Monday, 17 November 2014

Vipers play 5 good periods and split weekend set

The Vernon Vipers came within 20 minutes of a 4 point weekend as they squared off with the Penticton Vees and Victoria Grizzlies.  One lack luster period led to their demise as the Vees would rattle off 3 straight powerplay goals to come from behind with a 4-2 victory.  The Vipers seemed to learn their lesson on Sunday as they had a 2 goal lead and put the Grizzlies away with 3 goals in the first five minutes of the third period.  Overall there was a lot to like about the Vipers game this weekend, but the poor third period Friday is the lone disappointment.

The Vipers started the weekend with a home game with the league leading Penticton Vees.  These two teams are very well matched as demonstrated in the previous games which were solved by a goal.  The Vipers led for 40 minutes before a surge from the Vees in the third led to powerplay opportunities which they converted on to win the game 4-2.  The Vees now own 3 victories over the Vipers, but they have been far from easy wins.

The Vipers struck just 16 seconds into the game as Luke Voltin stole a cross ice pass from the Vee defenders and powered a wrist shot by a surprised Hunter Miska to get the home side off on the right foot.  The Vipers killed off two penalties and thanks to fantastic goaltending from both sides the Vipers took a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

The Vipers found themselves shorthanded again in the second period and has been a common theme all year it was the shortman that found the offense as Anthony Latina stole a puck at his own blueline and broke in on Miska and slipped a puck under the Minnesota product to give Vernon a 2-0 lead.  The game was back and forth with both teams trading time in the offensive zone a producing a ton of shots.  Once again the middle period had stellar goaltending.  The Vees would finally take advantage of a powerplay as Riley Alferd skated onto a puck in the slot and rifle it over the shoulder of Jarrod Schamerhorn to make the score 2-1.  The Vipers had a glorious opportunity in the final minute of the frame, but Hunter Miska made arguably the save of the season robbing Luke Voltin and keeping it 2-1 after 2 periods.  That save combined with a double minor penalty proved to be a turning point in the game.

The Vees came out buzzing as they really carried the play and hemmed the Vipers in their own zone, but the Vipers seemed to weather the storm until the final 5 minutes when Trever Fidler was penalized for double minor high sticking penalty.  The Vees immediately converted as Demico Hannoun snuck in the back door and tied the game up at 2.  The Vees took the lead a minute later as Jack Ramsey showed off some nice hand eye coordination redirecting a puck past Schamerhorn to give the Vees their first lead of the game.  Matt Serratore would finish the game into an empty net to make the final score 4-2.

The Vipers saw a great opportunity slip away on Friday and were rightfully disappointed in their third period effort.  Learning how to put teams away is a lesson not easily learned and the Vipers learned it the hard way.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - Luke Voltin (3) - (Meek, Shiplo) - 0:16

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (10) - (SH) - (unassisted) - 6:40
Penticton Vees - Riley Alferd (15) - (PP) - (Serratore, Bast) - 17:05

Period 3

Penticton Vees - Demico Hannoun (15) - (PP) - (Russell, Jost) - 14:31
Penticton Vees - Jack Ramsey (15) - (PP) - (Bast, Alferd) - 15:31
Penticton Vees - Matt Serratore (10) - (EN) - (unassisted) - 19:25

Shots - Penticton 46     Vernon 32

Powerplays - Penticton 3 for 7      Vernon 0 for 3

The Vipers looked to put that tough loss on Friday behind them when the Victoria Grizzlies came to town on Sunday afternoon.  After a slow start to the game on both sides the Vipers would pull away from a Grizzlies team that looked tired both physically and mentally.  Overall it was a pretty good effort from a Viper team that won't see home ice again for a week and a half.

There were lots of stops and starts in the first period as neither team really seemed that engaged or energized.  Chalk that up to a Sunday start or feeling the opposition out, but it took both teams at least half the period to get their game legs under them.  The Vipers found themselves on a powerplay midway through the period and that man advantage really didn't generate any chances, but as luck would have it another Grizzly penalty put them back on the powerplay and it was night and day.  They moved the puck around and put pucks at the net and it was that philosophy that allowed TJ Dumonceaux to open the scoring.  That sparked the Vipers who took it to the Grizz in the final minutes, but couldn't beat Stiliadis.

Just like the first period, the second period was a bit slow paced to start.  The intermission seemed to suck the life out of both teams.  One bright spot to a slower period is that the Vipers seemed to be making the smart plays in their own zone.  I can't recall too many poor plays in their own end and thats a positive that would serve them well.  The PK was another bright spot on Sunday as they had two crucial kills.  They switched the momentum to offense as Colton McCarthy batted home a rebound in front of the net for his first goal in a Viper uniform.  The Vipers held the dreaded two goal lead into the intermission.

Unlike two days prior, the Vipers started the period off well and generated more offense as Trever Fidler tipped a point shot past Stiliadis to make it 3-0.  Less than two minutes later Luke Shiplo converted for his second of the season to make it 4-0.  Just 14 seconds later Liam Finlay snapped home a pass from Williamson to make it 5-0.  They scored 3 goals in 2 minutes and 4 seconds which looked like they learned how to put a team away.  The Grizzlies would get a PP marker midway through the period to make it 5-1, but thats the way this contest would end.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - TJ Dumonceaux (5) - (PP) - (Shiplo, Finlay) - 15:32

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Colton McCarthy (1) - (Meek, Latina) - 14:20

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Trever Fidler (5) - (Citron) - 2:20
Vernon Vipers - Luke Shiplo (2) - (Finlay) - 4:10
Vernon Vipers - Liam Finlay (6) - (Williamson) - 4:24
Victoria Grizzlies - Brett Gruber (10) - (PP) - (Moore, Dixon) - 10:06

Shots - Victoria 31    Vernon 34

Powerplays - Victoria 1 for 6    Vernon 1 for 7

The Vipers will head into an important week of practice before heading on the road for a weekend set in West Kelowna and Langley.  The Viper coaching staff has seen direct correlation between work ethic in practice and in games, so I'm very confident it will be a strong hard working practice week for a big divisional matchup in West Kelowna.  You can catch all the action on Friday on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 with the pregame show!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Vipers Shut Out Spruce Kings

The Vernon Vipers were gradually building towards the ultimate goal which is a 60 minute effort.  Over the course of the weekend the Vipers got better and better and the results improved and culminated with a 3-0 win over Trail.  The trick then became building on that in a very tough place to play.  Not only did the team play a 60 minutes, but it was a very dominating 60 minute performance.  They outskated, outchanced, out hit and outscored the Spruce Kings allowing them to increase their unbeaten streak to 3 games with a 3-0 win over PG.

The game started out fairly even with both teams getting a feel for each other.  Lots of speed and not many whistles in the first period.  Both goaltenders had to make some saves, but none of the spectacular variety.  The first real good scoring chance came from TJ Dumonceaux as he got himself open down the right wing and lifted a shot over the shoulder of Jesse Jenks to get the road team out in front.

It was all Vipers in the second period as they peppered the PG goal with 4 shots in the first minute and carried the flow of play.  The Vipers would increase their lead as Luke Shiplo would join the rush and get a beautiful pass from Jagger Williamson and backhand it over Jenks to make it 2-0.  The Vipers killed off two PP chances for the Spruce Kings and then rattled a couple of shots off the iron.  The game very well could have been out of reach, but after 40 minutes the Vipers led 2-0.

The Vipers killed off a short PP to start the period then increased the lead to 3-0 as Liam Finlay whacked home a loose puck off a scramble in front of Jenks.  The Vipers shut it down from there and thanks to a couple of nice saves from Schamerhorn would get to the end siren 3-0 victors.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - TJ Dumonceaux (4) - (Latina, L. Coughlin) - 11:26

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Luke Shiplo (2) - (Williamson, Finlay) - 6:16

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Liam Finlay (5) - (Shiplo, Voltin) - 2:59

Shots - Vernon 39    Prince George 22

Powerplays - Vernon 0 for 4   Prince George 0 for 4

The Vipers haven't given up a goal in their last 7 periods while outscoring the opponents 6-0 in their last 2 games.  They are trending in the right direction which will be important when they face the BCHL leading Penticton Vees Friday night at KTP.  It's $5 Friday at the rink which means students and children get in for just $5.  You can also listen to the game on Vipers MixLR and Fasthockey!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Vipers Smother Smokies 4-1

The Vernon Vipers began a busy week on Wednesday and kicked it off with a very tidy 4-1 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters.  The Vipers were able to generate a lot of offense and had it not been for the great play of Brett Clark, the score could've been higher.  Defensively, the team was good, but still leaving something to be desired.  The main goal is to limit the defensive mistakes and they made a few, but overall it was a good effort all the way around to help get them the two points.

The Vipers started quickly with the first three shifts of the game being spent in the Trail zone.  The Smoke Eaters adapted nicely to the pressure and with the help of Clark kept the game scoreless.  A late powerplay for the Smokies led to some quality scoring chances of their own, but after the first 20 minutes the game remained scoreless.

In the second, the pace was slower and deliberate until the physicality picked up.  The Vipers would capitalize on a nice odd man rush as Luke Voltin wired home a shot from the left circle that went post and in.  That lead wouldn't last long as Kienan Scott would steal a puck at his own blue line and break in and slip a puck five hole to tie the game up at 1.  It wasn't until a late powerplay for the Vipers that they would get the lead back as TJ Dumonceaux jumped on a end board bounce that found its way to the slot and in turn the back of the net.  The Vipers were up 2-1 after 40 minutes.

Anthony Latina would score an important goal early in the third to increase the lead to 3-1 as Trever Fidler stole a puck behind the net and fed the Viper veteran in front.  Once the Vipers got the two goal lead they continued to carry the play, but also efficiently in their own end.  TJ Dumonceaux hit two goal posts and Jarrod Schamerhorn made all 7 saves in the third to get the Vipers to their second straight win.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

No Scoring

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Luke Voltin (2) - (Williamson, Finlay) - 5:28
Trail Smoke Eaters - Kienan Scott (4) - (unassisted) - 8:52
Vernon Vipers - TJ Dumonceaux (3) - (PP) - (Shiplo, L. Coughlin) - 19:16

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (7) - (Fidler) - 2:26
Vernon Vipers - Liam Coughlin (6) - (EN) - (Dumonceaux) - 18:07

Shots - Trail 26    Vernon 39

Powerplays - Trail 0 for 3        Vernon 1 for 3

The Vipers busy week will continue Friday as they make the short trip to the Shaw Centre.  The Vipers hold a victory over the Silverbacks who have lost 4 straight games.  You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Vipers Top Cents 5-3

Saturday night was the type of game that from a fans perspective was an entertaining affair, but from a coaches standpoint at times it was maddening.  Both teams were able to generate quality offensive chances and end to end rushes, but in their own ends were at times prone to mistakes.  At the end of the day it was the Vipers play 5 on 5 that propelled them to a 5-3 victory over the Merritt Centennials.

For the first time in 5 games, the Vipers were able to score the games first goal as the Cents had trouble clearing the puck from the slot and that enabled Thomas Aldworth to snap a shot past Anthony Pupplo to give the Vipers a 1-0 lead after 1 period.

The Vipers found themselves in penalty trouble in the second period as at one point they were given 5 straight minor penalties.  The Cents would make them pay as John Schiavo re-directed a backdoor slap pass to knot the game up at 1.  The Cents would get the lead later on in the period, once again on a powerplay as James Neil would cap off a pass from below the red line to make it 2-1.  The puck had exited the net quickly and there was doubt whether or not the puck hit the crossbar, but in the end the right call was made and the Cents had their first lead of the night.  The game started to open up five on five and Liam Coughlin would get the game tied with a tap in after a beautiful effort from Luke Shiplo.  Less than two minutes later Liam Finlay would score his first as a Viper on a well executed 2 on 1 rush.  The two Viper goals coming in the final 4 minutes of the period to give them a 3-2 lead after 2.

In the third period, it was the Vipers turn on the powerplay and it would capitalize as TJ Dumonceaux would get open in the high slot and rifle a wrister thru Pupplo to increase the Viper lead to 4-2.  On their next powerplay Mitch Meek would score his first goal as a Viper by sneaking down the right side and ripping one past Pupplo to make it 5-2.  The Vipers thought they made it 6-2 on a very similar play to the Neil goal where it appeared the puck may have hit the back bar and came out, but play continued and Nick Fidanza would steal a puck in the Vernon zone and snap it past Schamerhorn to make it 5-3.  The Vipers would limit the Centennials opportunities in the final 2 minutes and take the game 5-3.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (9) - (Dumonceaux, J. Coughlin) - 15:22

Period 2

Merritt Centennials - John Schiavo (11) - (PP) - (Teves, Poulsen) - 5:29
Merritt Centennials - James Neil (8) - (PP) - (Cuglietta, Foley) - 14:13
Vernon Vipers - Liam Coughlin (5) - (Shiplo, Meek) - 16:33
Vernon Vipers - Liam Finlay (2) - (J. Coughlin, Williamson) - 18:23

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - TJ Dumonceaux (2) - (PP) - (Finlay, Shiplo) - 11:58
Vernon Vipers - Mitch Meek (2) - (PP) - (Williamson, Latina) - 15:29
Merritt Centennials - Nick Fidanza (2) - (unassisted) - 17:05

Shots - Merritt 31    Vernon 33

Powerplays - Merritt 2 for 8     Vernon 2 for 3

A couple of things to mention is the effectiveness of the Viper powerplay.  They didn't get many chances, but when they did they moved the puck around nicely and made the most of those opportunities.  Also the inclusion of Liam Finlay in the lineup really seemed to reinvigorate Jagger Williamson and Luke Voltin.  They were by far the best line for the Vipers and really seemed to play solid in all three zone.  Final talking point is the play of Luke Shiplo, who is know as a defenseman with offensive upside and he showed that a number of times and that showed with his two assists.

Next up for the Vipers is a Wednesday night home game against the Trail Smoke Eaters.  Puck drop is 7pm from KTP

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Another Weekend Split as Vipes Defeat Cents, Fall to Vees

Ironically enough, the Vernon Vipers played better in a losing effort this weekend rather than in their victory.  This weekend was a tough one as the team was without a number of regulars including their head coach for one game, yet were able to pull off a split.  They defeated the Merritt Centennials 4-2 in a back and forth game that saw both teams miss glorious opportunities to score.  The next night they dropped a 1-0 decision in Penticton in a game that was very even with one PP goal the only difference.

Starting with Friday night, the Vipers found themselves behind early for the 3rd consecutive game.  It took a strong will and perseverance for them to come back against a very game Merritt squad.  Both teams would probably say they weren't as strong defensively as they would have liked as both teams had many chances to score thanks to defensive mistakes.  In the end, a shorthanded goal would be the difference as the snakes scored their 6th shorty of the season to get the two points in regulation.

Merritt struck first as John Schiavo stole a puck in the offensive zone and ripped it past Schamerhorn to make it 1-0 inside the first 6 minutes.  The Vipers had a few chances and some nice push back, but couldn't get anything by Anthony Pupplo or the iron.  The Centennials would get a powerplay late in the frame and James Neil put home a rebound to give Merritt a 2-0 lead after 1.  The Cents had the lead in shots and goals, but the period was far from lopsided.

The Vipers cut into the lead early in the second and once again Thomas Aldworth showed off his blazing speed, poking the puck past the defender and burning past him to slide it by Pupplo.  Once again both teams would get chances to get on the score sheet, but both goaltenders looked very good controlling rebounds and playing the puck.  The Vipers got the game tied up very late in the period as Blaine Caton potted home his first BCHL goal on the PP to tie the game at 2 after 2.

The Vipers have used shorthanded goals to get themselves back into games and Friday was no exception as Trever Fidler scored the teams 6th shorthanded goal in 12 games to give Vernon their first lead of the night 3-2.  In the final few minutes the Cents put a ton of pressure on the Viper goal and just didn't get the bounces they needed to get the game tied, including a pair of missed open nets on one timers.   Thomas Aldworth would seal it into an empty net to give Vernon a 4-2 win and even up the season series with their Nicola Valley rivals.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

Merritt Centennials - John Schiavo (8) - (unassisted) - 5:52
Merritt Centennials - James Neil (4) - (PP) - (Schiavo, Gould) - 17:47

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (7) - (Caton) - 4:33
Vernon Vipers - Blaine Caton (1) - (PP) - (L. Coughlin) - 19:52

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Trever Fidler (4) - (SH) - (Latina, Shiplo) - 7:22
Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (8) - (EN) - (L. Coughlin) - 19:27

Shots - Merritt 39     Vernon 33

Powerplays - Merritt 1 for 3     Vernon 1 for 6

The win gave the Vipers consecutive wins over Interior division rivals in hopes of sweeping the weekend with a game the next night in Penticton.

The last time the Vipers were in the SOEC was game 7 of the Interior Division Finals as the road team was able to win an emotional game in overtime to move on in the post season.  Both teams looked different from player personnel and coaching staff, but the emotion in the game was quite the same.  Unfortunately for the Vipers this game wouldn't go like game 7 did as one PP goal proved the difference as the Vees would win 1-0 and increase their win streak to 9 games.

Goaltending and defense were instrumental in the first period as both teams traded some quality chances, but really played a controlled game.  Both teams made smart plays out of their own zones, clogged up the neutral zone and when given the opportunity got some chances on goal.

The Vees got a PP early in the second period and it took just 7 seconds to strike as Dante Fabbro let a long slapper go that went off a Viper stick in front and by Schamerhorn.  The Vipers would get a few chances on the PP of their own, but couldn't get anything past Hunter Miska.  Miska was a huge story as midway through the period stacked the pads to rob Mitch Meek and keep the game 1-0.

The Vees shut it down after that limiting the Viper chances, keeping the shots against down and sending the puck as far into the Vipers zone as they could.  Of course, the Vipers still got a handful of opportunities including a great individual effort from Thomas Aldworth that came up just a bit short thanks to a pad save from Miska.  The Vipers would pull the goaltender in an attempt at tying the game, but they couldn't get anything to the goal and game would finish 1-0.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 2

Penticton Vees - Dante Fabbro (3) - (PP) - (Jost, Hannoun) - 1:05

Shots - Vernon 28    Penticton 26

It was a much better defensive game for the Vipers as they limited the Vees to just 26 shots on goal.  There were definite positives to take away from the game and build for a matchup next Saturday against the Merritt Centennials.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Shorthanded Goals Help Vipers To Weekend Split

Two solid efforts from the Vernon Vipers over the weekend didn't go exactly as planned, but in the end they were able to take a split.  The Vipers fell 3-1 to the Penticton Vees Friday night, then prevailed in a wild affair Saturday over the West Kelowna Warriors.

Friday wasn't the prettiest game, but one thing that has remained the same since Mark Ferner took over is the work ethic.  The Vipers generated many chances on Friday night and had it not been for a stellar performance from Hunter Miska, the result may have been a little different.  Demico Hannoun proved to be a difference maker for the Vees in his first game against his former team as the Vees would improve their win streak to 6 games.

The first period was pretty even as both teams peppered the goaltenders, but made some defensive misplays.  It was uncharacteristically sloppy by both teams inside their own zones.  That could have been because of the forecheck from both sides, but it forced the goaltenders to be on their game early.  The Vees would get the upper hand on a miscue between Jarrod Schamerhorn and the defense, but the puck would find its way to Demico Hannoun and he deposited it into the empty net and the Vees led 1-0 after 1.

The Vipers found themselves in some penalty trouble in the second period, but their penalty kill nearly equalized the game as Thomas Aldworth would be awarded a penalty shot.  The puck rolled on him just as he was ready to release the shot and Miska was able to get a glove on it to keep it 1-0.  That proved to be a big turning point as the Vees would get a PP marker a few minutes later and it was Demico Hannoun striking again with a slap shot from the point.  It was a good period for the Vees 5 on 5 getting lots of shots on goal and Schamerhorn was impressive stopping 15 of 16.

The Vipers pushed to get the game tied in the third, but the Vees managed the clock really well and slowed the Vipers speed by clogging up the neutral zone.  It took 16 minutes before the Vipers got on the board as Thomas Aldworth found a loose puck in the slot and ripped it by Miska to make it 2-1.  That prompted the Vipers to pull the goalie to try get it tied, but Matt Serratore would find the empty net to finish the Vipers off with a 3-1 final.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

Penticton Vees - Demico Hannoun (7) - (Cooper) - 19:25

Period 2

Penticton Vees - Demico Hannoun (8) - (PP) - (Fabbro) - 11:06

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (6) - (L. Coughlin, Dumonceaux) - 16:14
Penticton Vees - Matt Serratore (4) - (EN) - (Alferd, Fabbro) - 19:59

Shots - Penticton 35         Vernon 31

Powerplays - Penticton 1 for 5    Vernon 0 for 1

Saturday night was a completely different story for the Vipers as they would hit the road for just the third time this season.  Different may be an understatement as the entire game against West Kelowna was the polar opposite of Friday against the Vees.  There was a definite edge to the Saturday game with a ton of goals, a lot of special team chances and a line brawl to boot.  When the dust settled it was the Vipers coming out on top of a 7-4 victory.

It was all West Kelowna to start as they seemed to find their way into the Viper zone with ease.  They had net front presence to start and that directly led to a Liam Blackburn goal as he banged home a rebound in front to make it 1-0.  A few minutes later Mike Buonincontri would be found wide open in the slot and snapped home a well placed shot to make it 2-0.  The Viper short man was phenomenal on this night and threatened immediately as Liam Coughlin scored the 4th shorthanded goal of the season for the Vipers to make it 2-1.  The momentum had shifted as the Vipers continued to push as Trever Fidler drove to the net and appeared to have tied the game up.  The referee called goal, but the nearest linesman immediately went over and the goal was waved off.  From my vantage point it appeared the puck went in off the abdomen of Fidler and not his hand, but at the end of the day I thought discussing it was the right thing to do to ensure the right call was made.  The score would remain 2-1 after 1 period.

It was all Vernon in the second period.  Part of that was thanks to a 5 minute powerplay which helped momentum.  For the first time in 6 games the Viper powerplay clicked as Mackenzie Bauer pounced on a loose puck to tie the game up at 2.  A few minutes later a nice power rush from Anthony Latina resulted in a backhanded shot that found its way through Desautels to give the Snakes their first lead of the night.  That lead was shortlived as a bad turnover behind the Viper net led to Jason Cotton getting a pass in front and rifling it past Todosychuk to even it up at 3.  Vernon was shorthanded again when the offense would find their rhythm again as TJ Dumonceaux finished off a well executed 2 on 1 to make it 4-3 for the Vipes on their second shorthanded goal of the season.

The Vipers have been in many 1 goal games this season and it appeared this one was going to be destined to one too.  That was until Luke Voltin scored his first of the season to make it 5-3. The Vipers would increase that lead on the PP as Trever Fidler would score his third of the season and it was 6-3.  Down by 3 with 4 minutes left, Rylan Ferster opted to pull Andy Desautels in attempt to get back into the game.  It was a curious move, but one that worked immediately as Jordan Masters made it 6-4 on the ensuing faceoff.  The Warriors almost got another one before Anthony Latina scored into an empty net and the final score would end 7-4.  But that goal was far from where the game ended.  Just as the horn sounded a big scrum ensued as Kyle Marino and Ryley Booth started to scrap.  Booth appeared to be over his head with the much sturdier Marino which had Riley Brandt trying to break the scrap up and then everyone got involved, including Danny Todosychuk who paired off with Kade Kehoe.  It was a great fight with Todosychuk scoring the take down.  All of this happened with no time left on the clock with game misconducts following.  No word yet on the suspensions, but it would be no surprise to see a few players miss time.

Here's the scoring summary:

Period 1

West Kelowna Warriors - Liam Blackburn (8) - (Yaremko, Cotton) - 6:57
West Kelowna Warriors - Mike Buonincontri (5) - (Blumenschein, Blackburn) - 10:29
Vernon Vipers - Liam Coughlin (4) - (SH) - (Latina) - 14:26

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Mackenzie Bauer (3) - (PP) - (Shiplo, Guenther) - 5:50
Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (5) - (Bauer) - 10:46
West Kelowna Warriors - Jason Cotton (5) - (Buonincontri) - 12:31
Vernon Vipers - TJ Dumonceaux (1) - (SH) - (L. Coughlin) - 16:46

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Luke Voltin (1) - (Fidler, J. Coughlin) - 5:52
Vernon Vipers - Trever Fidler (3) - (PP) - (Latina, Voltin) - 9:43
West Kelowna Warriors - Jordan Masters (4) - (Marino, Buonincontri) - 16:03
Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (6) - (EN) - (unassisted) - 17:06

Shots - Vernon 35   West Kelowna 24

Powerplay - Vernon 2 for 5    West Kelowna 0 for 5

There was no lacking excitement this weekend for the Snakes and they'll look continue the momentum into next weekend when they face the Merritt Centennials and Penticton Vees.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Vipers End Weekend with 5-4 Win in OT

I firmly believe a talking point all year long will be the impressive offensive skill set that Thomas Aldworth has.  There is no question he is an explosive player in all offensive aspects, its his play in his own zone that will turn him into a complete player.  On Saturday night all three zones were improved upon as Aldworth scored two including the game winner to give the Vipers a big 5-4 overtime win and extend their winning streak to 3 games.  The Vipers put a less than stellar first 20 minutes behind them and ended the night with two points.  The game itself was quite an entertaining one considering these two teams only play twice a year.  They were evenly matched, the goaltending was solid at both ends.  Momentum shifted from one side to the other.  Fans at KTP had to be entertained.

As I stated earlier, it was a period to forget for the Vipers who were guilty of making too many defensive zone mistakes.  Those mistakes would be costly as Jake Larson would end off a nice play after a Craig Puffer steal.  The Viper powerplay has struggled and it was victimized shorthanded as Luke McColgan would get his first of the night while a man short.  Despite leading in shots the Vipers were down 2-0.

The Vipers would chip into the lead early int he second as Jagger Williamson would find a loose puck at the side of the net and beat Aidan Pelino to cut the lead in half.  Both teams traded chances through the following few minutes before a defensive zone mishap allowed Luke McColgan to rifle a shot past Schamerhorn to make it 3-1.  The Vipers would respond quickly as Thomas Aldworth was absolutely robbed by Pelino, but Branden Wagner was able to pot home a rebound to make it 3-2 Chiefs after 2 periods.

Vernon continued to play with energy and the momentum swung in their favour thanks to a 2 on 1 rush finished off by Trevor Fidler and the game was tied at 3.  A few minutes later Thomas Aldworth would find a loose puck in the slot and snap it home to give the home team their first lead of the game 4-3.  The Vipers seemed to be in good shape, but a late push from the Chiefs saw Luke McColgan get his third of the night with just 53 seconds left on the clock to send this game to overtime.

It only took one shot in overtime as Thomas Aldworth stole a puck at his own blue line and went in alone on a breakaway and after a nice move flipped it past Pelino to give the Vipers a 5-4 OT win.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Chilliwack Chiefs - Jake Larson (5) - (Puffer) - 6:38
Chilliwack Chiefs - Luke McColgan (4) - (SH) - (Larson, Roberts) - 18:18

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Jagger Williamson (1) - (Booth) - 1:56
Chilliwack Chiefs - Luke McColgan (5) - (Hand, Roberts) - 11:52
Vernon Vipers - Branden Wagner (2) - (Aldworth) - 13:00

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Trevor Fidler (2) - (Voltin, Latina) - 7:11
Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (4) - (Bauer, Brandt) - 11:05
Chilliwack Chiefs - Luke McColgan (6) - (Cholowski, Kawaguchi) - 19:07

Overtime 1

Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (5) - (unassisted) - 0:48

Shots - Chilliwack 26     Vernon 37

Powerplays - Chilliwack 0 for 3    Vernon 0 for 2

The Vipers will look to finish 4 for 4 on their homestand as they host the Penticton Vees on Friday.  The Vees roll in red hot having won 5 in a row.  Puck drop is 7pm at KTP!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Vipers Rally Late To Defeat Silverbacks 3-2

The Vernon Vipers came into the weekend riding a small high.  They defeated the Cowichan Capitals a week prior to end a slump and played very well in the process.  The key to any successful team is to sustain that play and that was what the Vipers were hoping to do as the rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks came to town.  It was a very entertaining game with a ton of emotion in front of over 1700 fans at KTP.  The Vipers were able to score first which is always nice, but they were also able to come from behind and get the game winner late in the game.  Defensively the team was very solid and in goal Jarrod Schamerhorn continued his great play for his second straight win.

The Vipers struck first in the opening period as Luke Voltin would make a strong power move to the net.  He would be poked checked, but following up was Anthony Latina and he would slide it into the open cage.  The Silverbacks had a quick response however as Taro Hirose would finish off a well executed 3 on 2 rush to even the game up at 1 after 1.

The Silverbacks would take the lead for the first time on a powerplay as a seeing eye wrist shot from Chase Priskie would find its way through a maze of players and behind Schamerhorn to make it 2-1 Salmon Arm.  The momentum swung back in the Vipers favour and it came shorthanded as Thomas Aldworth stole a puck at center and went in on a partial breakaway and despite a Silverback player draped all over him still managed to snap it over Redmond to make it 2-2.

The third period was all Vernon as they limited Salmon Arm to just 1 shot through 18 minutes.  Angus Redmond was tested often in the final period, but he couldn't stop them all as Liam Coughlin snapped a wrist shot past him inside the final 2 minutes to give Vernon a 3-2 lead.  The Backs didn't quit as they put 5 shots on net in the last few seconds, but Jarrrod Schamerhorn was up to the challenge and the Vipers would hold on for a 3-2 win.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (4) - (Voltin, Guenther) - 8:24
Salmon Arm Silverbacks - Taro Hirose (4) - (Maruya) - 11:48

Period 2

Salmon Arm Silverbacks - Chase Priskie (2) - (unassisted) - 1:29
Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (3) - (Fidler) - 8:58

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Liam Coughlin (3) - (Aldworth) - 18:02

Shots - Salmon Arm 23             Vernon 30

Powerplays - Salmon Arm 1 for 5        Vernon 0 for 3

The Vipers have a big challenge on Saturday as the Chilliwack Chiefs come to town for the first and only visit.  Puck drop is 6pm from KTP

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Vipers Split Over the Weekend

The effort level on Friday and Saturday for the Vernon Vipers was much better than the weekend prior.  Unfortunately it only resulted in two points.  The Vipers fell 4-0 in Merritt on Friday then pulled off a 2-1 win over Cowichan.

We'll start with the Merritt game that saw the Vipers drastically outshoot and outchance the Cents, but couldn't get anything by Jonah Imoo or Anthony Pupplo.  The Cents opened the scoring as Braden Fuller tapped home a loose puck off a rebound from Jarrod Schamerhorn and it would finish 1-0.

The Vipers continued to press and get chances in the middle period, but against the flow of momentum off a neutral zone turnover, James Neil rifled home a shot from the slot to make it 2-0 Merritt.  Less than 5 minutes later Gavin Gould would convert on the PP to make it 3-0 Cents through 40 minutes.  At the tail end of the period however, the Cents would be dealt a blow as Jonah Imoo would stretch out to make a save and come up lame.  He would leave the game with a lower body injury and would not return.  Anthony Pupplo would come in the rest of the way.

Merritt started the third period on the PP and it didn't take long as John Schiavo found some open space in the circle and wired a hard wrist shot over the glove of Schamerhorn making it 4-0.  Thats all the scoring Merritt would need as Pupplo would shut the door the rest of the way for a 4-0 final score.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Merritt Centennials - Braden Fuller (2) - (Oakes, Gould) - 5:50

Period 2

Merritt Centennials - James Neil (2) - (Gould, Teves) - 11:46
Merritt Centennials - Gavin Gould (2) - (PP) - (Teves, Schiavo) - 16:02

Period 3

Merritt Centennials - John Schiavo (5) - (PP) - (Ederer, Teves) - 0:52

Shots - Vernon 38   Merritt 22

Powerplays - Vernon 0 for 4    Merritt 2 for 4

It was a quick turnaround for the Vipers as they would head home to play a struggling Cowichan Capitals team.  The Caps had also lost the night before and both teams were looking to turn their luck around.  Overall it was a very balanced game.  Once again I thought the Vipers compete level was there and the execution arrived as well early in the game.

The Vipers pushed the pace early in the game testing the resolve of the Capital defenders and they managed to withstand the pressure through the opening minutes, but eventually the levees broke and Anthony Latina was able to bust down the right wing and put home his own rebound to end a 73 minutes goalless drought.  The Vipers continued to play a solid well balanced period to lead 1-0 after 1.

The Capitals came out firing in the second thanks to a couple of early powerplays.  The Caps didn't score with the man advantage, but they sure gained confidence and momentum testing Jarrod Schamerhorn 17 times in the period.  The Vipers however were able to mount a comeback that resulted in a goal as Branden Wagner was able to bang home a loose puck to make it 2-0.  Things then got a little heated after the whistle late in the period as a couple of scraps broke out with Thomas Aldworth pairing up with Thomas Gobeil to drop the gloves, then Linden Hora giving up 7 inches in a scrap with Charlie Pelnik.  Both Vipers held their own which is impressive considering neither player is known for their fighting skills.

I thought Vernon played a very smart third period up by 2 goals.  They killed off a two penalties and hunkered down with smart plays in their own end.  They didn't appear to nervous with the lead which is always a positive.  Things got interesting late in regulation as Jesse Neher was finally able to flip a puck past Schamerhorn in the final 2 minutes.  The Vipers won a couple of big defensive zone faceoffs and killed the clock to skate away with a big 2-1 victory.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (3) - (Fidler, J. Coughlin) - 5:52

Period 2

Vernon Vipers - Branden Wagner (1) - (Brandt, Caton) - 14:44

Period 3

Cowichan Valley - Jesse Neher (2) - (Horsman, Gelsinger) - 18:47

Shots - Cowichan Valley 35    Vernon 38

Powerplays - Cowichan Valley 0 for 4    Vernon 0 for 4

The Vipers will now get a few days off before getting back on the ice against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night at KTP.  That game will be on KISSFM starting at 6:45!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Vipers Shut Out In Home Opener

It wasn't the start the Vipers were looking for in their home opener, as the West Kelowna Warriors dished out a bit of revenge Saturday night with a 4-0 win over the home town Vipers.  Overall, I thought the teams matched up rather well for the second consecutive night, but there were differences from the game the night before.  I thought West Kelowna ironed out their defensive errors, Andy Desautels was lights out and they received contributions from their top line.  Contrarily, for the Vipers the PP couldn't click, they had some bounces and calls go against them and that put them in a hole they couldn't get out of.

The Warriors opened the scoring after a big penalty kill.  Jordan Masters was in the box for a 4 minute double minor, which the Vipers couldn't score on, then out of the box comes Masters for a rush with Cotton, Masters parks himself in front of the net and bangs home a loose puck to make it 1-0.  Just moments later it was Masters turn for a wrap around which somehow founds its way under the pad of Todosychuk and late in the 1st period it was 2-0.

In the second period it was a parade to the penalty box for the home team as they would find themselves shorthanded 4 times.  The Warriors, however, increased the lead even strength as Brett Mennear re-directed a Ferner point shot through the legs of Todosychuk and it was 3-0.  Just under 4 minutes later while on a 5 on 3, Kylar Hope poked home a loose puck at the side of the net and the Tribe opened the game up leading 4-0.

The third opened with a new goaltender as Jarrod Schamerhorn would replace Todosychuk.  I don't believe Danny was pulled because of his performance, I think it had more to do with sparking the rest of the team as well as evaluating Schamerhorn.  There was no scoring in the final period.  Vernon found themselves with 5 powerplay opportunities, but couldn't convert and Andy Desautels shut the door as the Warriors took it 4-0.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

West K Warriors - Jordan Masters (1) - (Cotton, Blackburn) - 16:04
West K Warriors - Jordan Masters (2) - (PP) - (Blackburn, Cotton) - 18:32

Period 2

West K Warriors - Brett Mennear (2) - (Ferner) - 5:05
West K Warriors - Kylar Hope (2) - (PP) - (Bly, Blumenschein) - 8:55

Shots - West K 33    Vernon - 30

Powerplays - West K 2 for 7    Vernon 0 for 8

The Vipers will need a short memory as they have a quick turnaround and a matinee matchup with the Langley Rivermen on Sunday.  Puck drop is 2pm from KTP.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Vipers Win in Ferner's Return

For a team that has gone through so many changes in recent weeks, you wouldn't be able to tell by their performance on the ice last night at RLP.  The team was skating, hitting and essentially playing the type of game you would expect from a team trying to impress a new coach.  Before the game, Mark Ferner stated that the systems and structures were going to be a work in progress, but they played an effective, hard working game in front of 1200 strong.

The Vipers struck first just over a minute in as Mackenzie Bauer stole a puck in the high slot and ripped a hard wrist shot blocker side on Desautels to make it 1-0.  Just over three and half minutes later Mitchell Oliver would get his first as a Viper with a very similar shot from a nearly identical spot on the ice.  The Warriors would score late in the period on the PP as Liam Blackburn continued his torrid start, banging home a rebound to make it 2-1 after 1.

The second period was all Vipers and had it not been for the stellar play of Andy Desautels the game could've been busted wide open.  Desautels turned aside all 20 shots he faced in the middle period to keep the game 2-1 after 2.

The Warriors had a couple of chances early in the third, but were thwarted by Todosychuk and the proved huge as the Viper PP would finally bump the slump as Ryley Booth snapped home his first to make it 3-1.  Then the Warriors poured it on.  It was their turn to pepper Todosychuk who stood tall in the Viper goal, stopping all 19 shots that came his way in the final stanza.

It was exactly the type of road effort a team hopes for in a home opener.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 1

Vernon Vipers - Mackenzie Bauer (1) - (unassisted) - 1:07
Vernon Vipers - Mitchell Oliver (1) - (Bauer, Latina) - 4:52
West K Warriors - Liam Blackburn (5) - (Cotton, Blumenschein) - 17:24

Period 3
Vernon Vipers - Ryley Booth (1) - (PP) - (Emilio, Williamson) - 2:46
Vernon Vipers - Mackenzie Bauer (2) - (EN)(SH) - (unassisted) - 18:46

Shots - Vernon 41     West K 36

Powerplays - Vernon 1 for 6       West K 1 for 6

Next up for the Vipers is a rematch against the Warriors, this time its the Vipers home opener at KTP.  Puck drop is at 6pm and you can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 5:45

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Vipers take 3 of 4 points at Showcase

Despite being without 3 top players, the Vernon Vipers had a very nice performance at this year's Bauer BCHL Showcase, taking 3 of a possible 4 points.

To open the season, the Snakes effectively dominated the Cowichan Valley Capitals.  The team used their speed and aggressive forecheck to hem the Caps in their own zone many times, most noticeably in the first period.  They caused turnovers and really forced the issue all afternoon long.  Had it not been for Lane Michasiw in goal for Cowichan, the game very well could've been a blow out.

The scoring didn't get started until the third period as Thomas Aldworth would go end to end and finish a beautiful move, while shorthanded to make it 1-0.  Just sixty-six seconds later, it was Riley Brandt, stealing a puck in the slot and rifling it home to make it 2-0.

That was all the scoring they would need as they really limited any offensive chances from the Caps.

It was exactly the performance the team need to kick start the 2014-2015 campaign.

Here is the scoring summary:

Period 3

Vernon Vipers - Thomas Aldworth (1) - (unassisted) - shorthanded - 7:09
Vernon Vipers - Riley Brandt (1) - (unassisted) - 8:17

Shots - Vernon 41   Cowichan Valley 13

Powerplays - Vernon 0 for 7    Cowichan Valley 0 for 4

The Vipers would then hope to continue the momentum into Saturdays game against the Victoria Grizzlies.  They were able to do that in the first 20 minutes as they caused many defensive zone turnovers and would strike three times.

Anthony Latina finished off a beautiful play with his first of the campaign, inside the first 5 minutes.  The Grizzlies responded later in the frame on the PP as Kevin Massy put home his own rebound to equalize the game.  The Vipers would re-take the lead just 57 seconds later as Liam Coughlin banged home his first of the season.  That lead would increase 3 minutes later as Trevor Fidler would snap home his first off a great stretch pass from Kenny Citron.

The Vipers then seemed to fatigue a little bit as well as the Grizzlies finding another gear.  Only one goal would go up on the board as Garrett Forster would find a loose puck and it was 3-2 after 2 periods.

It was all Grizzlies to start the third as Brett Gruber would score on the PP and then Forster would score again while shorthanded to give last years Island Division Champions a 4-3 lead.  That momentum held until Anthony Latina would jam home his second of the night.  The goal would be reviewed, but was upheld and this game was destined for OT.

In the extra frame, the Vipers had trouble clearing the zone and Mitch Meek would find himself wide open in front of the net and slip it home to give the Grizz the 5-4 win.

Here is the Scoring Summary:

1st period
Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (1) - (Fidler, Schamerhorn) - 4:49
Victoria Grizzlies - Kevin Massy (1) - (PP) - (Gruber, Mackie) - 15:37
Vernon Vipers - Liam Coughlin (1) - (Latina, Booth) - 16:34
Vernon Vipers - Trevor Fidler (1) - (Citron) - 19:32

2nd period
Victoria Grizzlies - Garrett Forster (1) - (Pickup, Barker) - 3:22

3rd period
Victoria Grizzlies - Brett Gruber (1) - (PP) - (Massy, Mackie) - 5:04
Victoria Grizzlies - Garrett Forster (2) - (SH) - (unassisted) - 7:31
Vernon Vipers - Anthony Latina (2) - (unassisted) - 18:44

Shots - Victoria 35   Vernon 24

Powerplays - Victoria 2 for 5     Vernon 0 for 7

Overall a solid showing for the Vipers who now get set for a busy weekend in the Interior with a home and home set with West Kelowna and a Sunday matinee with the Langley Rivermen.  Throw in the return of Mark Ferner to the Vipers and its going to be a weekend of hockey you don't want to miss.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Vipers Give Up 2 Leads and Fall 6-4

Despite a torrid pace to start the game, the Vernon Vipers just didn't look like the team that defeated the Warriors, Vees, Grizzlies and even the Express in this post season.  Special teams and turnovers proved to be the difference in game 1 of the Fred Page Cup Finals as the Coquitlam Express were able to steal home ice advantage away in this best of 7 series.

After 12 days off it was crucial for the Vipers to get off to a quick start and thats exactly what happened as Brendan Persley opened the scoring off a partial breakaway just 40 seconds into the game.  The Snakes would add another as Brett Mulcahy snapped a shot from the slot after a nice pass from Colton Sparrow and just 3 minutes in it was 2-0.  Following a big penalty kill, Demico Hannoun would convert on a two on one and make it 3-0 late in the first and that was the score heading into the first intermission.  Not to be overlooked was a spectacular glove save from Austin Smith which can be seen on the BCHL Facebook page.

The second period started off well for the Vipers as they had their first two shifts entirely in the offensive zone, that momentum wouldn't pay off as it was the Express counter attacking and Canon Pieper banging in a rebound to make it 3-1.  The Vipers would then find themselves shorthanded and it would be Bo Pieper scoring to make it 3-2 past the midway mark of the period.  It was then Coquitlams turn to find themselves in penalty trouble, but the Vipers couldn't convert and that would prove costly as while shorthanded, Corey Mackin would steal the puck from Jared Wilson and lift a backhander over Smith to tie the game up late in the second period.

The Vipers seemed to find their legs early in the third as a nice pass from Hannoun sent Blacklock in and he'd restore the Viper lead to 4-3.  It wasn't long before it was tied as Bo Pieper scored his second of the game just 3 and a half minutes later.  The momentum continued in the favour of the Express and Bo Pieper would get his hat trick goal just over 90 seconds later and it was 5-4 Express.  The dagger would come 3 minutes later as Corey Mackin spun a shot from the right circle that eluded Smith to make it 6-4 Coquitlam and that would be the final score.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Flurry of goals - The Vipers scored three unanswered goals to start the game, but it was the Express who one upped that situation by scoring three unanswered goals twice.  To tie the game then add some insurance in the third period.  Its no secret that both of these teams know how to score goals, but I'm not sure anyone expected 10 goals to go up on the board in game 1.  I don't think the coaches were overly happy with their teams defensive play through most of the game and most likely will be making some adjustments.

2) - Turning Point - The turning point of this hockey game was when it was 4-3 and the Vipers were trying to put the game away.  Gordie Defiel made an absolutely phenomenal save by stacking the pads to rob Colton Sparrow.  That proved important as the Express would tie the game up moments later and wouldn't look back.  Hindsight is 20/20, but I think the game would've had a different outcome had that puck gone in the net.  Hats off to Defiel who seemed to fight the puck early in the game, but rebounded with a solid effort for the final 40 minutes.

3) - Special Teams - The Vipers were 0 for 5 with the PP and allowed a shorthanded goal.  The Express were 1 for 5 with the PP and scored a shorthanded goal.  Special teams in the playoffs are crucial and in game 1 of the Fred Page Cup Finals its the Express who took advantage.

There was a lot of disappointment following the game 1 loss, but Jason Williamson said in the post game show, that he wants it to sting the players a little bit.  Remember the feeling of letting a game like this slip away, and avoid that feeling again.  The Vipers have rebounded nicely following losses in the playoffs.  They have only lost back to back games once.  I expect a much better complete effort from this Vipers team who now look to making sure this series goes at least 5 games.

Game 2 is Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.  You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 with the puck drop at 7.  You can also see it on Fasthockey PPV.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Vipers Improve To 2 and 0 in Round Robin

The Vernon Vipers came into Sunday evening looking for a more consistent effort and thats exactly what they got.  They started strong, scored on the PP for the third straight game, received great goaltending and capitalized on some very generous bounces.  The Vipers have now won 3 straight games and put themselves in a very comfortable spot in the BCHL Round Robin Series.

The Vipers wanted a better start on home ice than they had Friday in Victoria and received it as they pushed the pace and fired a lot of pucks at Express goaltender Gordie Defiel.  It wasn't until a powerplay midway thru the period where the Vipers were able to put a puck past Defiel as Liam Coughlin swatted home a rebound to make it 1-0.  Then lady luck appeared for the Vipers as the Express hit the iron not once, but twice at the tail end of a powerplay and shortly before that Colton Sparrow swiped a puck off the goal line that slipped through Smith in a goalmouth scramble.  That was key because late in the first lady luck bit the Express once more as a point shot bounced off the end boards and as it trickled to the side of the net, Defiel tried to one hand the puck to the corner.  Problem was, he missed and the puck hit his skate and rolled across the line.  McNicholas was originally credited with the goal, but it was later to Dylan Chanter as the last Viper to touch the puck.  It was 2-0 Snakes after 1.

I thought the second period was a very even affair and one might give the edge to the Express in the frame.  Gordie Defiel wasn't tested as often, but Austin Smith sure was.  His biggest save was a toe save on a Ryan Rosenthal wrap around and the puck sat wedged between the post and the skate blade before the whistle was finally blown.  Smith would finish the period with 12 saves and the Vipers went to the dressing room leading by 2 after 2.

The Express came out flying to start the third and it was sparked by the Pieper brothers and Brendan Lamont.  Lamont came streaking down the wing and put a puck off the pads of Smith before Bo Pieper would elevate the rebound into the net just 36 seconds into the third to make it 2-1.  The Vipers received a key goal from Riley Guenther 6 minutes later to restore the 2 goal lead.  Michael McNicholas would extend the lead to 3, finishing off a 2 on 1 pass from Dexter Dancs.  The Vipers would then add 2 goals in the final minute from Colton Sparrow and Dexter Dancs to finish the Express off with a 6-1 final.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Good To Be Lucky - That phrase could be applied to the Vipers defensively and offensively as two goal posts kept the Express off the board and an awkward bounce off the end boards led to a goal.  At times this post season luck has not been on the Vipers side, but on Sunday evening they pace they set led to bounces in their favour.

2) - No More One Goal Games - Coming into this game the Vipers had essentially played in 4 consecutive goals that were decided by just a goal.  I know Game 6 of the Interior Finals was 2-0, but the second Penticton goal was an empty netter so I will include that one.  There have been some very tough games for this Viper team, but it was crucial to their confidence to be able to get a lead and put a team away late.  The Snakes would score 4 unanswered goals in the third.

3) - Perfect In Round Robin - The Vipers have now put all the pressure on the other two teams in the round robin.  The Vipers comfortably sit with two wins and have put themselves exactly where they want to be.  Now the focus find the Grizzlies and Express who play back to back Tuesday and Thursday.  There are quite a few different scenarios that could happen this week and too many to mention here, but either way this team is playing good hockey right now and is oh so close to the league finals.

Next up for the Vipers, well we're not too sure.  Tentatively the Vipers will host the Grizzlies Saturday night at 7pm, but that game will only occur if Coquitlam and Victoria split the Tuesday and Thursday games.  If one team was to win both, the round robin would end and the league final would start April 11th.  Keep an eye on the bchl website and the Vipers website for more info!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Vipers Get First Round Robin Win

It was probably a case of a team getting a victory when they really didn't play up to expectations.  For the Vernon Vipers, they'll take the win any day knowing full well they were a bit lucky to come out on top.  It was a five goal flurry from the Snakes that propelled them to a lead that they would manage to hold on to despite a barrage from the Grizzlies.  The first win is so important in this new round robin series as the first team to win three is essentially guaranteed a spot in the BCHL Finals.

The Vipers started the game looking like they had been off for 6 days.  Despite travelling down to the provincial capital a day earlier, they just seemed to start flat despite a powerplay to start the game.  It was a Grizzly powerplay that would get the scoring started as Jacob Kearley would walk into a howitzer from the left circle to beat Austin Smith and it was 1-0 Grizz.  Victoria continued to get shots at the Viper netminder and Smith looked very good in the opening 20.  The Vipers had some time in the offensive zone, but didn't generate many shots and found themselves trailing 1-0 after 1.

The message coming into the second was clearly shoot.  Vernon only had 3 shots in the first period and quickly changed that.  That mentality shift also resulted in a goal as Brett Mulcahy would get his initial pass back and snap a quick shot off the shoulder of Alec Dillon to square the game at 1 just 66 seconds into the second period.  A few minutes later a simple shot to the net from Josh Bryan was knocked home by Logan Mick parked in front to make it 2-1 Vernon.  As the game approached the midway point the Vipers were awarded a powerplay and after a very pretty passing play Dexter Dancs would score to make it 3-1 Vipes.  Just 22 seconds after that TJ Dumonceaux would steal a puck at the Grizzly blue line and find Demico Hannoun wide open in front and he would make no mistake to increase the lead to 4-1.  That would end the night for Alec Dillon.  He would be replaced by Nic Renyard who faired no better as on the first shot he faced Mason Blacklock took a shot from the right circle, through the legs of the defender and off the far post to make it 5-1 Vipers.  Vernon was well in front and essentially capitalized on every break and every bounce.  The Grizzlies pushed back in the period, but Austin Smith was great and had a little help from his cross bar who helped him out 3 times during the game.

Knowing full well no lead is safe in this league, Victoria came out flying.  There comeback was started on the powerplay as Jesse Schwartz would slide a puck past Smith to make it 5-2.  Another man advantage for Victoria saw them score again as Rory McGuire pounced on a loose puck in the slot to make it 5-3.  Just over 4 minutes later Victoria found themselves within 1 as Jacob Kearley scored his second of the game as he got a stick on a point shot and it bounced into the net to make it 5-4.  The Vipers were clearly reeling and holding on.  The Grizzlies threw everything at the net in the final 7 minutes, but a late powerplay for Vernon in the last minute put the game away as the Vipers managed to survive and take the game 5-4.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - 5 Goal Flurry - The Vipers had their best period in the second as they scored five goals on 11 shots.  It was a tough period for Victoria goaltending as Dillon fought the puck on a few shots.  The blame couldn't be put on his shoulders squarely as the Grizzlies were guilty of some turnovers in their own zone that the Vipers made them pay for.  It was also great to see a few players get their first goals of the playoffs.  Logan Mick, Mason Blacklock and Dexter Dancs all got their first goals and I'm sure they felt the weight of the goose egg come off their backs.  The game plan was simple.  Shoot the puck and crash the goal and it was extremely successful in the second period.

2) - Goaltending - In this game the battle of the netminders went to Austin Smith who made a number of huge saves when his team needed them.  It was contrarily a tough night for Victoria goaltending.  Rookie Alec Dillon finished his night with 8 saves on 12 shots, while Renyard fared better stopping 10 of 11.  Smith has played every minute of playoff hockey for Vernon this season and seems to be a steadying influence in the blue paint.  Nothing flashy, just effective.  His play was so impressive it garnered him 3rd star of the evening with 39 saves on 43 shots.

3) - Lady Luck - I don't think anyone would begrudge me for saying the Victoria Grizzlies were a better team on Friday night.  With an exception of 13 minutes in the second period, that is.  Unfortunately for the Island Division champs, they simply ran out of time.  Thanks to their effective powerplay and veteran triplet top line they took it to the Vipers with wave after wave of attacks.  The Vipers know they weren't at their best on this night and still were able to come away with a win.  I'd expect a much improved and consistent effort on Sunday against Coquitlam.

Next up for the Vipers is game 2 of the round robin against the Coquitlam Express at Kal Tire Place.  Note the start time for that game of 5 oclock.  You can catch all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 4:45 with the pregame show.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Vipers Stun Vees In OT and Win 4-3

This game and this series had a little bit of everything.  In this blog post I'll recap game 7 and give an overview of the series as a whole.  Game 7 was an emotional and dramatic affair with ups and downs for both clubs.  In the end it was a monumental comeback by the road team to equalize and win in overtime to take the series and the division title by a score of 4-3.

It was no surprise with the largest crowd of the series at the SOEC, that the home team would come out flying.  Both teams in the first minute or two had great jump and energy, but it was the Vees who capitalized first as Ben Dalpe snapped home a shot from the bottom of the circle at full speed to get Penticton up 1-0.  The Vipers responded just 16 seconds later as Brett Mulcahy re-directed a point shot through Olivier Mantha to tie it up.  Both teams traded chances in the remaining 17 minutes, but the score remained tied after 1.

I thought the Vees were a tad sharper in the second period and seemed to put an emphasis on getting speed through the neutral zone.  That would directly result in the go ahead goal as Cody DePourcq put home a nice pass from Brad McClure to make it 2-1 Penticton.  The Vipers had a glorious chances short handed as TJ Dumonceaux broke in but clanged iron.  The Vipers also had a disallowed goal as Tyler Povelofskie bumped Olivier Mantha as Persley put the puck in, but it was ruled incidental goalie contact.  No penalty and no goal, which upon further review seemed to be the right call.  The Vipers seemed like they just wanted to get to the intermission down by a goal and regroup, but the Vees caught the Vipers off a beautiful move by Erik Benoit to feed Steen Cooper and late in the period it was 3-1 Vees.

So it all came down to 1 period for the Vipers.  Down by 2 goals, it was essentially gut check time and it was interesting to see how each team would handle to the pressure.  The Vipers came out of the dressing room with sense of urgency.  They carried the flow of play for the majority of the period and when cycling in the offensive zone drew a penalty.  This was a key point of the game as the Vipers tried to chip into the deficit.  They were able to get within one off a nice pass from Michael McNicholas to Colton Sparrow at the near post and he made no mistake making the score 3-2.  It wasn't at that score very long as a shot and a rebound found its way to Brett Mulcahy and he elevated the puck over Mantha to tie the game up at 3.  Nothing else was solved in regulation and this game was destined for OT.

It wouldn't be a long OT as the Vipers would score 2 minutes into it as Dancs spun the puck in front to Michael McNicholas who snapped it by a surprised Mantha to give the Vipers the comeback win, the series win and a BCHL Interior Division Title.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Perseverance - Jason Williamson made a great point in the post game show, saying it would be easy for the team to just fold it up and get ready for the RBC, but the goal from this team has been the same from the get go.  They want to earn their way in.  They pushed the pace and capitalized on their chances.  I have yet to see quit in this team and they demonstrated that in game 7.

2) -  Hockey Fans - Between game 6 and 7 that players got to play in front of over 5000 people total.  That is a huge number.  I know for a fact that the players from both teams appreciated it and it motivated them to do everything they could to win for their respective fans.  The fans were treated to a great game in game 7.  How often do people get to say they watched an overtime in game 7?  It was a very special moment for everyone involved.

3) - Playoff Hockey At Its Finest - I'm going to outline a series recap further down the blog, but when you think of playoff hockey at any level, this series had a little bit of everything.

Series In Review

Game 1 - Vernon 4 Penticton 3 - SOEC
Game 2 - Penticton 5 Vernon 3 - SOEC
Game 3 - Penticton 4 Vernon 3 - KTP
Game 4 - Vernon 5 Penticton 2 - KTP
Game 5 - Vernon 3 Penticton 2 - SOEC
Game 6 - Penticton 2 Vernon 0 - KTP
Game 7 - Vernon 4 Penticton 3/OT - SOEC

This was a series that seemed to defy logic at times.  The team that scored first only won twice.  That stat in itself is an anomaly.  Also for two teams who were very good on home ice, each side only won once at home.  Their were numerous blown leads as neither team through most of this series seemed comfortable while ahead.  Either that or the team that was trailing was extremely comfortable.

This is a rivalry that was renewed for the first time in a few years and seemed to pick up right where they left off.  Both teams have immense respect for each other and it showed in the intensity.  Both coaching staffs really tried to match lines and do anything to get the advantage with last change.  It was an even matchup that could have gone either way.

I felt the Vipers played with a chip on their shoulder.  The Vees didn't take them lightly at all, but not too many people thought the Vipers would be in that situation.  That was the motivating factor for Vernon as they relished the underdog role.

My 3 Stars For The Series

1) - Persley, Sparrow, Mulcahy - After all of the production this line put up in round 1, it would be hard for that line to get anywhere near those point totals.  They didn't produce as much, but they were instrumental in the Vipers success.  Not only were they able to produce, but on most nights were able to limit the Vees top line.  The Vees are going to get their points, they are too good not to, but limiting their production is a victory in itself and those 20 years olds were able to do that.

2) - Brad McClure - He may be the most dynamic player in the BCHL.  Watching him 7 games in row, you truly get the sense of how special of a player he is.  He has the ability to carry his team if they need it and generates chances from no where.  Having talked with people around the Vees organization, its not just his contributions on the ice, but off as well.  Its not the way they wanted to go out, but he and the rest of the Vees moving on should hold their heads high as they move on to whatever comes next.

3) - Austin Smith - Considering he made his playoff debut against West Kelowna in game 1 of the Semi-Finals, he has played every minute in goal for the Vipers.  It can't be easy to make your first appearance in the playoffs in your final year of junior, but he truly seems to be thriving under these circumstances.  He has been rock solid in all 13 games he's played.  Shaken off the tough goals and made the saves he's supposed to make and even some of the ones he shouldn't be making.  Good goaltending is crucial to a successful playoff run and in the Interior Division Finals, I felt Smith was a bit better than the Vees goaltending.

The Vipers now find themselves in the BCHL Round Robin to determine the final two teams for the BCHL championship.  They will be in action Friday night in Victoria to face the only top seed remaining.  All the action is on 107.5 KissFM starting with the pregame show at 7 and play by play starting at 7:15

Friday, 21 March 2014

Vipers Win 3-2 and Lead Series By Same Number

A consistent effort, mixed with timely goals propelled the Vernon Vipers to a 3-2 series lead thanks to a 3-2 win at the SOEC on Thursday night.  The Viper top line of Coughlin, Dancs and McNicholas factored in on all 3 goals and Austin Smith made 21 saves on 23 to push the Penticton Vees to the brink of elimination.

Both teams had a good start to the game as they traded chances early.  It took just under 5 minutes to get a stoppage in play as the game had some very good pace.  The Vipers would get caught with too many men on the ice which resulted in a Vees powerplay.  Erik Benoit would bank home a rebound at the side of the net to give the Vees the opening goal for just the second time in the series.  That lead was short lived as Michael McNicholas would finish off a two on one just 23 seconds later.  The Vipers didn't get many shots on goal in the frame, just 4 after 20 minutes, but were deadlocked at 1.

The Vipers had a much better second period as Demico Hannoun would be robbed in front after a Vees turnover as Hunter Miska came across and made a fantastic save on the North Delta product.  That was key as the Vees would capitalize on a rebound in front as Steen Cooper scored his 4th of the playoffs to make it 2-1 Penticton.  The momentum would start to shift in the Vipers favour, but not before their penalty kill was tested.  With Jared Wilson and TJ Dumonceaux in the penalty box, the Vipers only allowed one shot on goal.  They would kill it off and some nice board work allowed Coughlin to walk out of the circle and let a shot right along the ice find its way five hole on Miska to tie it up with just 45 seconds left in the period.

The third was a defensive battle with neither team really pushing the pace as it looked like no one wanted to make the first mistake.  The Vipers were at their best at limiting the Vees offensive chances in the third as they would only allow 5 shots on goal.  The Vipers were able to capitalize on one mistake by the Vees who couldn't clear and a nice give and go from Coughlin and McNicholas as Coughlin would score his second of the night with just 3 and a half minutes left.  The Vees would get a too many men on the ice penalty in the final two minutes and the Vipers would skate away with a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Controlled Effort - It was the type of game where the Vipers didn't have too many highs or too many lows.  They essentially played the same game for the entire 60 minutes.  They responded in timely fashion following 2 Penticton leads.  In important games when you get down, its important to keep and even keel.  The Vipers didn't panic when behind and seemed to have the confidence in their play to know they could come back.  Its that mentality that has seen them won the last two games and in a situation where with one more win they can eliminate the Vees.

2) - Turning Point - There are different points in a game where one could look back and say "thats where the game changed".  For me it was the 5 on 3 penalty kill for the Vipers.  Vernon was forced to kill 70 seconds of 5 on 3 time and not only did they kill it off, they only allowed one shot on goal.  That was key because the Vipers would then tie the game up late in the period.  This PK has been Jekyll and Hyde at times, but tonight it was the shift in momentum the Vipers would need.

3) - Top Line Magic - For most of this series, the focus has been on the Mulcahy, Sparrow and Persley line.  Well tonight, it was the Coughlin, McNicholas and Dancs show as that line was dominant in the offensive zone.  Not only did they factor in all 3 of the Viper goals, but they kept the puck nearly 200 feet from their own goal for the majority of their ice time.  This line was getting their chances, but not converting as much as they would like.  In Game 5 they were instrumental to the Vipers victory.

The Vipers will look to end the series Friday night at Kal Tire Place.  The pregame show starts at 6:45 on 107.5 KissFM

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Vipers Even Series With 5-2 Victory Over Vees

What a difference a day makes for the Vernon Vipers.  A night after giving up a two goal lead and being caught on their heels, the Vipers tightened up when it mattered and really quieted a Vees rally.  The Vipers spread the scoring around nicely and will ensure they get another home date scheduled for Friday night.

Just like a night before, the Vipers carried the play to start game 4.  They were buzzing around the Vees goal and hitting anything that moved.  Not only were they carrying the momentum, they were also generating shots on goal.  At one point in the period the shots were 10-2 Vipers which was more than half the shots they generated in game 3.  The Vipers scored first for the third time in the series as Brendan Persely fresh off the bench took a pass on the right circle and in full stride snapped a hard wrist shot through a screened Olivier Mantha.  The Vees would respond on the powerplay as Brett Beauvais fired a pass to the side of the net where Nic Pierog rifled a quick shot five hole on Austin Smith to tie it up.  That score would hold up through 20 minutes.

The second period was the best period for the Vees and saw them take the lead off a crazy pinball play where the puck rattled off the glass bounced to Serratore who was stopped then bounced to Alferd who flipped the puck past Smith.  The game settled in through the midway points of the period as both teams were fantastic defensively and both forechecks got in some licks on the defenders.  Momentum seemed to change after a gigantic body check from Dylan Chanter on Matt Serratore.  A clean, bone jarring check at the Viper line got the crowd and the Viper bench invigorated.  Credit to Serratore, he looked woozy, but missed maybe a shift but was back out there for the rest of the game.  The Vipers then hemmed the Vees in their own zone and it lead to a point shot from Riley Guenther that went post and in past a screened Mantha and the game was tied.  Less than two minutes later the Vipers again would hold the line and after a nice slap pass to McNicholas, the Vipers found themselves up 3-2 after 2 periods.

The pressure was on the home team in the third without question.  They desperately needed to hold this lead and even the series and they played like a team that had learned their lesson.  They played with energy and were tenacious in their own zone. They limited time and space for the Vees offensive players and were smart at exiting the zone.  Just like in game 1, it was Colton Sparrow giving the Vipers the key goal as he would fight of the corner and slip a changeup past Mantha to give the Vipers a crucial two goal lead.  Brendan Persley would tack on an empty netter and the final score would end 5-2 to even the series at 2 games apiece.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Consistent Effort - The Vipers had one win under their belt in the series, but I thought this was by far their best all around effort.  From the goaltender out, the team just seemed to be on the same page at all times.  At times during this series the Vipers had been guilty of letting off the gas pedal and allowing the Vees to dominate in the offensive zone.  Tonight was a different story.  They out shot the Vees for the first time in the series and kept the top line of Benoit, McClure and Cooper off the board for the first time.  The Vipers will need more of the same effort to win the series because they will have to win at least one more time at teh SOEC.

2) - Brad McClure - This guy is a dynamic hockey player.  He has the ability to carry a team on his shoulder.  This is not meant to call him out, but more put into perspective how good the Vipers played on this night.  For the first time in 12 games, dating back to the regular season, Brad McClure was held pointless.  He has 24 points in those 12 games which averages to two points a game over that stretch.  Thats an incredible streak.  The Vipers barely allowed him a sniff in game 4 and ended the point scoring streak.  You don't keep a guy like McClure off the score sheet often and the Vipers will have to keep limiting his chances in whats become a best of 3 series.

3) - Defensive Tandem - Its a big honor for defensemen to be tasked with shutting down a teams top line.  Tonight it was Riley Guenther and Josh Bryan who were out there almost everytime the Vees top line was out.  Not only did they accomplish that feat, they both chimed in with offensive contributions with Riley Guenther scoring the tying goal in the second period and Josh Bryan setting up two goals.  At this point in the playoffs you need different guys to step up and tonight it was those two on the defensive and offensive side.

This series has now become a best of 3 with the series heading back to Penticton for game 5.  It happens Thursday night at the SOEC and you can hear all the action starting at 6:45 with the pregame show and play by play starting at 7 on 107.5 KissFM.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Vees Rally And Take Game 3

For the third straight game in this series, the Vernon Vipers held a 3-1 lead, but for the second straight game the Penticton Vees would mount a come back and win.  This game stings for the Vipers who were 6 minutes away from taking a 2-1 series lead.  They couldn't hold it and now its the Vees who have a 2-1 series lead heading into a huge game 4.

The Vipers had the perfect start on home ice as they came out flying.  The forecheck was great, they were throwing the body around and they were able to score first as TJ Dumonceaux would finish off a 2 on 1 to make it 1-0 Vernon just before the game was 2 minutes old.  The Vees to their credit responded quickly  as a nice third line shift resulted in Matt Serratore rifling a one timer from the slot through Austin Smith and the game was tied.  Less than three minutes later the Vipers would get another odd man rush as Brendan Persley would misfire on the first shot, but center it from behind the red line and bank it in off Hunter Miska and the Vipers led 2-1.  Just over two minutes after that on the PP, Brett Mulcahy would find a rebound at the side of the net and the Vipers were up 3-1 before the period was half over.  Once the period hit the 10 minute mark however, the Vees seemed to play with a little bit more energy.  Fred Harbinson pulled Miska and that seemed to spark them.  The first period would end 3-1 Vipers.

The comeback wasn't immediate for Penticton as the Vipers did a nice job of keeping the Vees to the outside.  Penticton carried most of the play in the period, but it was a powerplay goal from Brad McClure that would get the Vees within one.  McClure would then be penalized for a double minor high sticking penalty late in the period, but the Vees were able to kill it off and the period ended 3-2.

For a good chuck of the third period, I thought the Vipers handled the pressure of the Vees very well.  The levee finally broke as Cody DePourcq made a strong move out of the corner and cut in front to slip a puck under Austin Smith and with just under 6 minutes to play the game was tied.  The momentum continued to build for the Vees as Matt Serratore would score his second of the game off a rebound to complete the comeback and give Penticton a 4-3 lead.  The Vipers had a few chances with the goalie pulled, but Olivier Mantha was able to shut the door as the Vipers fell 4-3 to the Vees.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Another Lead Slips Away - The most frustrating part for this Viper team is the fact that they have led for a good portion of this series, yet find themselves down 2-1 through three games.  First periods have not been the issues, but continuing with the full 60 minute effort hasn't been there.  You can look at it one of two ways: 1) The Vees pressure is just too much to deal with or 2) The Vipers just aren't keeping the foot on the gas.  For whatever reason the Vipers just can't seem to hold onto a 2 goal lead that they get early in games.  Its getting close to gut check time.  The Vipers know this series could be in their favour, but now have to work their tales off to ensure if they get a lead, they hold onto it.

2) - Goaltending - Another anomaly of this series has been the play of Penticton goaltending through 30 minutes.  For the third time in four meetings, the Vees starting goalie has been lifted after give up 3 goals on less than 10 shots.  The other side of the coin is that the goalie that comes into the game shuts the door and keeps the team in it.

3) - Home Ice - Kal Tire Place was electric in the first period of game 3.  The Vipers fed off of it and carried the flow of play through the first 10 minutes and were rewarded because of it.  All year long this team has thrived at home.  The Vipers will need that home ice good fortune for game 4 to send it back to Penticton tied up at 2.

Game 4 is set to go Tuesday night at 7 pm at Kal Tire Place.   You can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Vipers Downed 5-3, Series Tied At 1

When it comes to breaking down game 2 of the Interior Division Final, one must look at many different variables.  Both teams had legitimate gripes with officials, a two goal lead disappeared late in the second period, the Viper penalty kill was clutch, as was their PP, but at the end of all that, it was the Vees coming out on top of a hard fought battle to win the game 5-3.  So lets start from the beginning:

The game started out with nice pace.  Both teams were rolling their lines and moving the puck well through the neutral zone.  In attempt to establish a forecheck, TJ Dumonceaux would finish a check, unfortunately for the Viper forward the Vee player was in the process of stopping up and he would hit with a check from behind penalty and a game misconduct.  There was no intent, but it dealt a big blow to the Viper depth at the center position.  The Vipers would kill of the powerplay and despite being out chanced thanks to the PP, the Vipers would score first.  Dylan Chanter with a shot from the right point would handcuff Hunter Miska and slide through for his second goal in as many games making it 1-0.  That lead was shortlived as Steen Cooper would pot home a rebound to tie it up just under 2 minutes later.  Things got a little heated as two straight penalties would be called against the Vees in 34 seconds, that had the home team upset, but when you get dealt a chance on the man advantage you have to make good and Colton Sparrow would do just that to make it 2-1 late in the period.

Things would settle down a bit as both teams tried to re-establish the flow of the game.  That seemed to be the case through the first half of the second period before another Vees penalty would result in a powerplay for Vernon.  The Vipers would execute a nice passing play allowing Brett Mulcahy to put the puck into the empty net to make it 3-1.  Vernon did a nice job of limiting the chances of Penticton after that keeping them to the outside, but as can be the case against a talented squad like the Vees, it doesn't take much for the tide to turn.  Steen Cooper would get the Vees within one with a tidy re-direction that just crossed the line to make it 3-2.  The Vees then struck again 64 seconds later as they were able to stretch out the Viper D allowing Brad McClure to get the tying goal.

The Vees started the third on a 5 on 3 powerplay and thanks to a few big saves from Austin Smith, the game remained 3-3.  Unfortunately, they couldn't gain much momentum from the kill as Riley Alferd drove to the net and just squeaked the puck under the arm of Smith to give Penticton their first lead of the game.  Then cue the controversy.  The Vees would crash the crease and a loose puck seemed to be controlled by Smith, the next thing anyone knows is the puck crosses the line and the referee points as a goal.  From where I'm situated, I have no idea how that crossed the line, but we'll talk about it in my three thoughts.  With 14 minutes to play and the Vipers down by 2, the Vees clogged up the neutral zone and limited the chances for the Vipers.  The deficit was too much to overcome and the Vees would take game 2 by a 5-3 final.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - The Goal - Lets just get it over with, the argument from the Vipers bench was that the puck was gloved into the net.  Now I've seen this team play all year long and the coaching staff is usually quite docile on the bench.  Its not very often we've seen any of the three very demonstrative.  Tonight was different, Kris Mallette was ejected and both Jason Williamson and Dave Robinson were up in arms.  Upon review it did look like that goal could've been waved off and that their issue was legitimate.  A one goal deficit is much preferred to a two goal deficit and it really affected Vernons ability to try claw back.  At the end of the day, nothing can be done but move on.  The team will need to shake that off and prepare for a huge battle in game 3 at home.

2) - The Comeback - For the second straight game, the Vernon Vipers found themselves up by a 3-1 score.  Unlike the previous matchup, the Vees were able to tie it up and eventually win.  I don't think it was how the Vipers played, but more of how the Vees learned from the night before.  The cycle game wasn't really working for them, so they found a way to stretch it out and score on the rush.  Led by their top line, the Vees struck for two in 64 seconds to tie it up before the intermission, which was huge.  Vernon has been very good at holding leads this season, but things can change quickly.  The Vipers will learn from what happened in game 2 and make the necessary adjustments just in case the same situation arises later in the series.

3) - Business Is Picking Up - When you strip away the issues both teams had with the officials and the controversy surrounding those plays, what you're left with is two very talented teams who are finally starting to develop a dislike for each other.  Game 1 was emotional, but paled in comparison to game 2.  Verbal sparring and punches after whistles came to the forefront.  Both teams know they deserve to be there and will fight tooth and nail to move onto the next round.  If allowed to, these two teams are capable of putting on a stellar show that fans of both teams can truly enjoy.

Game 3 of this series goes Monday night at Kal Tire Place.  If you can't make it down to the rink, all the action will be on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 with the pregame show and play by play at 7.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Vipers Grab 1-0 Series Lead Following 4-3 Win

It was a game taking advantage of mistakes as the Vernon Vipers scored 3 goals in 4 and a half minutes to start the second period and held off the onslaught of the Vees for a 4-3 victory in front of 2071 fans at the SOEC.

The Vees started strong as Ben Dalpe scored just 29 seconds in off a wrist shot from the right circle.  The Vipers looked tentative early and battled the puck in their own zone.  The Vees had the edge in time of possession and shots, but after the opening goal didn't get many grade A chances.  The Vipers on the other hand didn't get many looks offensively, despite two powerplays which looked dangerours but couldn't convert.

The Vipers came out of the intermission firing and carried the play in the first five minutes and it would pay dividends.  Just 26 seconds in Dylan Chanter would score his first as a Viper and first of the postseason with a slapper from the point.  37 seconds after that Liam Coughlin would re-direct a point shot from Mason Blacklock to give Vernon a 2-1 lead.  Three and a half minutes later Michael McNicholas would steal a puck in the Penticton zone and snap a shot five hole on Olivier Mantha to give the Vipers a 3-1 lead less than 5 minutes in.  That would spell the end of the night for Mantha as Fred Harbinson would swap goaltenders and put in Hunter Miska.  Ironically, it was the last shot the Vipers would get in the period.  It was then Austin Smiths turn to shine as he turned aside all 16 shots he faced and many quality chances as the Vees started to buzz.  The period would come to a close with Vernon lead 3-1.

The Vees started the period with urgency, but the goal would come off a lucky bounce as a ricochet off the end boards hopped over Kenny Citrons stick and right to Brad McClure who would out wait Smith and get the Viper lead down to 1.  Vernon responded  just under three minutes later as Colton Sparrow finished off a fantastic individual effort to drive the net and slip the puck under Hunter Miska to restore the two goal lead.  That goal would prove crucial as both teams traded odd man rushes that didn't result in goals.  The Vipers would get caught on a defensive miscue and Max Coatta would steal a puck and snap it past Smith to make it 4-3 with less than 4 minutes to play.  The Vees threw everything at the net in the final moments of the game just couldn't get the puck to settle as the Vipers would hang on for a 4-3 win.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Turnovers - Both teams were guilty of turnovers that led to goals.  There are two ways to look at it: 1) The forechecks were outstanding causing those mistakes or 2) the teams were just uncharacteristically sloppy in their own end.  I thought it was a combination of both.  For both teams it was an eye opener to be prepared for the forecheck and to exit the zones up the boards instead of up the middle.

2) - Unassisted Aplenty - The final four goals of the game were all unassisted.  It was an example of how important burying your chances truly is.  Mistakes, lucky bounces and fantastic efforts were the foundation of those goals.  

3) - Rebounding - For the second straight time at the SOEC, the Vipers were able to bounce back after giving up the opening goal on the first shot of the game.  They were able to do it back on Valentines day with a 2-1 win and again Friday in a 4-3 victory.  When early goals go in, its all about how a team reacts.  Its easy to get your head down and dwell on it, but the Vipers have the right mentality by quickly putting those goals behind them and refocusing on the game.  

Game 2 of the Interior Division Final goes Saturday night on 107.5 KissFM.  The pregame show starts at 5:45 with play by play starting at 6. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Vipers Eliminate Warriors With 5-0 Victory

What a difference 24 hours made for the Vernon Vipers who missed out on a chance to eliminate the Warriors in game 5, but rebounded with a very nice 60 minute effort to move onto the next round.

The game started off quite slow with the exception of some pressure by the Warriors to start.  Austin Smith had to make some pad saves and got to feel the puck early.  The Vipers then grabbed some of that momentum and fired a few on Cody Porter.  The Vipers would get the first goal of the game as Brett Mulcahy driving to the net had the puck go in off of his mid section.

The middle period overall was an even affair with the Vipers capitalizing on their chances.  Just after a key penalty kill ended Michael McNicholas found a loose puck and fed Persley in front to give the Vipers a 2-0 lead.  The lead would increase again as Demico Hannoun was stopped on a breakaway but TJ Dumonceaux was there to put the rebound in and the Vipers led 3-0 after 40 minutes.

In previous games, the trailing team would come out like a house on fire, but the Vipers pushed the pace to make sure the Warriors couldn't generate much momentum.  Liam Coughlin would get the fourth goal of the game off a shot from the right circle.  On a powerplay a few minutes later Brendan Persley would re-direct a pass from Colton Sparrow past Porter for his second of the game.  That would end it as the Vipers skated away witha 5-0 win and a 4-2 series win.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Finished At Home - The Vipers were clearly disappointed with their effort in game 5, but there was no panic for them knowing their home record was very good.  This is a good team on the road, but there is something different about this squad when playing on Kal Tire Place ice.  They've got a home ice swagger that is contagious and spreads through all 20 players.  They will need that type of home ice effort in the next round of the playoffs.

2) - Austin Smith - Rylan Ferster mentioned in the pregame show that neither goaltender in the series had stolen a game for their respective teams, well that wasn't the case after game 6 as Austin Smith was perfect.  He turned aside all 29 shots he faced and seemed to gain confidence with every stop.  In his first foray into junior playoffs, he was great at shaking off games that didn't go the Vipers way.  Following a loss in the series he gave up 1 goal and a shut out respectively.  He will be heavily relied upon in the next round.

3) - Next Up - The road to the RBC doesn't get any easier for the Vipers who now get set to square off with the Penticton Vees.  The Vees won the season series, but the Vipers had won the last two matchups in a span of 8 days.  The Vees play a lot like the Warriors from an offensive standpoint although they're not quite as injured as the Warriors were.  Without a doubt, this series will be a dandy.

Game 1 of the Interior Division Finals will go Friday night at the SOEC.  Puck drop will be determined a bit later on.  All the action will be on 107.5 KissFM.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Vipers Fall 4-1 To Warriors In Game 5

Game 5 was a completely different experience from the previous 4 games in the Vipers/Warriors series.  For the first time all series we saw stick work penalties called.  Calls that weren't made in the first four game were made many times over in game 5.  Another anomaly was no scoring in the opening period.  Unfortunately for the Vipers some similar trends crept into the game and it would favour the Tribe on this night.

The first period was a very tidy one for both sides.  A few good chances early, then some nice defense and relatively quiet period with not much in the way of extra curricular activity slowing play down.  The play would slow, but not until the second period.  Both goaltenders had to be solid, yet  not spectacular and it looked like we were in store for a prototypical tight checking elimination game with neither team wanting to make a mistake.

Then cue the penalty parade.  The Vipers were handed 6 penalties for various infractions and that combined with a nice effort from the Warriors swung the momentum heavily in the home teams favour.  Now when presented with opportunities, the good teams take advantage and West Kelowna did.  After some nice movement on the PP Kylar Hope was able to heel in a backdoor pass from Jason Cotton to open the scoring.  That goal spread more life to the Warriors as they caused a turnover in the Viper zone and David Pope, who had done everything but score in the first 4 games, scored to make it 2-0.  Pope wasn't done as on another PP he let a nicely placed wrist shot go from the circle past Austin Smith, who didn't see it for a second and it was quickly 3-0.  A nice cycle play from the Warriors had their captain Matt Anholt extend the lead again and after 40 mins it was 4-0.

As we've seen in the series before, the team trailing came out like a house on fire as the Vipers stormed the Warriors.  Brendan Persley would somehow find a puck in a wild scramble in front as make it 4-1 just 87 seconds in.  The penalty parade started the other way as the Warriors took three straight minor penalties, but the Vipers just couldn't capitalize.  It actually took until the third PP before they started to move the puck with urgency.  The clock then became the enemy and with some nice shot blocking and good goaltending the Warriors were able to extend their season by at least another day with a 4-1 win.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Adapting - I didn't think the Vipers did a good enough job of adapting to the way the referees were calling the game.  Thats not to say the refs weren't doing a good job, but it was called much differently that games 1-4.  I thought both teams had some problems adjusting, but in the second period alone the Vipers spend at least half that period short handed.  Not every referee sees things the same way and the Vipers are going to have to learn that quickly heading into game 6.  Adapting to things you can't control is imperative to a team primed for a long run, we'll see if they learn the lesson tomorrow.

2) - 2 Guys Back - They didn't play big minutes, but they didn't have to.  Ryan Ivey and Jason Cotton made their returns to the West K lineup and it seemed just their presence was a boost for a Warrior team that came in hurting.  Adding much needed depth up front and on the blue line I thought both players played prominent, yet quiet roles.  The Warriors are still extremely banged up and who knows what the game day sheet will say tomorrow, but for a team that needed a boost, West Kelowna received it in the play of those two.

3) - Too Easy - Due to the injury to Andy Desautels, the Warriors were forced to start rookie Cody Porter.  He played well in relief in game 4, but was under immense pressure in an elimination game on home ice.  He was good, but at times had it too easy.  Not much traffic in front and shots from outside.  He only had to make 3 saves in the middle period.  He may be young and inexperienced, but he is still a goalie that clearly deserves to be at this level.  The Vipers have to put everything at the net in game 6 and provide more traffic if they want to beat this young netminder.

Game 6 goes Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place.  You can hear all the action starting at 6:45 on 107.5 KissFM.