getting two points while not at their best.

3) Hardworking Smokies - I thought the Trail Smoke Eaters continued their trend of working as hard as possible.  Sure they've lost 4 in a row, but given all the turnover this team has gone through its no wonder this season continues to be a struggle.  Where this team is not struggling is the effort department.  All weekend they pushed the Silverbacks and the Vipers to all they could handle.  Eventually as the team gets to know each other and the coach a little better, I predict a few more wins and a lot more close games.

The Vernon Vipers have enjoyed home cooking and will now embark on a three game road swing that takes them to the Island for two games and the mainland for one.  They'll be in Victoria Friday night and all the action can be heard on 107.5 KissFM starting at 7pm with the pregame show.  Faceoff will be 7:15 from the Bear Mountain Arena.

Game 30 Preview - Smokies @ Vipers

The Vernon Vipers look to start December the way November ended, with a complete sixty minute effort.  Of course a win wouldn't hurt either.  The Snakes continue to flip flop with the Penticton Vees atop the division and that is fully expected to continue throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014.  The opponent to kick off December is the Trail Smoke Eaters.  The Smokies come in having lost three in a row including a 4-1 loss to the Vipers a little over a week ago.  In the span of a week the Smokies have gone through more big changes trading Mike Roberts, Valik Chichkin and goaltender Riley Corbin.

Lets look at the matchup:

Season Series - October 15 - Vipers 6 Trail 3 - Kal Tire Place
                      - November 22 - Vipers 5 Trail 1 - Cominco Arena

Vernon Vipers

Record - 15-7-3-4 - 2nd place in the Interior Division

Home Record - 7-2-3-3                Away Record - 8-5-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Mason Blacklock (15)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (22)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (34)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 14 GP 6-2-3-2, 2.50 GAA, .919Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 14 GP 8-4-0-1, 3.02 GAA, .901Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 16 for 119 - 13.45%
                       - Penalty Kill - 4th in the league - 97 of 115 - 84.35%

Trail Smoke Eaters

Record - 7-19-2-1 - 6th place in the Interior Division

Home Record -  4-11-2-0               Away Record - 3-8-0-1

Leaders - Goals - Travis Stephens and 2 others (7)
             - Assists - Travis Stephens and 2 others (13)
             - Points - Travis Stephens (20)

Goaltending - Dustin Nikkel - 18 GP - 4-12-2-0, 3.92 GAA, .890Sv%
                   - Adam Todd - 5 GP - 1-2-0-1, 3.96 GAA, .877 Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 7th in the league - 22 for 115 - 19.13%
                       - Penalty Kill - 11th in the league - 98 of 122 - 80.33%

If you can't make it to the rink, all the action is on the Vipers MixLR page starting at 1:45.