Friday, February 19, 2016
Morning Glory For Warriors:
Morning glory for Warriors
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Feb 19, 2016
They looked pretty in pink but the Vernon Vipers couldn’t sweeten their playoff chances in a special Wednesday morning tilt with the West Kelowna Warriors.
Jonathan Desbiens pocketed 1+2 as the Warriors held off the Vipers 6-4 in B.C. Hockey League action at Kal Tire Place. Vernon has lost four straight.
A crowd of 2,672, including 1,800 elementary school students waving pink thunder sticks and holding signs promoting anti-bullying, watched as the Warriors beat the Vipers for the second straight morning. West Kelowna won 4-1 with two empty netters 24 hours earlier at Royal LePage Place.
The same two teams meet tonight in West Kelowna. Vernon visits the Mainland Division-leading Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night.
Desbiens, a slick 19-year-old from Montreal, earned first star and moved into sole possession of fourth place in the league points derby, a dozen digits back of Penticton Vees’ superstar Tyson Jost.
Desbiens, in his second season with the Warriors, enjoyed the change in routine and got a charge out of playing in front of hundreds of young fans. He says the Warriors are already in playoff mode.
“Like (head coach Ferster) Rylan said, it’s like a mini playoff series right now, just getting ready for the playoffs, doing everything right, getting good details and no bad habits going for us.”
The Warriors, a much bigger and older team than the Vipers, stuck to a basic structure and kept the Vipers to the perimeter for most of the contest. West Kelowna is second in the Interior Division at 36-17-2-1. The second-highest offensive team in the BCHL won their 18th road game.
Vernon dipped to 22-28-3-0 and hold the fourth and final playoff spot, two points in front of the Merritt Centennials with one game hand in hand.
Viper head coach Mark Ferner says the true character of his club will be revealed in the final five games. He felt the Snakes failed to keep things simple Wednesday.
“We have guys, who, for whatever reason, can’t stick to a plan for 60 minutes,” said Ferner, a former NHL defenceman. “We ask them to play a certain way. I don’t know if they think that there’s a better way of playing, or an easier or fancier way, but their way isn’t working.”
Forward Ben Butcher opened the scoring for the second straight morning when he poked in a loose puck on the goal-line 9:19 after the national anthem sung nicely by BX Grade 7 student Julia Atkins. Roadrunner Liam Finlay, with Liam Blackburn on his tail during a breakaway sprint from centre, bobbled the puck on a deke, bringing goalie Keelan Williams with him to the side of the net.
Kylar Hope equalized five minutes later from the left porch on a gorgeous bang-bang play 32 seconds into Viper captain Colton McCarthy’s roughing minor. Desbiens and d-man Kristian Blumenschein drew sweet assists.
Blumenschein made it 2-1 Warriors midway through the second stanza on a floater from the point, 75 seconds into a power play with Bo Pellah off for hooking. Bryan Basilico and Desbiens garnered helpers.
Connor Sodergren, on a nifty 2-on-1 with Quin Foreman, and Garrett Forster, on a wrister which fooled Andrew Shortridge short side, supplied Warrior goals six minutes apart to finish the period. Forster picked off an errant back pass by the Vipers near the ringette line.
Viper 16-year-old rookie Brett Stapley brought the house down 2:11 into the third when he buried a rebound off a Steven Jandric shot in tight. Pellah earned the secondary assist as the Vipers amped their attack with a touch more urgency.
D-man Nicholas Rutigliano deflated the Vipers 10 minutes later with a shorthanded tally when he converted a rebound on Shortridge’s doorstep after Hope’s shot.
Odeen Tufto, with his team-leading 22nd snipe, and d-man Callum Volpe’s deflection goal, 58 seconds apart, pulled the Vipers within one. Volpe’s goal came with a sixth attacker.
The Vipers faced some intense checking in the West Kelowna zone during the next 20 seconds and Desbiens out-smarted two defenders and hit the empty net with 16 seconds to play. Desbiens leads the Warriors with a franchise-record 42 goals.
Tufto said he hadn’t played a meaningful morning game since his minor days in Minnesota, but he enjoyed the unique experience.
“Both games, we came out really well,” said Tufto. “Last game, they didn’t get anything going until the third period and today, we didn’t really give them anything at the start. Then we took some penalties and that got us in trouble and they got some motivation and energy from that.”
Tufto says the Vipers are using a calm approach to the stretch run.
“We’re still up by two points with a game in hand. Every game is the biggest game of the year and we play these guys again in two days so we have to prepare for them again. We’re not panicking but we gotta win some games here.”
Desbiens said the Warriors, a much heavier team than the league-leading Vees, are hoping for a long playoff run.
“We’re big, fast, strong, we’ve got everything,” said the former member of the USHL Lincoln Stars who has a scholarship with the Bentley Falcons near Boston.
“Our guys play their role. Our offensive guys do their job, defensive guys do their job and it’s pretty good team chemistry. This is the best team I’ve been a part of for a long time.”
Referee Mike Campbell worked the one-man system and gave Vernon’s Riley Brandt a blow-to-the-head minor and misconduct in the second period after a hit on Rutigliano.
The school children went extra bonkers when Butcher and Reed Gunville exchanged punches in the game’s only scrap deep in the Warrior zone, a draw, 2:39 into the third period.
West Kelowna outshot Vernon 43-36.
VERNON (5): Home: Surrey, Wenatchee; AWAY: West Kelowna, Chilliwack, Trail;
MERRITT (4): Home: Alberni Valley, Penticton, Wenatchee; AWAY: Alberni Valley, Trail;
TRAIL (4): Home: Merritt, Salmon Arm, Vernon; AWAY: Salmon Arm.