I was at tonight's Interior Conference Finals Game 5 as Vernon defeated Salmon Arm 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead in front of 2,315 fans at the Wesbild Centre.
Vernon: Kirby Halcrow
Salmon Arm: Kris Moore
1st Period: The Vipers would get two chances early after Malcolm Lyles with two hard shots from inside the Backs blueline just missed the goal in the opening minute. Vernon with a bit of pressure early was outshooting Salmon Arm 4-0 before the Silverbacks would get their first shot on goal four and a half minutes into the 1st period. The Vipers would then have some trouble getting out of their own end with several turnovers. Just two minutes later Vernon would get the games first powerplay but the Vipers would struggle as the Silverbacks penalty kill was good not giving up a single shot. The Backs got a little momentum after the penalty kill and would carry the play on the next few shifts but were being outshot 6-2 at this point. With a scramble in front of Kirby Halcrow, Devin Muller with a nice move in the slot got Kirby Halcrow to go down but Muller couldnt get his shot to get through the maze of players in front on the Silverbacks first scoring chance of the night. Vernon would then get its second powerplay of the night, Ryan Renz with a nice pass down low to Darren Nowick who beat Kris Moore at 12:06 giving the Vipers a 1-0 lead. Renz and Adam Thompson collected the assists. Vernon is 6-0 when scoring first in these playoffs, while Salmon Arm is 0-3 when giving up the first goal of the game in the playoffs. Just a few minutes later Malcolm Lyles with a great rush up ice went through three Silverback players before driving hard towards the goal, getting off a shot that was stopped by Kris Moore before picking up the rebound but was robbed by the goal stick of Moore who somehow got his stick down on the ice to make the save. The Vipers would then get their third man advantage of the night, but it wouldnt last long as Dylan Walchuk would head to the box as both teams played four on four. Salmon Arm looked real good four on four with some good pressure deep in the Vernon zone. The Silverbacks couldnt capitalize on the late shortened powerplay before Vernon would get a late powerplay in the final minute of play. Shorthanded Brett Knowles and captain, David Killip went in on a two on one, Knowles tried feeding Killip in front as the puck went through the crease before Brett Corkey would clear the puck and the crease without any damage. A fairly even played period with a few chances at either end. The Vipers were up 1-0 after 20 minutes of play. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 13-7.
2nd Period: The Vipers started the middle frame on the powerplay that was carried over from the opening period but it was Brett Knowles with a great chance shorthanded couldnt beat Halcrow as the Backs killed off the penalty before getting an early man advantage. Josh Manson in close was stopped by Kirby Halcrow who made a big right pad save as Vernon would kill off the minor. Just as the penalty expired Vernon would get their second powerplay of the period. Captain, David Robinson would feed Dylan Walchuk who beat Moore at 5:06 giving Vernon a 2-0 lead. Robinson and Steve Weinstein with the helpers. Colton Sparrow who returned to the Vipers lineup tonight went down in the Vipers zone and slowly went off to the bench but stayed in the game. Sparrow didnt see another shift for the remainder of the period and wouldnt return to the game to start the 3rd. Malcolm Lyles setup Marcus Basara with a nice pass as Basara tipped the puck in front just wide of the goal. David Robinson with a nice tip in front on another scoring chance just missed the far corner. Just before the midway mark Dylan Walchuk with a breakaway couldnt get off a shot as Kevin Mills with good speed hustled back lifting Walchuks stick at the last minute to breakup a scoring chance. Salmon Arm slowly started to take of the play in the second half and carried the better of the play for the remainder of the period. The Backs who played a very physical 2nd period had the Vipers back on their heels in their own end. Salmon Arm who moved the puck well created some chances. on a line change Devin Gannon went down and slowly headed to the Silverbacks bench but would stay in the game. Again the Vipers had troubles breaking out of their own end making several turnovers inside the blueline. Vernon's passing was off most of the game. John Knisley would head to the Vipers dressing room and not return for the remainder of the period but come out for the 3rd period and finished the game. Vernon would get a late powerplay, A Vernon player made a nice diving play to keep the puck in at the blueline, making a nice pass up to David Robinson who got inbehind the Salmon Arm defence, Robinson's shot beat Kris Moore but just rolled close or near the goal line before Josh Manson cleared the puck & crease setting up Mike Hammond with a long stretch pass, Hammond would hold and wait before setting up Morgan Zulinick who joined the rush for the shorthanded two on one, Zulinick roofed his shot high and over the glove of Halcrow at 19:20 cutting the Vipers lead to within a goal. Manson and Hammond with the assists. The Silverbacks were the better and hungrier team in the 2nd period carrying the better of the play. Vernon was up 2-1 after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Silverbacks 11-8.
3rd Period: Vernon would get an early powerplay just a minute into the final frame but the Vipers struggled as Salmon Arm killed off the penalty with a good penalty kill. Not much action to start the 3rd as both teams looked to be waiting for one another to make the first mistake. Just before the midway mark Marcus Basara and Dylan Walchuk on a parcial two on one, Basara waited before getting off a shot that gave Kris Moore a little trouble as Moore dropped the puck in the crease but was quick to drop and fall onto the rebound and wait for a whistle as the Vipers with the first good scoring chance of the period. On the next play The Backs on an odd man rush would get the puck in the slot but the shot was blocked before Devin Gannon collected the puck and setup Clinton Atkinson who beat Kirby Halcrow from the corner at 10:12 to tie the game. Gannon and Brett Knowles with the assists. A Vernon player (I think Darren Nowick) went into Halcrow and the goal at the sametime as the shot that I think gave Halcrow troubles in stopping the puck. The Backs smelled blood and slowly started to take it to the Vipers as Salmon Arm carried the better of the play for most of the remainder of the period. The Silverbacks moved the puck well, getting a few odd man rushes but couldnt get any real quailty shots or chances. Vernon on the other hand was having troubles breaking through the Silverbacks zone as Salmon Arm's defence played very good shutting down the Vipers speed and offence, giving Vernon no time and space. Kirby Halcrow made a huge save with about six minutes left off Mike Hammond in the crease keeping the game tied 2-2. Salmon Arm with all kinds of pressure was really starting to come on getting some chances. The Silverbacks would get a late powerplay, moving the puck well the Backs created some good chances but couldnt capitalize. Brett Knowles alone in the slot missed the net on a great opportunity. The Vipers held on and would kill off the minor. David Robinson would carry the play in one on two in the final fourty seconds, Robinson tried cutting hard towards the net getting off a shot that was stopped by Moore. The Silverbacks with lots of pressure and a few real good chances had the edge in play. It was tied 2-2 after 60 minutes of play. Salmon Arm outshot Vernon 9-6.
Overtime: The Silverbacks with a few chances in close early couldnt get the puck past Kirby Halcrow. Morgan Zulinick and Devon Gannon on a two on one in the first few minutes couldnt beat Halcrow on the Silverbacks best chance of the extra frame. Steve Weinstein then jumped to catch the puck to keep the play alive setup Aaron Hadley at the side of the net who hit the open cage at 5:43 giving Vernon the 3-2 overtime victory and a 3-2 series lead. Weinstein and Trevor Fitzgerald collected the helpers. Right away Salmon Arm was arguing the game winner as both referees and linesmen gathered just to the side of the Backs net. Tim Kehler was fumming from the Salmon Arm bench has he tossed a water bottle onto the ice yelling at the referees. The Vipers started heading towards the bench-dressing room before they called it a goal. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 5-2.
Top Players: (Vernon)
Malcolm Lyles was Vernon's best defenceman this evening. Lyles played one of his better games of the season. Looking good at both ends of the arena Lyles jumped up into the play, making for some exciting rushes as well as playing very well defensively. Lyles speed and physical play really stood out.
Dylan Walchuk (1 goal) I thought Dylan Walchuk played well up front for the Vipers. Seemed to really control the play in the offensive zone at times.
David Robinson (1 assist) The Vipers captain played another hard fought game up front. Robinson really worked hard down low and in and around the goal.
Mike Zalewski played his best game of the playoffs tonight. Seemed to really have his legs going tonight, had some good chances with the puck, & created some chances in the offensive zone. Im not sure if he took a puck-shot off the foot or was slashed but slowly got off the ice in the 2nd period but stayed on the bench before returning to the ice.
Darren Nowick (1 goal) What can you say about Darren Nowick, has really played very well in these playoffs for a younger player. Nowick was skating and battling hard all night, went into the corners-boards for pucks, just never seemed to give up tonight. Played very well.
Marcus Basara also looked very strong for the Vipers up front. Another player who has really come on in these playoffs. Basara had lots of jump, was skating hard and come up with or created some good chances.
Kyle Murphy worked very hard tonight, played very well at both ends of the rink, does alot of little things that make him a special player and adds alot to this Vernon team.
Kirby Halcrow (24 saves) Halcrow another player who has stepped up his game over the past few games. Halcrow gave his team a chance to win and made the saves when needed. Played very well between the pipes for the Vipers.
Top Players: (Salmon Arm)
Clinton Atkinson (1 goal) Played a very strong game for the Silverbacks. Took a few undisaplined penalties but otherwise was one of the better d-men.
Kevin Mills I thought also played very well on the Backs blueline. Showed good speed-hustle getting back into the play to breakup a Dylan Walchuk breakaway in the 2nd period.
Brett Knowles (1 assist) Was one of the Silverbacks better forwards. Knowles was skating hard, created some good chances as well as had a few good chances himself.
Paul De Jersey I thought played well and looked very good in the first two periods but didnt really notice him in the 3rd and overtime. Created a few chances in the offensive zone early to start the game.
Kris Moore (32 saves) Kris Moore who has looked average through out this series played his best game in the five games to date. Moore who was giving out alot of rebounds and didnt look very comfortable with the puck at times through out the first four games looked very confident tonight, didnt make alot of huge saves but made some big saves giving his team a chance to win.
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
The Vipers defeat the Silverbacks at home for the first time since a 3-2 win back on December, 11th 2009. Vernon with just a single win against Salmon Arm in eight regular season meetings have now won three straight vs the Silverbacks. Vernon is now 7-0 when scoring the first goal of the game in the playoffs. The Vipers with two big goals jumped out to a 2-0 lead and had atleast three chances to go ahead by three but couldnt capitalize before giving up a shorthanded marker in the final minute of play to end the second period. Vernon couldnt hold onto the lead and played most of the 2nd and 3rd periods in their own end got a huge goal from Aaron Hadley giving them a huge victory to give them a 3-2 series lead. The Vipers passing was off most of the night, Vernon had all kinds of trouble clearing or breaking out of their own end forcing lots of turnovers. The Vipers didnt get many bounces tonight. Give the Vipers credit they hung on and battled hard for a huge win.
Game Thoughts: (Salmon Arm)
Salmon Arm falls to 0-4 when giving up the first goal of the playoffs and drops its first game of the playoffs on the road (7-1 road record). The last two games the Silverbacks have really pressed and put all kinds of pressure on the Vipers but fell short in both games. Salmon Arm who dosnt look like the same team after wins in Game 1 & 2 drops its first game at the Wesbild Centre since 2009. I thought the Backs got off to a bit of a slow start but got better as the game went on, Salmon Arm played a very physical game, especially in the 2nd period. Give the Backs credit they didnt quit and battled back down 2-0. On both Salmon Arm goals, just before the Vipers with two great chances could have easily gone up by three goals or back up by two, back come the Silverbacks and score to get within a goal or tie the game. Salmon Arm was the better team in the 2nd and 3rd, had some good chances late in the game to win it. Im not sure why the Silverbacks were complaining about the overtime winner? I thought maybe a glove pass by Steve Weinstein? Listening to the radio broadcast on the way home Todd Miller and Don Klepp mentioned the one referee waived off the goal at first. Tough loss for Salmon Arm after fighting back to force overtime. Tonight was a very crucial and key game for both teams. A very entertaining game and should be one heck of a game 6 tomorrow night at the Sunwave Centre.
Max Mowat (Injured)
Phillip Patenaude (Injured)
Dan Muench (Injured)
1st Star: Aaron Hadley (Overtime Winner)
2nd Star: Kris Moore (32 saves)
3rd Star: Malcolm Lyles
For more on tonight's game check out the boxscore,