It was a quick start for the Vipers as Michael Statchuk would score just 2 minutes in. 75 seconds later Dexter Dancs would tally. Just 21 seconds after that Liam Coughlin converted to make it 3-0. Bryan Basilico scored to make it 3-1 just under a minute later before Logan Mick would end the flurry of goals with his 7th of the season to make it 4-1 just 5 minutes into the game. Michael McNicholas would add one towards the end of the period and the Vipers had a very comfortable lead after 20 minutes.
The second was a period of trading chances, as both goaltenders were solid. The game started to sway in the Smokies favour late as 2 powerplay goals from Bryan Basilico and Scott Davidson made it 5-3 after 2.
The momentum was fully on the Smokies side to start the third as Zane Schartz would make it 5-4. The Vipers seemed to playing well enough defensively to maybe get the game finished up by a goal, but a late powerplay that was extremely effective for Trail converted for the third time as Scott Davidson got the game even. After that the ice was tilted and just 70 seconds later Nathan Browne found a rebound and finished the impressive comeback to end the 12 game losing streak of the Smokies and the 5 game winning streak of the Vipers.
My 3 Key Thoughts
1) - Foot Off The Gas - It was a very tough game to analyze. It was the perfect start with a 5-1 lead after 1, but it seemed like the team didn't want to run up the score and maybe took their foot off the gas. The problem with that was the Smokies refused to lay down. They switched goalies and that seemed to settle them down and with nothing left to lose competed hard. They chipped away and thanks to their powerplay were able to swing the momentum to a full 180 degrees. At that point, the Vipers just couldn't regain the energy they had to start the game.
2) - Fatigue - Once again this is purely a theory, but I think the Vipers just ran out of steam. This was the first time all season they played with 3 fewer players than a full roster. Now I know you're probably thinking at this point in the season they should be well conditioned, but there were players getting even more ice time than they were used to. Playing with fewer players has been commonplace for the Smokies down the stretch and they just seemed to get more energy as it continued.
3) - No Panic - I noticed a few tweets that were sent out after the final buzzer of fans that were in complete shock at the 6-5 loss. Fans are entitled to feel however they would like and express it the way they feel like, but I look at the results and look at the game in this angle. In the grandest scheme of things, this game meant absolutely nothing. That isn't to sugar coat the disappointment of losing and there are plenty of things to work and improve on. Lets not forget however, the team had 5 wins in a row with 4 of those coming against the top teams in the Interior Division. Two wins over Penticton, a win over West Kelowna and Salmon Arm. They have locked up 3rd place in the division and are a team that no one wants to face in the first round of the playoffs. The effort that was seen during the win streak and Wednesday night weren't even close. I fully expect the former to overcome the latter on Saturday and into the post season.
The Vipers will finish the regular season on Saturday night in Merritt against the Cents. The Cents just secured the final playoff spot and like the Vipers will wait to see who they will play. You can catch all the action on KissFM starting at 7:15 with the pregame show and 7:30 puck drop.