I was at tonight's Vipers-Centennials game as Merritt defeated Vernon 5-4 in front of 1,660 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Ty Taylor
Merritt: Jacob Berger
1st Period: The Centennials come close to opening the scoring about two and a half minutes into the contest after beating Ty Taylor rang a shot off the post. Some good back and fourth play from both teams early as the play was fairly evenly matched. The Vipers would open the scoring after Brett Stapley's shot was stopped in close before Steven Jandric banged home the rebound giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 5:06 Stapley with the lone helper. Merritt responded with a good push back, had the Vipers on their heels, had some good sustained pressure, had a few flurries in and around the net, couldn't solve Ty Taylor. Just before the midway mark Niko Karamanis and Steven Jandric both with good quality chances from the slot couldn't beat Jacob Berger. A few shifts later Austin Adamson would step over the blueline before ripping a wicked shot bard down, beating Jacob Berger giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 9:02 Sol Seibel & Steven Jandric collected the assists. The Centennials responded with another strong push back, Merritt with a good strong forecheck, had some good sustained pressure in on the attack, had a few good looks from in close, couldn't beat Ty Taylor down low. A few shifts later Zachary Zorn setup Chase Bell on a nice two way passing play in front, got the Centennials on the board at 13:43 Zorn with lone helper. A few minutes later Sol Seibel took a stick to the face, went down before getting up, made his way straight to the Viper dressing room, for some attention. With no call on the play, Seibel would get checked out and stay in the hockey game. On the following play, the Cents would get the games first powerplay. Merritt unable to capitalize on the man advantage, would head back to the powerplay inside the final minute. Michael Ufberg was called for tripping after taking down Rylan Van Unen on a parcial breakaway in the final ten seconds. The Centennials would run out of time before the final buzzer. It was 2-1 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. Both teams played/battled hard in a fairly even matched opening period. The Vipers opened the scoring, would grab a two goal lead had their legs going in the 1st. The Cents fell behind two goals before getting on the scoreboard but had some good sustained pressure-opportunities at times through out the period. Merritt outshot Vernon 13-12.
2nd Period: Merritt started the middle frame with the man advantage that was carried over from the 1st period. The Centennials couldn't capitalize on the PP for a second time tonight. Shortly after the penalty expired, Steven Jandric with a burst of speed, cut hard to the front of the net before trying to go around Cents starting goaltender Jacob Berger somehow missed the net from in tight, on a great chance in close. Back come Merritt a few plays later before Aaron Murray setup Henry Cleghorn going to the net, was denied by Vipers starting goaltender Ty Taylor. Vernon would then get some good pressure in on the attack but had troubles getting pucks to the net, after the Centennials defence was solid in and around the net. Merritt's defence was doing a great job at keeping the Vipers to the outside, blocking shots-getting sticks in the way. Vernon with just three shots in the first half of the 2nd period. Just before the midway mark Henry Cleghorn's shot from the blueline hit a body in front, changed direction forcing Ty Taylor to make a quick reaction save, keeping this a one goal game. Taylor looked to be in some discomfort after the save, was talking things over with the referee and two Viper defence, while stretching out his left leg. Taylor seemed to be ok and stayed in the game. On the following shift the Vipers would get their first powerplay of the evening. Vernon moved the puck around, before setting up former Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenceman Cameron Trott wired a lazer of the shot from the circle forcing Jacob Berger into making a quick glove save, flashing the leather. On the following play, Trott setup Jagger Williamson before setting up Hunter Zandee who beat Jacob Berger giving Vernon a 3-1 lead at 10:45 Trott and Williamson picked up the assists. But just over a minute later the Cents responded. Vernon product and Centennials captain Brett Jewell's shot went straight up in the air, going in behind Ty Taylor and into the back of the net, as several players crashed the crease as Merrit cut the Viper lead to 3-2 at 13:52 Nick Fidanza & Tyrell Buckley with the assists. I first thought a Merritt player, put in the rebound but they rewarded the goal to Jewell. A few minutes later Vernon would get their second look with the PP was unable to capitalize with the man advantage. It was 3-2 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers would get their second two goal lead of the night, before Merritt stormed back just over a minutes later to get within one. Vernon had some good pressure at times but couldn't muster much for offence, had troubles getting pucks to the net. The Centennials with a strong defensive period, played very well in their own end and in front of Jacob Berger. I thought Merritt had a bit more jump, worked/battled hard, had a slight edge were the better of the two teams. Merritt outshot Vernon 13-8.
3rd Period: Just twenty seven seconds into the final frame the Vipers get called for too many men giving Merritt an early powerplay. On the man advantage, Zach Risteau wired a shot from the circle beat Ty Taylor but went off the crossbar as the Cents come close to tying the game. The Centennials with good pressure, couldn't get the tying goal as the Vipers killed off the minor. Just seconds before the penalty expired, Vernon had a chance to clear the zone, couldn't, as the puck stayed in the attacking zone, the Cents worked the puck around before Zach Risteau wired home a blast from the slot tied the game 3-3 at 2:37 Stephan Seegar with the lone assist. Give credit to Merritt on a hard working shift, to keep the puck-play alive, worked hard to earn the game tying goal. Just thirty one seconds later Hunter Zandee stepped over the blueline before wiring a shot that beat Jacob Berger for his second of the night, giving Vernon a 4-3 lead at 3:08 Niko Karamanis with the lone assist. This goal got some life back into Kal Tire Place and seemed to wake up the Vipers who responded with several hard working shifts following the go ahead go. Following Zandee's goal Steven Jandric, Jimmy Lambert & Brett Stapley all with quality opportunities in front, couldn't solve Jacob Berger as the Vipers were pouring on the attack. Vernon with a ton of jump/energy were coming in waves, had a flurry of chances in and around the net, couldn't grab a third two goal lead on several great opportunities. Merritt would excape after the Vipers took a penalty in their own end, giving the Centennials a powerplay. On the man advantage, Zach Metsa wired home a low shot along the ice with traffic in front, beat Ty Taylor who was slow to react to the shot, tying the game 4-4 at 7:00 Taylor looked to be screened on the play. Stephan Seeger with the assist. Over the following six to seven minutes both teams exchanged penalties within seconds of one another, meaning some four on four hockey. It was the Centennials who had the jump/energy in the 3rd looked to have Vernon back on their heels at times. Merritt with some good looks, had some good opportunities in and around the goal. Ty Taylor had to be alert, was forced into making some key saves in the final frame. The Vipers looked to have some troubles defensively and in their own end, had troubles fending off the Cents with the game tied. With just over five minutes remaining Chase Bell off the faceoff beat Ty Taylor giving Merritt their first lead of the night, 5-4 at 14:47 Bell's goal was unassisted as the Cents battled back twice down two goals, scored three in the 3rd to take the lead. You could hear the F bomb coming from the Viper bench from a few players, as the Vipers bench wasn't happy. The Vipers tried rallying just couldn't seem to muster any real decent threats down the stretch drive. The Centennials strong on the forecheck, were keeping the Viper offence to the outside, were doing a great job at limiting Vernon's time and space. Mark Ferner would call a timeout with 1:43 remaining, get Ty Taylor to the bench for the extra attacker. With some late pressure, the Centennials held Vernon to the outside, closing the shooting lanes as the Vipers unable to get any real quality shots off. Forced to move the puck around, before getting two good looks from the slot inside the final minute, couldn't hit the target missed the net on both chances. Merritt's defence was stong inside the final minute before Joe Martin called a late timeout with sixteen seconds remaining. Merritt would hang on for the 5-4 victory as the Centennials bench poured onto the ice to celebrate with Jacob Berger. The Centennials tied the game early, never quit battling, scored three times in the final frame for their first lead of the night, played very well defensively, worked/battled hard. The Cents never quit, always seemed to fight back after giving up a goal. The Vipers blew two leads in the 3rd had some troubles in their own end and defending. Vernon didn't generate/create enough good chances to have an opportunity to tie the game, didn't seem to play with enough intensity/jump in the final period. A very disappointing 3rd period. The Centennials were the better team in the 3rd played hard, earned their goals and the win. Vernon outshot Merritt 13-10.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Ufberg I thought was the Vipers best d-man this evening. Other then one turnover, Ufberg carried the puck a ton, was very strong at both ends of the rink, made some very slick plays at both ends of the rink. A very smooth skating defenceman, really sees-reads the ice well. Played a smart game on the backend.
Hunter Zandee (2 goals) Come to play, was flying all night, played with a ton of jump/energy, was really hustling with and without the puck. Was hard to play against, hard to defend against and was in on the puck on almost every play, scored twice, had some good looks-chances for a third.
Steven Jandric (1 goal & 1 assist) Was another forward who I thought come to play, played hard, was going to the net, worked/battled hard, was skating strong, hard to defend against had a strong game.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
For a third straight game the Vipers don't play a full sixty minutes or close to it and it costs them two points. After not showing up in the 1st periods of Friday & Saturday's home games vs Salmon Arm and Merritt, I thought the Vipers come ready to play this evening but not for the entire night. I liked Vernon's opening frame, opened the scoring, before jumping out to a two goal lead, were skating, played with a lot of jump/energy, played well through out the 1st. It was in the 2nd and 3rd periods where I didn't think the Vipers played a full twenty in either of the final two periods. Vernon blows a 2-0 and 3-1 lead then blows two 3rd period leads wich is very uncharacteristic from this hockey team. The Vipers had troubles putting this game away, allowed Merritt to hang around. Leading after the 2nd/or 3rd periods the Vipers have proven-shown they are pretty good with the lead after 2nd-3rd periods. I thought the Vernon defence didn't play well enough in front of Ty Taylor. I thought the Vipers were a little too loose in their own end, had troubles clearing the zone, wich cost them once in the 3rd. I also thought the Vipers didn't have that same drive-same jump/energy they played with in the opening frame. Vernon had some good-hard working shifts in the 2nd and 3rd periods in spurts but were outworked-outskated the other times and it cost them. I don't think the Vipers created/generated enough opportunities, made life fairly easy for Centennials goaltender Jacob Berger who wasn't tested often. Vernon didn't have the same hard work-compete level Merritt showed/played with. You think the Vipers would have remembered Saturday's 2-1 double overtime loss to these same Merritt Centennials? Vipers with two tough games this weekend vs West Kelowna & Powell River. Tonight's loss is the Vipers first regulation loss in their last twelve games and the first regulation loss at Kal Tire Place in their last nine home games. The Vipers are now winless in their last three games. This has been a very weird-strange schedule this season for the Vipers. Vernon started the 2016-17 regular season playing most of their games away from home, will now finish the regular season, with just four road games, will play every Friday-Saturday night at home in January/February minus two Fridays. The past five Vipers home games, the fans have seen two teams (Salmon Arm three times and Merritt twice). Former Viper captain David Robinson was in attendance tonight.
Top Player's: (Merritt)
Zach Risteau (1 goal) Played very well Saturday in Vernon, had another strong night this evening. Scored the game tying goal early into the 3rd reads-sees the ice well, hit the crossbar on the powerplay, was really skating hard, gave the Viper defenders trouble most of the night.
Mike Faulkner I thought was very steady on the blueline, played very well through out the game.
Tyrell Buckley (1 assist) Played well in the overtime victory in Vernon over the weekend, had another solid performance tonight. Plays physical, hard to beat one on one, jumps up into the play at times, played very well at both ends of the rink.
Chase Bell (2 goals) Got the Centennials on the scoreboard in the 1st, scored the game winner with just over five minutes remaining in the 3rd.
Stephan Seeger (2 assists) Played a hard fought game, was always involved in the play, was going to the net, made some nice plays to create/generate some offence.
Henry Cleghorn is another Merritt forward who I thought played well, had some good chances tonight, made things happen.
Game Thought's: (Merritt)
The Centennials come into Vernon and take both games (Saturday & tonight). The Centennials have won four of the six meetings vs Vernon (exhibition & regular season). The Cents have just one regulation loss against the Vipers this season (exhibition & regular season) improve to 5-1-0-1 vs the Vipers (exhibition & regular season). Unlike Saturday's overtime win where I thought Merritt played very well in the opening period, were outplayed in the 2nd and 3rd periods, got some strong goaltending, managed to hang in and pull out the overtime victory, played a much more consistent and sixty minutes in tonight's win. The Centennials who have a much better team then their record shows, come to play tonight and played very well, earning the two points. The Cents worked hard, competed, never quit, battled all night, were very good in their own end. I thought the Centennials defence was very good, did a great job at closing the shooting lanes, limiting the Vipers time & space, kept Vernon to the outside and limited their opportunities through out the night. Merritt played very well in front of goaltender Jacob Berger, limiting the second opportunities. Merritt was down two goals twice, never gave up, seemed to respond well after giving up a goal. The Centennials played with a ton of jump/energy, showed lots of intensity through out the night. With the win Merritt is now tied in points with Trail and now one point behind West Kelowna. These two teams will meet for a final time this season, February 7th in Merritt.
Riley Brandt (Injured)
Luke Gingras (Injured)
Michael Van Unen
Energy Player of the Game:
Brett Stapley (1 assist)
1st Star: Chase Bell (2 goals)
2nd Star: Hunter Zandee (2 goals)
3rd Star: Stephan Seeger (2 assists)