I was at tonight's Vipers-Warriors game as Vernon defeated West Kelowna 2-1 in front of 1,313 fans at Royal Le Page Place.
Vernon: Darion Hanson
West Kelowna: Cole Demers
1st Period: A minute into the game Quin Foreman down the left wing, one on one beat his defender before going hard to the goal couldn't beat Darion Hanson who hugged the post, made the stop in close on a quality chance inside the opening minute of play. Both teams were ready to battle as the play was very evenly matched. Both teams went back and fourth with very few whistles but no real quality chances at either ends of the rink. Just past the midway mark the Vipers would get the games first powerplay. Niko Karamanis sucked Cole Demers into coming way out of the blue paint, couldn't score on the wrap around as a West Kelowna defender tied up Karamanis in behind the goal. The Warriors with a good penalty kill, only surrendered two shots on the PK. Just as the minor expired Ryan Brushett ripped a quick shot from the circle that beat Cole Demers but not the crossbar as Vernon come within inches of opening the scoring. On the same play the Warriors fed Parm Dhaliwal who had just come out of the penalty box, was sprung for the breakaway but denied by Darion Hanson. The Tribe would get a late powerplay, unable to capitalize with the extra attacker. Inside the final minute Connor Sodergren with a great chance at the side of the net couldn't capitalize in close on a missed opportunity. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. A very entertaining 1st with lots of back and fourth play but not a lot of grade a chances for either team. Both teams were very evenly matched played hard. West Kelowna outshot Vernon 10-8.
2nd Period: Off the opening faceoff, Steven Jandric with a great opportunity in front, couldn't bury his chance in close, before a goal mouth scramble in front. Cole Demers had to be sharp was forced to make several key saves in close inside the opening minute. The Vipers were up 4-0 in shots in the opening minute. Just 1:13 into the middle frame the Vipers would get an early powerplay. Jimmy Lambert setup Brett Stapley in the slot who ripped his shot past former Vernon Vipers goaltender Cole Demers giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 1:50 Lambert with the lone helper. The Warriors would eventually get going and took over the edge in play. West Kelowna with a strong forecheck had a slight edge in play, had some good pressure but had troubles getting pucks to the net. Just four minutes in captain Nicholas Rutigliano took a puck to the head after a quick shot went up and into the WK bench. Rutigliano went down was a little slow getting up, shook it off and come out for the following faceoff. On the same play Cooper Watson's shot from the blueline, got through traffic, found its way to the goal but went off the post as Vernon come close to grabbing a two goal lead. Just before the midway mark the Vipers would get called for too many men on the ice. Mark Ferner wasn't too thrilled with the call, was really giving it to the referee. The Tribe had a better edge in play early in the period but were being outshot 9-4 at the halfway mark. Shorthanded Niko Karamanis setup Jimmy Lambert on the odd man rush but was denied by Cole Demers who made the big pad save. The Warriors come back, come very close to tying the game after a goal mouth scramble, the puck somehow found its way through the pads of Vipers starting goaltender Darion Hanson rolled through the crease and out the other side, as Vernon got lucky. Shane Kelly got a little too excited in behind the goal, would take a minor giving the defending RBC Cup Champions a short five on three. The Warriors with a ton of pressure couldn't get the puck through after the Viper PK come up with two big blocked shots. Darion Hanson had to be alert, was forced into making several big stops as West Kelowna fired seven shots at Hanson but a strong penalty kill and the Vipers would kill off both penalties. Vernon would get a powerplay late in the frame. Michael Ufberg spotted Jimmy Lambert in the high slot that ripped a quick shot that was redirected on its way to the goal by Brett Stapley, giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 16:09 Lambert & Ufberg with the assists. Inside the final minute a poor pass back to the blueline (didn't see who made the pass) was picked off by Quin Foreman who went in for the breakaway with Steven Jandric chasing hard behind. Foreman went high glove, beating Darion Hanson cutting the Vernon lead to 2-1 at 19:23 Foreman's goal was unassisted. Jandric and another West Kelowna player both went hard into the end boards, after the goal as several players jumped in with tempers heating up in a hurry with a minor scrum just to the right of the Viper goal. Lots of pushing and shoving as a few punches were thrown. It was 2-1 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers with a great start to the period, had several good chances in close off the opening faceoff, before opening the scoring early with the man advantage. It seemed that West Kelowna would take over a slight edge in play shortly after the Vernon goal, would get some good sustained pressure but had troubles getting pucks to the net. Another entertaining period as both teams had their fare share of opportunities and zone time in another fairly evenly matched period. The Vipers with a big penalty kill, killing off a two man advantage got some solid goaltending from Darion Hanson. The Warriors with a huge goal late in the frame, to get within a goal heading into the 3rd. Vernon outshot West Kelowna 17-13.
3rd Period: Off the opening faceoff former West Kelowna Warrior Hunter Zandee was denied by the quick glove save off former team mate Cole Demers who flashed the leather. On the following play-rush Quin Forman setup Logan Mostat in front who couldn't connect on the pass on a WK odd man rush. A few minutes later Foreman spotted former Vipers forward Chase Stevenson in front who was stopped by Darion Hanson. Shortly after Jimmy Lambert and Brett Stapley lead the attack on a two on one, Lambert kept and fired couldn't solve Cole Demers. The Warriors would jump on a lengthy five on three early. The Tribe with a ton of pressure, were firing from anywhere and everywhere, had some good looks, missed the net on a few quality chances in close. Darion Hanson was forced into making several big stops while the Vipers got some big shot blocking from the PK unit. Connor Clouston blocked a shot that went off the ankle, was in major discomfort stayed on the ice, battled hard to get the puck into the corner, before making his way to the Viper bench. Vernon with a huge penalty kill, would kill off both minor penalties, were just holding onto a one goal lead. This PK seemed to give the Vipers a big boost, as Vernon responded with several push back shifts. The Vipers with good sustained pressure, had several good chances down low-in close couldn't beat Cole Demers who was solid in the 3rd. Demers down and out, somehow managed to use his strength to keep the puck from crossing the line on a huge goal mouth scramble at the side of the net. With just over four minutes remaining Hunter Zandee with a big hit on Braiden Epp in the corner, Epp went hard into the boards, going down in a heap with a penalty coming on the following whistle, Jonas Gordon comes flying in levelling Zandee to the ice, taking a penalty himself, this taking away the powerplay, that was going to the Warriors. With 2:16 remaining Mark Ferner would call a timeout, as Cole Demers went to the bench for the extra attacker. West Kelowna won the draw and with a ton of pressure, forced Vernon back on their heels as the Tribe were firing everything towards the goal, West Kelowna missed two chances in close with the Warriors pressing. Darion Hanson once again was forced into making some big stops late. Rylan Ferster would call a late timeout. The Vipers missed a shot from the neutral zone were going for the open cage at the other end of the rink. Vernon would send out a strong forecheck late were able to hem the Warriors in their own zone, taking some valuable time off the clock. With time winding down the Warriors pressed hard in the dying seconds, again missed a shot-opportunity from in close. Shane Kelly took a puck to the mouth in the final seconds before a scrum formed at the buzzer, with some pushing and shoving. Kelly raced to the Viper bench, gabbed a towel before making his way to the dressing room. After the altercations were taken care of at the buzzer, the Vipers bench jumped over the boards to celebrate with Darion Hanson as Vernon hung on for the 2-1 win. A wild and thrilling 3rd period made for one heck of a hockey game. The Warriors couldn't tie the game on a lengthy five on three, had some great opportunities, couldn't solve Darion Hanson. The Vipers with a huge PK tonight. Vernon had some great opportunities to jump ahead 3-1 couldn't solve Cole Demers. Both goaltenders were solid in the final twenty minutes. A strong finish for WK who couldn't capitalize-bury their chances. Vernon outshot West Kelowna 12-11.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Ufberg (1 assist) Had a strong night on the Viper blueline. Ufberg was one of a very select few Vipers that played well in Wednesday's loss to Merritt, made some smart plays through out the game. A very smooth skater, can really move the puck in a hurry, makes that great first pass, looks calm and confident through out the night.
Cooper Watson I'mpressed me this evening, I thought had a heck of a game on the backend. Hit the post in the 2nd period, played very well at both ends of the rink.
The line of Brett Stapley (2 goals) Steven Jandric & Jimmy Lambert (2 assists) Was very good in the victory. Had some good looks-chances through out the night.
Ryan Brushett had lots of time with the puck on his stick, carried the play often, played well.
Hunter Zandee facing his former team, played with a ton of jump/energy, was strong down low-along the wall, forced several turnovers through out the game, was hard on the puck, competed, played-battled all night. Come to play tonight.
Niko Karamanis I thought was dominate-stood out for most of the night. Another forward who played with a lot of jump-energy, was hard on the puck, won several puck battles, worked-competed hard every shift, made things happen, forced turnovers, showed a ton of grit, had some good opportunities.
Jesse Lansdell Other then taking the double minor in the 3rd I thought played hard, was in the face of several Warriors tonight.
Connor Clouston Played with an edge, was in the face of several Warriors, played with a bit of a mean streak tonight. Took a shot off the ankle on a 3rd period penalty kill, was punishing guys with his physical play.
Darion Hanson (33 saves) Was one of the keys on the Viper penalty kill. Made some big stops on the PK, keeping his team in the game. Played very well through out the night, was seeing the puck, didn't give up a lot of second opportunities, was coming out to challenge, forcing shooters to shoot right at him, was solid between the pipes. If it wasn't for the turnover late in the 2nd period (Quin Foreman's goal) Hanson would have picked up the shutout.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
After not playing for a full sixty minutes in their past three games the Vipers come into West Kelowna playing very close to a full sixty minutes. The Vipers were ready to play and come to play for the entire night. Vernon played hard, worked/competed all night, fully earned the victory and the two points. This was a very entertaining hockey game, had that playoff feel to it with some good atmosphere in the building, both teams were very evenly matched for most of the night. I thought the Vipers had their moments where they carried the play-were the better team, while West Kelowna also showed spurts, carried the better of the play, generated/created chances were the better of the two teams. The Vipers didn't generate-create many quality chances in the 1st replied with several good opportunities in the 2nd and 3rd periods. I thought Vernon really stepped up their game after being outworked in the loss to Merritt Wednesday. The powerplay was clicking going 2-3 while the penalty kill was huge, not surrendering a goal. Give credit to the Viper PK especially in the 2nd and 3rd periods after having to kill off two five on three's. The Vipers showed a lot of character tonight, blocking shots, sticking up for other team mates and trying to finish their shift, even though may have been hurt. Vernon got some solid goaltending from Darion Hanson was huge on the penalty kill and in the final two-three minutes with the Warriors pressing. This was like a playoff game, give credit to the Vipers for responding with a full-close to full sixty minute effort and playing hard, picking up a huge win on the road, in a building they have had troubles in over the years. This was a big win, especially with how West Kelowna has been playing as of late and now with the win, move eight points up on the Warriors for 2nd place. Unless these two teams meet in the playoffs, this was the Vipers final game in West Kelowna after the Warriors ownership announced earlier this week the team will either be moving to Delta or folding at the end of the season. Tonight was just the Vipers fifth win in West Kelowna in their last thirteen games. Since the Warriors moved to West Kelowna from Langley in 2006 the Vipers are 14-21-1-3 in West Kelowna.
Top Player's: (West Kelowna)
Jake Harrison Saw a ton of ice time tonight, was very strong on the Warriors blueline. Was hard to beat one on one and in front of the net.
Quin Foreman (1 goal) Lead the way with the lone goal, was strong on the attack. Is dangerous with the puck, created/generated several quality chances tonight. A good strong skater, that can move the puck up ice in a hurry, has a good shot, really sees-reads the ice well.
Connor Sodergren I didn't think stood out much at the start of the game, but once the game got going, improved-got better. Took three straight minors before finally getting his game going. Had some good chances in and around the net, drives to the net often.
Braiden Epp I thought was really flying this evening, played with lots of energy/jump, looked good through out the night.
Cole Demers (35 saves) Faced his former team for the first time this season. Demers started the season with the Vipers, played in 12 games going 3-8 before being released. Demers was recently signed by the Warriors a few weeks back. I thought played well at times, had trouble controlling his rebounds. Gave up a lot of big rebounds-second opportunities. I will admit was very good down low, the Vipers with a goal mouth scramble in the 3rd, had several cracks at the loose puck, were unable to beat Demers. One of the leagues smallest goaltenders, is quick on his feet.
Game Thought's: (West Kelowna)
The Warriors seven game home winning streak was snapped in a game where they couldn't capitalize-bury their chances. Both teams played very hard, were very evenly matched at times. West Kelowna had their fare share of sustained pressure-zone time, couldn't capitalize going 0-5 with the powerplay, couldn't capitalize on two five on three's. The Tribe just like the Vipers didn't generate/create many opportunities in the opening frame, had some good chances in the 2nd and 3rd periods. I thought it was in the 3rd when West Kelowna couldn't catch a break-bounce, missed on a few opportunities in and around the net. The Warriors didn't seem to have much puck luck, played-battled hard for close to a full sixty minutes. Rylan Ferster and the Warriors cant be pleased with Jonas Gordon's undisciplined penalty late in the game, taking away a Warriors powerplay. I know guys are suppose to stand up for their team mates, but heres a play, where you have to hold back your emotions. WK missed a great opportunity to get within four points of Vernon. This could have easily gone either way in a game the Warriors could have easily tied-won. The Warriors who have been playing very well at home, have won ten of their last thirteen home games. With the loss the Warriors now fall eight points back of Vernon for 2nd place. Prior to puck drop there was a lot of activity/fans getting to the rink fairly early. In all my years of watching the Vipers in West Kelowna, there are not many fans prior to puck drop. The building is usually pretty empty prior to the start of the game. Prior to tonight's game there seemed to be some energy-buzz in the rink, a good crowd was already inside and turned out to be one of the biggest crowds Ive seen at a Vipers game in West Kelowna. Usually the place is over half empty with not a great atmosphere. It's too bad the fans couldn't have come out/supported the team better of the years. You have to wonder if someone is already looking at Royal Le Page Place-West Kelowna and will try and bring in another franchise to the City of West Kelowna. I really feel sorry for the Warriors die hard fans that supported the team over the years. Penticton Vees Head Coach-GM Fred Harbinson was in attendance.
Riley Brandt (Injured)
Luke Gingras (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Brett Stapley (2 goals)
2nd Star: Quin Foreman (1 goal)
3rd Star: Cole Demers (35 saves)
Trevor Miller's West Kelowna Warriors Blog,