Sunday, October 30, 2016
Vees Hold Off Vipers:
Vees hold off Vipers
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Oct 30, 2016
New rules brought in by the B.C. Hockey League Friday see every team in the Interior Division make the playoffs unless they suddenly forget how to skate and shoot.
And with the Penticton Vees hosting the 2017 Western Canada Cup, the regular season now appears pretty mundane and irrelevant to the average fan.
The Vees and Vernon Vipers feel otherwise and have for a zillion years, as evidenced in the Vees’ 4-2 win over the Snakes before 1,687 fans Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
It was another fierce battle with the Vipers, while wearing their Buffalo Sabre third jerseys, trying to punish the Vees at every turn in the opening 20 minutes before settling down in a crazy middle frame.
Taylor Ward and Grant Cruikshank each scored twice as the defending Interior Conference champion Vees improved to 15-2
Ward, the son of former NHLer Dixon Ward, of Kelowna, says the Vees aren’t treating the regular season as a family vacation.
“Every game, we try to win and if you win more than you lose at the end of the season, you look good going into the playoffs,” said Ward, 18. “We’re just taking it one game at a time, one period at a time and hopefully by the end of the year, we’re up there in the rankings.”
Penticton, who went 1-for-5 on the powerplay, led 2-0 after 20 minutes and 3-0 eight minutes into the second period. Vernon was 1-for-1 with the man advantage.
Defenceman Carter Stephenson and Jimmy Lambert counted Viper snipes 10 seconds apart late in the second period to make things interesting and send the crowd into bonkerville.
Cruikshank wired a wrister from near the penalty box into an empty net for his 12th of the season with 55 seconds left in the third.
Ward fooled Viper goalie Ty Taylor with a change-up from the right side just 72 seconds after the national anthem. Ward then converted on a heavy blast from the the ringette line on a power play with 28 seconds left in the first. Ty Barnstable and Nick Jones drew assists.
“First one, I kind of just got a break and I was looking low blocker,” said Ward, who has five goals on the year. “I kind of whiffed on it and it slipped in but sometimes that happens. Some games, you think you should get one but you get unlucky and then some games, it shouldn’t go in and it does. It’s just weird that way.”
Penticton goalie Mathew Robson flashed a stellar glove on four or five Grade A scoring chances and finished with 29 saves. He is 12-2. Taylor (5-3) blocked 27 shots for Vernon.
“It was a tough game,” said Viper winger Hunter Zandee. “We eliminate that first period and we’re gonna win that hockey game. We just got into some penalty troubles and obviously it’s a big rivalry and we just let that get into our head. Five on five, I think we’re the better team. If we stay out of the box, it’s gonna be a different game.”
The Vipers, who welcomed back big d-men Cooper Watson and Connor Clouston from injured reserve, dipped to 8-7-2, good for third place in the Interior.
“I thought we lost our composure a little bit early on with penalties, but our team was just amped up for this game,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “This is a team we want to play and beat and we were ready for them. We were able to get our composure back and get a couple of goals and this building came alive...Give them credit; they’re a good hockey team and they took advantage of their scoring chances.”
The Vipers entertain the Merritt Centennials (8-7-2-1) tonight and start a three-game road trek Friday night in Chilliwack versus the Chiefs. Penticton visits the Wenatchee Wild tonight.