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!