Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Vipers Prepared For No. 1 Vees:
Vipers prepared for No. 1 Vees
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Nov 25, 2015
Nearing the midway point of the season, the Vernon Vipers are a good B.C. Hockey League team learning to trust in one another and execute head coach Mark Ferner’s way of doing things.
Their next step in trying to become a great team comes tonight in Penticton when they face the nation’s No. 1 ranked Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Penticton is 24-2 and undefeated at home. The Vees crushed the Coquitlam Express 8-2 Saturday night after having their winning streak halted at 23 games the night before by the Langley Rivermen.
The Vipers are much bigger, older and tougher than they were a few weeks ago. That extra sandpaper showed in Sunday’s 5-0 matinee masterpiece over the road-weary Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
“It was a good comeback from our game in West Kelowna which we weren’t ready for and fell hard (4-1 loss which could have been double digits if not for goalie Andrew Shortridge),” said Viper forward Christian Cakebread. “We stuck to our systems today and trusted in each other.”
Cakebread, an Arizona product who has three goals and 11 points in nine games since leaving the USHL, says the Vipers are no longer playing scared and own a slight swagger since the recent additions of big-bodied Latrell Charleson and Ben Butcher.
Charleson, a 6-foot-4 220-pound giant, basically swatted a few Bulldogs to the ice like they were fruit flies on at least three occasions. He held back in a brief scuffle with Marshall Skapski early in the third period, both players earning roughing minors.
Cakebread, a 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, credited his billet brother Shortridge for keeping the Vipers rolling Sunday. Shortridge was named first star, but has had busier games. He was at his best in the final few minutes as the Dawgs pulled goalie Brody Claeys for a sixth attacker.
“It was a hard, physical game,” said Shortbridge, an Alaskan product sporting a 2.51 GAA and .928 save percentage. “Everyone was doing the little things all over the ice that we needed to do to win and we’re all buying into it.
“There seems to be a little more experience out here and there’s not as much panic. Everyone just trusts each other and knows what to do with the puck and will make the easy plays now.”
Shortridge expects bigger things over the final 31 regular-season games.
“We have a great group of guys and everyone’s working hard day in and out to get better. Hopefully we can use this as a stepping stone and just go straight up from here.”
Captain Colton McCarthy supplied his 13th and 14th goals of the season as the Vipers improved to 13-13-0-1. The Bulldogs, finishing a three-day road trip, dipped to 10-13-1-1. Alberni Valley doubled the West Kelowna Warriors 10-5 Saturday night after falling 10-1 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 24 hours earlier.
“They looked a little tired out there,” said Viper newbie Charley Michalowski, wearing No. 9 in his debut. “They were making some quick changes and stuff. We probably didn’t get their best tonight.”
Michalowski, a 19-year-old Boston product and big fan of Bruin centre Patrice Bergeron, posted two goals in eight games with the USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and was seeking a change of scenery. He has a scholarship to New Hampshire’s Dartmouth Big Green of the NCAA next year. His family advisor recommended the Vipers.
“It’s a way different league, a lot more open ice, people try to make plays all over the place and not just chip and chase. It’s a little less physical so it’s a little bit more fun to play in.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Michalowski, also a Red Sox fan who played catcher in his early teens, played some prep school hockey against Viper Joe Sacco. Michalowski rang up 41 points in 31 games with Belmont Hill High last year.
Liam Finlay, off the rush with linemates Jagger Williamson and Christian Cakebread drawing assists, put Vernon in front at 9:26 of the opening period.
McCarthy went to the net and finished a nice passing play with Hunter Zandee and Riley Brandt just 26 seconds into the second period. Vernon added three goals in the final 20 minutes.
Zandee banged in his own rebound, Cakebread converted from gimme range on a power play and McCarthy hit the open net, with 39 seconds remaining. Zandee, who was a physical force all afternoon, finished with 1+2 and should have been first star. He has three goals on the year,
The Vipers outshot the Dawgs 34-26 with Alberni Valley registering a handful of dangerous attempts with six attackers.
Bulldog captain Eric Margo, a four-year veteran out of North Vancouver, could not explain his speedy, skate-till-ya-drop team’s wacky weekend.
“We had ups and downs for sure all weekend and today we just really couldn’t do the little things to put it together for a win,” he smiled. “Vernon’s a pretty skilled team and they played physical against us today and it’s hard to compete against that. They did what they needed to get the win.”
Viper forward Brett Stapley accepted a challenge from fellow 16-year-old rookie Cayden Kraus of Whistler 6:57 into the third period. Stapley won a unanimous decision and is now 2-0.
Penticton will look to beat Vernon for the second time this season. They are led by projected 2016 first-round NHL draft pick Tyson Jost, who pocketed 1+4 versus Coquitlam and leads the BCHL scoring parade with 54 points, one more digit than Nanaimo’s Sheldon Rempal.
Scott Conway of the Vees is riding a 23-game point streak.