Sunday, February 28, 2016
Vipers’ Season On Line In Trail:
Vipers’ season on line in Trail
by Roger Knox - Vernon Morning Star
Feb 27, 2016
Three teams, two games, one spot.
That’s what Saturday night in the B.C. Hockey League’s regular season boiled down to in the Interior Division for the Vernon Vipers, Trail Smoke Eaters and Merritt Centennials.
Each still alive for the final playoff spot with their final game to be played; the Vipers in Trail, where they were 1-2 against the Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena this season; and the Centennials hosting the Wenatchee Wild, the U.S. expansion team who finished second in the Mainland Division, and who went into Kal Tire Place Friday and handed the Vipers their worst home-ice loss of the season, putting up a snowman in an 8-1 victory.
Vernon could have clinched the last spot Friday.
“It was obviously disappointing,” said a dejected Vipers head coach Mark Ferner. “We knew the importance of the game and, for whatever reason, we just came out flat.
“I’m sure our guys are a little embarrassed and disappointed about tonight (vs Wild). Our fans deserved a better effort and we didn’t get it.”
If the Vipers won Saturday, they would get the final spot and a date with the league champion Penticton Vees in the opening round of the post-season starting Friday. Lose either in regulation or overtime, and the Vipers would be done.
“We need one win to get in the playoffs,” said Ferner. “I have enough confidence in this group that we’re going to go into Trail and put forward a real good effort.”
The Centennials kept their playoff hopes alive Friday, scoring five unanswered goals in an 11-minute stretch in the third period to stun the Vees 5-3 at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.
The Wild, who have already clinched second place in the Mainland Division and will play the Langley Rivermen in the first round, scored twice Friday in the first five minutes. They stretched the lead to 5-0 after one, chasing Vipers starter Andrew Shortridge who was replaced by Brendan Barry, and led 8-0 after two.
“We’re treating our last two games like they’re playoff games,” said Wild forward Kyle Stephan, a Barrie, Ont. native and one of four Canadians on the Wild roster.
“It’s playoff games for the teams we’re playing against so coming in with that same mindset is good and it paid off tonight, for sure.”
Colton McCarthy finally gave the fans something to cheer about at 9:56 of the opening period when the Vipers captain found himself alone in front of goalie Garrett Nieto, took a pass from defenceman Mac Ferner and made a nifty deke to beat Nieto.
Prior to that, the biggest cheer from the 2,578 fans at the final regular season home game came in the second intermission, when not one but two frisbees were flung into the supersave.ca target at centre ice, resulting in an $800 jackpot split.
Stephan and Dakota Raabe each scored twice for the Wild while singles went to Troy Conzo, Joseph Drabin, Blake Christensen and Charlie Combs.
August Von Ungern, born in Singapore and raised in Eagle, Idaho, a Boise suburb, had three assists.
“We were motivated tonight,” said Von Ungern. “All of the guys were focused on taking the body and making key plays and it paid off.”
Nieto replaced starting goalie Chase Perry, a Detroit Red Wings draft pick, for the third period.
The Wild outshot Vernon 44-28, 40 of those shots coming after 40 minutes. Wenatchee didn’t register its first shot of the third period until the 12-minute mark.
The Vipers played without forwards Charlie Michalowski (upper body injury) and Jagger Williamson (flu), and defenceman Latrell Charleson (hand injury).
Vernon handed out its player awards on the ice after the game (see related story page A18).
There’s one playoff spot to be determined in the Island Division.
The Victoria Grizzlies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs both have 50 points. Victoria lost 6-2 Friday at home to the Powell River Kings and finish the season today in Chilliwack. The Bulldogs had a doubleheader at home with Powell River Saturday and today.
The fourth-place finisher will play the Nanaimo Clippers in the first round while Powell River will face Cowichan Valley. In the Mainland division, Chilliwack will take on Coquitlam and in the Interior, West Kelowna faces Salmon Arm in round one matchups already determined. The Warriors whipped the Silverbacks 6-1 Friday night at Royal LePage Place.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s worst home-ice setback prior to Friday was a 6-0 loss to Penticton Jan. 1...The Vipers called up d-man Carter Stephenson from Vancouver Major Midget...Von Ungern played Pee Wee hockey with the Idaho Jr. Steelheads, the same team that lost the final of this year’s 45th annual Coca Cola Classic tournament to the host Vernon Watkin Motors Mustangs...Wild assistant coach Chris Clark was the starting goalie for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first-ever game at Kal Tire Place...A visiting couple from Surrey, outside of London, England, got engaged in Section F in the first intermission.