Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Vipers Look To Pin Down Playoff Spot:
Vipers look to pin down playoff spot
Feb 24, 2016
Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Vipers now have company holding down the fourth and final playoff spot in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division.
Matteo Esposito made 31 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season and Jordan Kawaguchi scored twice as the Chilliwack Chiefs smothered the Vipers 5-0 Saturday night before 3,552 fans at Prospera Centre.
The Merritt Centennials clipped the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-2 in overtime Saturday berfore 456 fans at the Nicola Valley Arena, moving into a share of fourth spot alongside Vernon, with 47 points.
The Trail Smoke Eaters remain in the mix with 46 points after a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday in front of 1,100 fans at the Shaw Centre
The Vipers hosted the overall last-place Surrey Eagles, while the Smokies entertained the Silverbacks Tuesday. A Viper win and a Smoke Eater loss would eliminate the Smokies, who finish the regular season Saturday night at home versus the Vipers.
Merritt has weekend home dates left with the first overall Penticton Vees and the fifth overall Wenatchee Wild.
Vernon hosts the Wild Friday night and will hand out their team trophies on the ice post-game. The Vipers will also deliver their third jerseys to fans who won online bidding.
Kawaguchi opened the scoring in Chilliwack with his 39th snipe of the season. Kohen Olischefski picked up the primary assist, following up his blocked shot behind the Viper net and finding Kawaguchi all alone in front. Kawaguchi’s shot went over the right shoulder of Viper goaltender Andrew Shortridge.
Just 60 seconds later, former Viper Linden Hora managed his eighth of the season when he cut in on the left wall and directed a high back hand shot towards the Viper net. Hora circled behind the net and watched as the referee signaled a goal with the puck stuck in the top of the netting.
The Mainland Division-leading Chiefs held a 19-9 shot advantage after 40 minutes.
The Vipers were a much better team in the second, outshooting the Chiefs 12-6 but unable to solve a spectacular Esposito.
“We had a bad start and when you have a fragile team like we are, it’s game over,” said Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner.
Kawaguchi struck again with 94 seconds left in the stranz, bagging his 40th. Third-period goals by Connor McCarthy (6th) and Dennis Cholowski (9th) closed the scoring.
The Chiefs outshot the Vipers 38-31 and went 0-for-4 on the powerplay. Vernon was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
VERNON (2): Home: Wenatchee; AWAY: Trail.
MERRITT (2): Home: Penticton, Wenatchee.
TRAIL (1): Home: Vernon.