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.