Thursday, 27 February 2014

Vipers Streak Snapped By Smokies

The game meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, but for the Vernon Vipers the way Wednesday nights game went down, there is clearly room for improvement.  They got out to a huge lead and slowly saw it slip away as the Trail Smoke Eaters mounted an impressive comeback and defeat the Vipers 6-5 at Cominco Arena.

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.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Vipers Continue Win Streak With 4-3 Victory Over Vees

For the second time in a 8 days the Vernon Vipers were able to edge out the Penticton Vees by a goal.  Last weekend a 2-1 victory and on Saturday a 4-3 victory.  They were completely different games but had similar results.

The Vipers would strike early off a very fortunate bounce off the end glass that propelled right in front of the net where Ryan Renz would bury it for a 1-0 lead after just 81 seconds.  After some push back from the Vees another rush up the ice found Brendan Persley with a look from the bottom of the circle and he fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Olivier Mantha to make it 2-0 through 6 minutes.  Five minutes later another rush led by Persley would result in a rebound for Josh Bryan and he would slide it home for a 3-0 Viper lead.  That would spell the end of the night for Olivier Mantha, although he would say he wasn't good enough, I didn't think he could necessarily do much about two of the three.  Late in the period Ryan Renz would be penalized for a double minor for high sticking that would have a big impact on the second period.

With an extended powerplay the Vees number 1 ranked PP would go to work quickly as a nice backdoor feed from Brett Beauvais would be tipped in by Brad McClure and the Vees were on the board.  70 seconds later a mad scramble at the side of the goal would be knocked in by Shane McColgan to get the Vees within 1 just 2 minutes into the period.  Once it got to 5 on 5, I thought the Vipers did a nice job of settling down and panicking as their deficit had been dwindled.  The Vipers got through the radio time out up by a goal then added one off a goal post and a rebound as TJ Dumonceaux scored to make it 4-2 after 2 periods.

The Vees took over time of possession in the third, down by 2 and pushed hard for the equalizer.  They started in the right direction as Nic Pierog knocked in a centering pass from Cody DePourcq to get the Vees within 1 with plenty of time on the clock.  Once again though, the Vipers managed the clock well in the final 14 minutes kept Penticton to the outside and most importantly stayed out of the penalty box with one exception that they killed off.  The final seconds would tick away and the Vipers would hold on for a 4-3 victory.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Capitalizing on Chances - The Vipers took full advantage of some fortunate bounces.  At the fore front was the ricochet off the glass behind the Penticton goal that found its way to the front of the net for Renz\s tally.  Now I've called all but 1 home game for the Vipers this season and never seen a bounce like that at all.  Its never been a factor before and doubtful it will again, but Lady Luck was on the side of the Vipers early and they took advantage of the momentum gained by that first goal.  Some would compare that bounce to the one the Vees got early in the game last Friday when it went in off the glove off Guenther and in.  Sometimes you get the bounces and sometimes you don't, such is junior hockey.

2) - Banged Up - The Vipers roster has had a different look of late with a few bodies out of the lineup.  The one constant has been the effort level.  Some players are getting more ice time with those injuries and are taking full advantage of it.  The likes of Povelofskie, Persley and Saharchuk were very solid and the versatility of Statchuk continues to impress as he jumps from defense to offense whenever asked.  With Liam Coughlin expected to return to the lineup and Hannoun and Guenther still up in the air, the Vipers depth has been tested and so far has passed with flying colours.

3) - Ending On a Positive - Home ice has been a key reason to the Vipers success this season.  With 17 wins and only 6 games where they didn't get at least one point, Kal Tire Place was a slump buster.  At points when the Vipers struggled on the road, they would make up for it with great efforts at home.  Its a hard place to play and the fans helped make it that way.  With playoff positioning still up in the air, the home games the Vipers will play will be most important.

The Vipers will now finish their regular season with 2 games on the road, starting Wednesday in Trail.  All the action is on 107.5 KissFM starting at 7:15 with the pregame show.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Vipers Clinch Playoff Spot With 3-2 OT Win Over Silverbacks

For a third straight game the Vernon Vipers found themselves behind after 20 minutes, but for the third straight game the Vipers found themselves coming out on top of a tough divisional opponent.  Its not a trend they would like to continue, but three come from behind victories sure help morale.

The Silverbacks are playing for their playoff lives and it sure showed early in the first as the Backs were swarming in the offensive zone.  They made the Vipers look slow and disjointed at times and it would work to their benefit as they would open the scoring as Alex Gillies would find an open spot in the slot and rifle a shot past Austin Smith.  There were a few chances for Vernon in the period, but once again it seemed as if the momentum owned by Salmon Arm.  They continued to pressure after a sloppy clearing attempt from the Vipers didn't work, Landon Smith would put home a rebound from a point shot and the Backs were rolling.  Jason Williamson clearly unhappy with his teams performance through 11 and a half minutes called his time out and was quite animated during the time out.  Whatever he said seemed to work as it sparked the team as Colton Sparrow would poke home his 11th to make it 2-1 Salmon Arm after 1.

The second period was a much different story as it was primarily owned by the Vipers.  They seemed to wake up and skate and hit with much more enthusiasm and energy.  Also there seemed to be more emphasis on the forecheck and causing turnovers in the neutral zone.  That directly led to the tying goal as Dexter Dancs would leave a drop pass for Josh Bryan and he made no mistake to make it 2-2 after 2.

With both teams having eyes for the two points that were up for grabs we saw a much tighter, more defensive game.  The teams traded a few chances but overall, it was a well played period with solid goaltending.

In the first overtime the Vipers would capitalize on a chance as Angus Redmond would make the initial save but apparently couldn't find the rebound that was sitting between his pad and poked home by TJ Dumonceaux to give the extra point to the home team.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Turning Point - This can be traced back to the first period as the Vipers would being outskated, out hit and out played in all three zones.  They were down 2-0 and Jason Williamson called a time out to hit the refresh button for his club.  It immediately paid dividends just 38 seconds later.  It was the perfect time to call the timeout and credit to Williamson for using it early to get his team refocused and they repaid him with the two points.

2) - Controversy - I don't know if controversy is the right word, I guess it depends who you talk to, but it sure looked like the Silverbacks had a beef with the overtime winning goal.  It appeared from where I was situated that Angus Redmond had the puck covered, the whistle didn't blow and the puck ended up in the net.  The Backs didn't like it and the Vipers will take it, but if the shoe was on the other foot there's no question there would be some unhappy Vipers.  This is a game of bounces and there no powerplays awarded to Vernon despite a few times where there could have been some and I'm sure the Vipers would much rather have that break go their way than a few powerplays.

3) - Long Awaited Clinch - With one point the Vernon Vipers have punched their ticket to the BCHL Playoffs.  Its been a long wait for the players, staff and fans and clinching with three games left makes it quite satisfying.  They are a long way from their goal of the RBC Cup, but getting back to the post season is a big step in the right direction.

Next up for the Vipers is their final home game of the regular season Saturday night against Penticton.  You can hear all the action starting at 6:45 pm on 107.5 KissFM.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Vipers Rally For 3-2 OT Victory Over Warriors

Overcoming adversity is exactly how the Vipers are going to look back at Saturday night's game against the West Kelowna Warriors.  Some of that adversity was self inflicted, some not, the end result however was a big victory in a game at times it seemed they had no business being in.  As the game wore on the Warriors wore down and the injury bug continued to bite the Tribe.  For a second straight night the Viper PK was outstanding and possibly the biggest reason Vernon was able to come away with two points.

The Warriors came out flying in the first period and had a well deserved 2-0 lead after Braden Pears scored a powerplay marker and Seb Lloyd converted on a sloppy effort from the Vipers at their own blueline.  Things turned at 15:34 of the first period as Liam Coughlin sent Braden Pears into the board with a check from behind that gave the Tribe a chance to increase their lead late in the period.  The Vipers then found themselves down 5 on 3 during that penalty, but were able to shut down the Warrior powerplay and get to the intermission down by 2.

The second period was a bit more even, but once again it seemed like a parade to the penalty box, but this frame was a bit more even when it came to infractions.  Neither team could do much with the man advantage, but the momentum took a turn in the Vipers favour as Tyler Povelofskie found some room on a breakaway and converted to make it 2-1.

The third was a dandy as the Vipers down by a goal picked up the pace and continued to play the body and wear down the increasing list of injured Warriors.  Once again the Vipers found themselves on a 5 minute penalty kill this powerplay didn't seem as justified as the first one they were given, yet they found a way to kill it off with just 90 seconds left in regulation.  They were awarded a late powerplay and with Austin Smith on the bench the Dexter Dancs would tie the game up with just 13 seconds left.

OT was controlled by the Vipers as they didn't allow a shot on goal.  Andy Desautels was great in the first OT making a huge glove save on Dancs to keep it tied.  The second OT would begin and Dancs would centre a pass to Riley Guenther who would complete the comeback and give the Vipers a 3-2 win.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - PK Is Key - The Vipers would tell you they took too many penalties in this game.  The bright side is that they killed 8 of 9 which at the end of the day was the key contributor to the win.  Blocked shots and big saves aplenty for the short man, but they continued to build momentum after giving up a PP goal on the first chance the Warriors had.

2) - The Hit - Might as well just come out and say it, the Liam Coughlin Check From Behind Penalty on Braden Pears was an ugly hit.  There are other adjectives some would use to describe a hit like that, but for me it was an ugly hit and not much else can be said.  But I will say this, Liam Coughlin plays on the edge every night and he clearly crossed that line on a hit that didn't necessarily need to be made.  There is a good chance there could be supplementary discipline that can't really be disputed.  In the end, the punishment will be fair and it was good to see Braden Pears return albeit in a new jersey and a cage.  I firmly believe its the responsibility of the player to ease up when the opposition is in a vulnerable position and that wasn't the case there.  Once again the main positive is Pears returned and despite the broken nose played a solid game for the Tribe.

3) - Going Over The Edge - Tonight was an example of the Vipers players trying to impose their physical will.  There is a fine line between playing physical and taking penalties, tonight I thought they got a little carried away at times trying to throw the big body check.  The PK bailed them out, but that may not always be the case.  As I say that, the physicality really wore down Penticton last night and West Kelowna tonight.  I just think they may need to reel it in just a tad to stay on the right side of the physicality line.

The Vipers had a very successful week getting all 6 points from Interior Division opponents.  They remain 5 points up on Merritt and now 10 points up on Salmon Arm.  Next up for the Snakes is a matchup against the Silverbacks at Kal Tire Place.  All the action is on the Vipers MixLR starting at 6:45 with the pregame show.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Vipers Bust Slump In Pen 2-1 Over Vees

When going into a building where you haven't had success in almost two calendar years, you tend to simplify things and get back to basics.  A slump of that proportion can also prove as a huge motivator.  That fact rang true on Friday night as the Vipers finally won at the SOEC for the first time since November 23rd 2012.  It was as close to a perfect defensive game the club could have asked for and with the two points the Vipers distanced themselves from the teams chasing them and eeked them closer to claiming one of the final two playoff spots in the Interior.

It didn't start off well for the Vipers as Patrick Sexton would float a shot from the left point that bounced off a glove and a face before finding its way past Austin Smith just 17 seconds into the game.  That seemed to put the Vipers on their heels through the opening 10 minutes as the Vees carried the momentum.  The Vipers then took to throwing the body as a way to get going and it seemed to work as the Vipers had a nice middle and end to the first period thanks to the physicality, but trailed 1-0 after 1.

Just as it was two nights earlier in Trail, I thought the Vipers had their most consistent effort in the middle stanza.  Thanks in part to a few successful penalty kills the Vipers found themselves within striking distance and finally were able to capitalize on a chance as Michael McNicholas finished off a beautiful passing play at the midway mark to make it 1-1.

It would remain that way into the third when the Vipers found themselves on a man advantage.  Mulcahy tried to stretch the Penticton D and Dancs was sent in alone only to be hauled down and awarded a penalty shot.  Dancs would make no mistake on his opportunity and give the Snakes their first lead of the game.  After that, the Vipers would lock it down keeping the Vees to the outside and once again thanks to some spectacular penalty killing come away with a huge two points and a 2-1 victory.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Masterful PK - Normally you don't like your chances when you give up 6 powerplays and 3 of them in the third period to the best PP in the league, but the Vipers seemed not to notice the statistics and just bared  down and got to work killing them.  The Vees didn't get much to the goal on any of their man advantages and at one point I thought the Vipers had the better chances while a man short.  Some timely blocks and solid saves made it a perfect night for the PK and was a big reason the game ended 2-1.

2) - Top Guys - The top line of the Vipers really stepped up tonight as they spent most of their time in the offensive zone.  Exactly where you'd want them to be.  The Vees top line was in the offensive zone a lot too, but were relegated to the outside and not allowed much time and space near the goal.  Two goal scorers goals from the Vipers top line was the difference as McNicholas and Dancs continue to heat up down the stretch.  If this line continues to light it up and contribute it can only bode well for a team who is still missing one of its top snipers in Mason Blacklock.

3) - Monkey Off The Back - Its hard not to read into the statistics sometimes, but I will tell you every Viper player and staff member knew they hadn't won in Penticton in a long time.  It served as motivation and you could see it in they way they attacked the puck carriers, made smart plays out of their own zone and hit as often as possible.  It was a playoff atmosphere on the ice and in the stands.  What the Vipers should take away is that they can win in a tough building like the SOEC and they will have to do it again at some point if they want to go through the front door to the RBC Cup.

The Vipers will have another tough test Saturday night as they play host to the West Kelowna Warriors.  The Vipers will look to win the season series from the Tribe, but West K will be unhappy after blowing a lead on Friday night against Victoria.  You can catch all the action on 107.5 Kiss FM starting at 6:45 with the pregame show.  Its Tim Hortons night and the first 200 fans will get a free coffee on Tim's.  See you at the rink!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Vipers Score Early and Often in 7-3 Win

A quick start was the game plan, but I don't think anyone expected how quick the Vipers would strike.  It was 3 goals in the opening minute before getting 2 more in the second and 2 more in the third.  The Vipers had their legs from the opening faceoff and despite a few minor gaps in the defensive zone, played a very consistent game.

Just 20 seconds into the game, the Vipers would get on the board as Jared Wilson jammed home a loose puck in the crease after a mad scramble in front.  Eighteen seconds later Dexter Dancs would pot home a rebound and then just sixteen seconds after that Colton Sparrow snapped home a shot from the right circle and before the game was a minute old, the Vipers found themselves up by 3.  That would end the night for rookie AP Kai McDonald.  He would be replaced by Dustin Nikkel would was peppered immediately.  The Smokies settled down a little bit and seemed to gain some momentum and time in the offensive zone.  That pressure paid off as a centering pass was banked in by Colby Livingstone to make it 3-1 after 1.

The Vipers played their most balanced period in the second as they caused many turnovers that led to odd man rushes and breakaways that Dustin Nikkel was up to the challenge on.  The Vipers had a nice looking powerplay in the period, but couldn't get anything to convert until it had expired.  Jared Wilson creeped in from the point and let a rocket go from the circle to make it 4-1.  Three minutes later Dexter Dancs finished off a fantastic 2 on 1 rush to make it 5-1 after 2.

The Vipers very well could have sat on their heels and held on to the lead they had, but Ryan Renz would increase the lead as he would join the rush and put home a rebound on a Dallas Calvin shot.  The Smokies had some nice shifts after that, cycling the puck down low before Joel Webb would walk out from the corner and snap it past Smith to make it 6-2.  The Smokies then found themselves on the powerplay and a centering pass went in off the defenseman from the stick of Bryan Basilico to get Trail within 3 with 8 minutes to play.  The Vipers tightened back up defensively and made sure the clock was the enemy of the Smokies to keep the game in their favour.  Dallas Calvin would tack on a late marker as he fired a perfect wrist shot bar down to make it 7-3.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Quick Start - For a team that needed to shake off the bus legs, the start couldn't have been any better.  Good things tend to happen when you put pucks to the net and crash for rebounds and thats exactly what happened.  It goes without saying that scoring first is crucial to a teams success, but following up with 2 more shifts that resulted in goals before the game was even 60 seconds old was impressive.

2) - Shooting Gallery - The Vipers peppered both Smokie netminders with a total of 50 shots.  In the first minute they had 6!  Now whether or not that was the strategy coming in with a rookie goaltender at the other end, but its one that this team needs to continue with.  Shoot from everywhere and good things will happen.  The Vipers have been guilty of trying to make the game too cute at times, but only 2 of the 7 goals on Wednesday night were off the beautiful variety.  More shots usually lead to more goals and in the final 6 games of the season I expect the shooting gallery to continue.

3) - Important Points - The two points the Vipers received from that victory were huge as they continue to try distance themselves from the Cents and Silverbacks and push to track down the Warriors and Vees.  I found it interesting in what Jason Williamson said in the post game show.  He said they are treating the final 7 games as if it were a playoff series.  Of course you'd like to win all the games, but if the Vipers at least go 3 and 3 in the last 6 games, the playoffs should be around the corner for this club.

The Vipers now get set for a huge weekend where they travel to Penticton to face the Vees.  The season series hasn't been kind to Vernon and they'll look to hand the Vees a little redemption at the SOEC.  The game gets started at 7 and you can catch the pre game show starting at 6:45.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Vipers Bump Road Slump With 6-2 Victory Over Tribe

It had been almost two months since the Vernon Vipers had won on the road.  Their last road victory was over the Cowichan Valley Capitals back in December.  Saturday night, however, the offense exploded, the goaltending was great and the Snakes were able to come away with their second straight victory.

The Vipers struck first off a great individual effort from TJ Dumonceaux to race past Adam Plant and as he was falling managed to lift it over the shoulder of Andy Desautels.  Later in the period the Vipers would capitalize on another chance as Dexter Dancs on his 19th birthday finished off a beautiful passing play to make it 2-0 after 2.  Austin Smith was solid in the opening period, but he would be heavily relied on in the middle frame.

The Vipers found themselves in penalty trouble as they would take four straight penalties, but before all that went down, Brett Mulcahy scored his 27th of the season and 3rd as a Viper to give Vernon an important 3-0 lead.  The Viper PK was fantastic with many blocked shots and some key saves from Smith.  The powerplays led to a momentum swing and on a number of occasions it looked like the Warriors were going to break out.  The defense and goaltending would hold and the period would end 3-0 despite Vernon being outshot 18-8.

The Vipers increased their lead early in the third as Liam Coughlin snapped home a shot from the slot to give the Vipers a 4-0 lead.  The Warriors cut it to three as Tyson Dallman walked out from the corner and went post and in.  9 minutes later saw Dallman finish off a two on one after a key penalty kill and quickly it was 4-2 and it looked like the Warriors were starting to find their groove.  The Vipers had different plans as the forecheck led to a turnover and Colton Sparrow would get the three goal lead restored.  Ninety seconds later Coughlin would score his second and send the Vipers away with a nice 6-2 victory.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Bumped Slump - It was nearly 2 months to the day since the last road win for the Vipers.  A span that saw them go 0-6-1-0.  Tonight the effort was much different than I`ve seen in quite some time while the Vipers were the visitors.  They brought the physical play, they forced the issue, which caused turnovers and they capitalized on their early chances to gain confidence.  Winning on the road in this division is extremely difficult and there was no panic in the slump, but this win feels good for the guys for a number of reasons the biggest of which is Salmon Arm and Merritt getting 4 points this weekend as well.

2) - Spreading the Wealth - There were 5 different scorers for the Vipers as all 4 lines had chances.  The line of McNicholas, Dancs and Coughlin were at their best chiming in on 3 of those goals.  When you can get scoring from three of the four lines a team tends to have success and tonight that was true for the Vipers.

3) - Shut Down The Snipers - The top scorers for the West Kelowna Warriors were kept in check all night long.  Cotton, Masters, Lloyd and Pope had looks at the net, most of which were on the powerplay.  The only line that gave the Vipers fits was the line of Anholt, Dallman and Simmonds who were in on both Warrior goals.  The chances those top guys had were mostly to the outside and Smith did a nice job of limiting second chances.  The Warriors are a potent offensive team so when you keep them to 2 goals and none from the top guys it feels even more satisfying for the players.

The Vipers hit the road again on Friday as they head to Langley for the first of two against the Rivermen.  You can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 7pm with the pregame show from the Langley Events Centre.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Game 49 Preview - Vipers @ Warriors

It was a steady improvement by the Vernon Vipers last night as they defeated a depleted Trail Smoke Eaters team 5-0.  They didn`t start strong, but sure gained momentum and confidence as the game went on.  Home ice hasn`t really been an issue for this team, but they`ve struggled on the road lately, winless in their last 7 and tonight will put them to the test.  The West Kelowna Warriors come in having lost last night in double OT in Merritt.  Their 12 game unbeaten streak is over, but this team has been red hot of late and a key reason is their powerplay.  Before the calendar changed, their PP was 15th in the league, now comes in 7th.  These two teams played 2 weeks ago in this building, which was a very entertaining hockey game.  Tonight should be no exception.

Season Series - September 17 - West K 5 Vipers 3 - Royal LePage Place
                      - November 8 - Vipers 5 West K 3 - Kal Tire Place
                      - November 23 - Vipers 2 West K 2 - Kal Tire Place
                      - December 18 - Vipers 3 West K 1 - Kal Tire Place
                      - January 17 - West K 5 Vipers 3 - Royal LePage Place

Vernon Vipers

Record - 24-15-4-5 - 3rd in the Interior Division

Home Record - 14-5-3-3          Away Record - 10-10-1-2

Leaders - Goals - Brett Mulcahy (26)
             - Assists - Michael McNicholas (37)
             - Points - Michael McNicholas (58)

Goaltending - Austin Smith - 27 GP - 13-8-3-2, 2.65 GAA, .916Sv%
                   - Danny Todosychuk - 23 GP - 10-6-1-2, 3.06 GAA, .903Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 16th in the league - 27 for 177 - 15.25%
                       - Penalty Kill - 7th in the league - 167 of 203 - 82.27%

West Kelowna Warriors

Record - 28-12-3-3

Home Record - 14-8-1-0             Away Record - 14-4-2-3

Leaders - Goals - Jason Cotton (21)
             - Assists - Seb Lloyd (31)
             - Points - Jason Cotton (49)

Goaltending - Andy Desautels - 40 GP - 24-9-2-2, 2.35 GAA, .917 Sv%
                   - Cody Porter - 10 GP - 4-2-1-1, 3.99 GAA, .855 Sv%

Special Teams - Powerplay - 7th in the league - 39 for 206 - 18.93%
                       - Penalty Kill - 16th in the league - 140 of 183 - 76.50%

The standings are very close and with the Vipers having played more games tonight is crucial.  They need to get back to what made them successful on the road and that is a gritty and greasy road game.  All the action starts at 6:45 on 107.5 KissFM.

Vipers Shut Out Smokies 5-0.

On paper this matchup should`ve been a lock.  The Trail Smoke Eaters came in under manned with only 14 players.  There were three defensemen in their three forward lines and they were coming into a place that has only seen the Vipers miss out on points just 5 times.  For a part of this game however, it was close and far from a lock.  The Vipers did what they needed to do to get the win and seemed to get stronger as the game went on and the confidence built.  It wasn`t all happy times as Danny Todosychuk would leave the game early in the first with an apparent lower body injury, but Austin Smith came in and was stellar in relief.

The first period was back and forth as both teams traded chances.  There were plenty of shots in the opening few minutes with nothing doing on the scoreboard.  The game picked up in intensity as Brandon Volpe was knocked into Danny Todosychuk, ending the netminders night.  The big question was did Brandon Volpe do enough to try get out of the way after being directed in.  In the end it didn`t matter as Todosychuk would leave and Volpe would be challenged by Brendan Persley.  They would drop the gloves, but neither team really generated much momentum.  Austin Smith would come on and make 8 more saves in the period.  The Vipers clearly weren`t happy with their start and would look to play with more energy in the second.

The Vipers killed off an abbreviated powerplay which allowed them to try get more momentum.  The Vipers would start to put the pressure on by forechecking, bodychecking and getting point shots through.  That proved successful as Liam Coughlin would open the scoring a rebound off a point shot.  Three minutes later, the anemic Viper powerplay would get a chance to go to work and it was a stretch pass and a nice finish from Demico Hannoun that sparked the Vipers to a 2-0 lead.  While shorthanded again for a few minutes including a crucial 5 on 3, the Viper PK shined thwarting most opportunities and when Trail finally had a grade A chance, Smith was there with two phenomenal saves.  The second would end 2-0 and the Vipers could see the Smokies start to tire.

The speed, the physicality and the solid defense started to wear down the Smokies, who to their credit, never gave up.  The floodgates opened after Logan Mick scored his 6th of the season.  Less than two minutes later Dancs would get a lucky bounce off a Smokie defender and McNicholas iced it with a nice goal to end that game 5-0.

My 3 Key Thoughts

1) - Special Teams - Sure it wasn`t the prototypical powerplay goal, but the man advantage stretched out the Smokie D to their advantage and Hannoun had a slick finish to open up Nikkel and go five hole.  Obviously it had to feel good for the PP to contribute, while the PK was stellar again killing off all 7 powerplays stretching their success rate to 12 of 12 dating back to Saturday in Merritt.

2) - Running Goalies - On three different occasions a goaltender was run over.  Todosychuk the first time which led to his short night, Smith getting run shortly after that and Dustin Nikkel getting hit by Coughlin.  This starts raising the question, how do you protect the goalies, yet allow hard nose plays like driving to the net.  Its not an easy one to answer.  I thought Volpe could`ve done a better job of avoiding a collision despite being pushed into the goal.  I thought Coughlins play was hard nosed, but if you give him a penalty (which he got) then Volpes has to be an infraction too.  Its a fine line and unfortunately it cost the Vipers a goalie.  No word on the severity of the injury, if any, but protecting the goaltenders has to be an importance and its up to the on ice officials to police it.

3) - Hats Off To The Smoke - For a team that iced a lineup that had 6 players missing from it, this team played as hard as they could, as long as they could.  Eventually the numbers game caught up to them and the Vipers took the game over, but for the first twenty minutes, it was hard to say who the better team was and for at least 40 minutes, they made sure life was tough on the Vipers.  The injury bug has bitten this team severely and I respect the effort all the players made tonight.

The Vernon Vipers are back on the ice Saturday night in West Kelowna for a division battle.  You can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 from Royal LePage Place.