I was at tonight's Interior Conference Semi-Finals as Westside defeated Vernon 4-2 in Game 3 in front of 1,216 fans at Royal Le-Page Place.
Vernon: Kirby Halcrow
Westside: Kevin Boyle
1st Period: Just eighteen seconds into the opening period Vernon would get the games first powerplay. But it would be Westside who would get the games first scoring chance as Warriors captain, Alex Grieve went in on an odd man rush, ripping a hard shot high that Kirby Halcrow just got a peice of as the puck went up into the netting behind Halcrow. The Vipers would struggle on the man advantage getting just two shots as the Warriors killed off the minor. Just seconds after the penalty kill Tyler Brickers harmless looking long shot from the side wall beat a stuned looking Halcrow at 2:42 giving Westside the early 1-0 lead. Tyler French with the lone helper. Westside is 5-0 in these playoffs when scoring the games first goal. Westside with another great chance on an odd man rush, Travis Blanleil, Kyle Singleton and Quinn Gould on a parcial three on one, Halcrow made the initial save kicking out a big rebound but Singleton couldnt connect on the rebound missing on a great opportunity. Both teams went back and forth with some fairly even play but it was the Warriors who had the better of the scoring chances. The Vipers would finally get their first chance of the night with a two on one but Vernon couldnt finish in and around the net before setting up Marcus Basara on the same shift down low, Basara come into the circle and beat Kevin Boyle but missed the open cage hitting the post. On the play Vernon would get its second powerplay of the night just before the midway mark going on a two man advantage with a great chance to tie the game. Westside was outshooting Vernon 6-2 at this point. The Vipers waisted alot of the two man advantage by passing the puck around and around, as Vernon was only able to get a single shot on the two man advantage as Westsides penalty kill was good killing off both minors. The Warriors would get their first powerplay of the night just past the midway mark but Westside would struggle as Vernons penalty kill looked good killing off the minor. Shortly after both teams couldnt get much of anything going as their wasnt alot of room out on the ice in a very tight checking game. Westside would get two good scoring chances late in the 1st, Shawn Hochhausen with a chance from in close was stopped by Halcrow, on the same play Brett McKinnon on the wrap around couldnt beat Kirby Halcrow who was snug against the post keeping the puck out. In the final minute of play Shawn Hochhausen leveled Kyle Murphy along the side wall with a huge shot to the head, as Murphy hit the ice hard as a minor scrum occured with some pushing and shoving. Hochhausen would get a five minute major and get tossed from the game while captain, David Robinson would get two minutes for roughing. Murphy looked a little slow to get up but would stay on the bench as trainers looked at the 20 yr old. Murphy seemed alright and would finish the game. Westside come ready to play and was the better of the two teams in the opening period, as the Vipers got off to a slow start and couldnt recover. Vernon shot themselves in the foot going 0-3 with the man advantage. The Warriors were up 1-0 after 20 minutes of play. Westside outshot Vernon 11-9.
2nd Period: Both teams started the middle frame four on four before Vernon would get the remainder of the five minute major penalty giving them their fourth powerplay of the evening. Just as the Vipers powerplay started, Kyle Singleton caught the Vipers defence napping sending captain, Alex Grieve in all alone who put a nice move on Kirby Halcrow and beat the former Quesnel Millionaire fivehole at 1:24 giving the Warriors a 2-0 lead. Singleton with the only assist. Vernon has now given up a opening period goal within the first few minutes of their last three straight periods. While the Warriors were celebrating the goal and skating towards the bench (I didnt see what exactlly happened) but one or two Viper players jumped a Westside player wich formed into a mini brawl as players from both teams exhcnaged punches getting tangled up with one another. With the Vipers still on the five minute major powerplay, Adam Thompson would cough up the puck allowing Kyle Singleton with a great chance in the slot to wire a hard shot shorthanded, that was stopped by Halcrow. Vernon would get another two man advantage but the Vipers would struggle as the Warriors penalty kill was solid. Just before both penalties expired Peter MacIntosh would get tossed from the contest for checking from behind, on the play Trevor Fitzgerald jumped MacIntosh, in the end Westside would come out of the deal with a powerplay. Vernons penalty kill was again very good, Kyle Singleton would get a chance from the top of the circle just as the minor expired but Singletons low shot just missed the far corner. Vernon would then get the puck in deep and with some strong forecheck down low, Aaron Hadley fed Colton Sparrow in front who beat Kevin Boyle at 8:19 making this a one goal game. Hadley and Adam Thompson with the assists. Just after the goal the Warriors would get just their third powerplay of the night but couldnt capitalize as Vernon would kill off the minor. Sparrows goal seemed to give the Vipers some life as Vernon would slowly take over the play and press the Warriors in their own end. The Vipers battled hard but couldnt really generate alot of good scoring chances but controlled the better of the play. Late in the period Colton Sparrow spotted a wide open Trevor Fitzgerald who skated down the right win and ripped a hard high shot over Boyle at 16:06 tying the game 2-2. Sparrow with the only helper on the goal. The Vipers hard work and domination paid off as Vernon battled back down two goals. Just after the goal the Warriors would get a late powerplay but again the Vipers would kill off the minor. A much better period by Vernon who basically controlled the better of the play outplaying the Warriors for most of the middle frame. Westside couldnt get the play out of their own end for most of the period but played very well on the penalty kill. It was tied 2-2 after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Warriors 20-4.
3rd Period: Westside would get an early powerplay but was unable to really get any quailty chances as the Vipers killed off yet another man advantage. For the second straight period Vernon outplayed Westside as the Vipers got the strong forecheck going and carried the better of the play deep in the Westside zone. The Warriors had all kinds of trouble with Vernons strong forecheck, as Westside was forced to ice the puck on several plays. Dylan Walchuk would get a great chance ripping a shot from the top of the slot but went high and over the net. The line of Colton Sparrow, Aaron Hadley and Trevor Fitzgerald was Vernon's best line, all three rookies battled and competed hard all game and come up with a great chance just before the midway mark. Hadley fed Fitzgerald who was able to walk in from the slot, put a move on Kevin Boyle but somehow Fitzgeralds shot went up and over Boyle and then over the top of the net. Steve Weinstein just about coughed up the puck, but made a nice recovery to regain the puck and control of the play. Vernon dominated the final period but didnt get alot of chances. Trevor Fitzgerald hit Tyler French in open ice, catching French with either his elbow or end of his stick as French dropped to the ice holding his throat. French was slow to get to the bench before going to the Warriors dressing room. French wouldnt return to the hockey game. Ryan Renz with a blast from the blueline found its way through traffic but Boyle with the quick glove save keeping this game tied. Just under three minutes remaining the Warriors would get a late powerplay and capitalize on a lucky bounce. Kyle Singletons shot hit someone in front, as Halcrow went right the puck bounced out front to the left of Halcrow allowing Quinn Gould to put the puck into the empty cage at 17:03 giving Westside a 3-2 lead. Singleton with the only helper on the goal. The Vipers come right back, getting the play in deep, trying to press for the game tying goal but Vernon couldnt get much of anything going as the Warriors did a great job at blocking the shooting lanes, not giving the Vipers an inch. Vernon would get Kirby Halcrow to the bench with just over 1:30 remaining but again the Vipers couldnt get the play in deep to get control before Alex Grieve would hit the empty net at 19:08 sealing the Warriors victory. Grieves goal was unassisted. The Vipers would leave Halcrow on the bench for the extra attacker before Westside would ice the play on atleast four straight attempts as Vernon couldnt get control of the play. Just before the buzzer Malcolm Lyles with a big check at the end boards, caused a bit of a stir as some pushing and shoving took place with no penalty on the play, the Vipers would fall to the Warriors 4-2 as Westside takes a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 tomorrow night. Vernon outplayed Westside most of the 3rd, getting some good chances but couldnt capitalzise. The Warriors with basically one chance and a lucky bounce get the game winner late in the 3rd. The Vipers outshot the Warriors 12-8.
Top Players: (Vernon)
Brett Corkey I thought played a pretty strong game on the Viper backend. Corkey kept things simple, jumped up into the play often getting involved in the offence a few times.
The line of Aaron Hadley (1 assist), Colton Sparrow (1 goal) and Trevor Fitzgerald was by far the Vipers best line tonight. These three rookies come to play tonight, battling and working hard all night. Really good good in the 3rd getting lots of playing time. Both Sparrow and Fitzgerald with two big goals tied the game. Todd Miller and Don Klepp were saying on the post game show on the radio that Sparrows goal was Fitzgeralds shot went in off a Warrior in front, so they may change it to Fitzgeralds goal.
Darren Nowick showed alot of hustle, played with alot of energy and jump in his game. Didnt get any scoring chances but competed and worked hard all night.
Top Players: (Westside)
Tom Kroshus played very well on the Westside blueline. Very steady all night.
Quinn Gould (1 goal) Played well up front for the Warriors. A big body that is hard to knock off the puck.
Tyler Brickler (1 goal) Ive been pretty impressed with Brickler in this series, thought he played well in atleast one of the games back in Vernon. Had a few chances tonight.
Kyle Singleton (2 assists) Had some good chances, missed the net on a few chances but his shots were not off margin by far. Seemed to be in and around the net at the right time.
Alex Grieve (2 goals) The Warriors captain has also played very well in this series and shows why he leads the team in scoring. Another big kid that is hard to knock off the puck, very dangerous with the puck. The Vipers have given Grieve too much room and need to have someone on the veteran player at all times.
Kevin Boyle (39 saves) Didnt have alot of action or real huge saves to make but made the saves when needed. The Warriors defence blocked alot of shots and cleared the front of the net giving Boyle room to see any Vernon shots coming in.
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
For the second straight game the Vipers were unable to put together a full 60 minutes. Give the Vipers credit for not quiting and battling back and making a game of it in the end. Vernon who in games 1 & 2 got off to good starts, got off to a slow start tonight and couldnt recover until the 2nd. A poor early powerplay and then giving up the lead just 2:42 into the game puts them behind the eight ball early. I dont think Vernon played that well in the opening period but come to play and battled hard outplaying Westside in the final two periods. A late powerplay and a lucky goal sends the Vipers home with a tough loss. Here's a game where if the Vipers get a lucky bounce or capitalize on some of their chances-powerplays its a 2-1 series lead for Vernon. The Vipers shot themselves in the foot blowing a ton of chances with the man advantage. Vernon needs to start tomorrows game they way they finished tonights game. The Vipers have to try and shutdown Westside's big guns, I also think the Vipers need to get more traffic in front of Kevin Boyle who has seen most of his shots. Nice to see some of the younger kids-rookies jump in on the scoring, now its time for some of the veteran scorers to start getting involved in the scoring.
Game Thoughts: (Westside)
The Warriors got off to a quick start and looked very good in the opening period up 1-0. Westside is now 6-0 in these playoffs when scoring first. Some undisaplined play had the Warriors in the penalty box on several occasions, thankfully Vernon's powerplay wasnt any good and they excaped. Westside had all kinds of trouble with Vernon's forecheck and couldnt get much of anything going in the 2nd and 3rd periods. I was impressed with the Warriors penalty kill and defensive play. The Warriors blocked alot of Vernon's shots. Both teams with some chippy plays really got the blood going, as tempers heated up in the 2nd and 3rd period. Both teams took some liberties at one another. Westside capitalized on their chances and took advantage of the specialty teams (scoring the game winner on the powerplay and also scoring once shorthanded) Westside has to find a way to try and slow down or stop the Vipers speed and forecheck down low. Tonight was the biggest crowd I have ever seen at a Vipers-Warriors game in Royal Le-Page Place, usally a very quiet building with not alot of people in it. Tonight the rink was a rocking, making alot of noise, the loudest I have heard it.
Dane Muench (Injured)
For more on tonight's game check out the boxscore,