I was at today's Vipers-Spruce Kings game as Vernon defeated Prince George 5-4 in double overtime in front of 1,609 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Ty Taylor
Prince George: Tavin Grant
1st Period: The Spruce Kings jumped on the Vipers early, had some good pressure-zone time off the opening faceoff before Austin Adamson just two minutes in responded with a great opportunity in front, couldn't beat Tavin Grant on a bit of a scramble in close. PG pushed back with another strong attack, the Spruce Kings didn't generate much for offence carried some of the early play. Prince George had a bit of a slight edge in play early. Six minutes into the 1st Brody Dale & Ryan Brushett both had quality chances in close were denied by Tavin Grant. Just before the halfway mark Brett Stapley and Niko Karamanis with some nice two way passing lead the two on one rush before Karamanis was stopped by Tavin Grant who come up with a huge pad save, keeping this game scoreless. On the following shift the Spruce Kings would get the games first powerplay. Just seconds into the man advantage former Penticton Vees forward Ben Brar beat Ty Taylor giving Prince George a 1-0 lead at 10:20 Drew Lennon and Tyler Anderson with the helpers. Shots were 11-3 in favor of Vernon at this point. In the second half the Vipers took over the edge in play, with several good looks Vernon couldn't beat Tavin Grant. Cooper Watson's shot from the point with five minutes remaining went off the goal stick of Grant who was keeping the Spruce Kings in the contest. Shortly after Steven Jandric on a wrap around couldn't beat Grant after coming across the blue paint to make another big stop with just over three minutes remaining in the 1st. On the following play-shift, Connor Russell with a hard shot from just inside the blueline forced Ty Taylor into making his biggest save of the period, making a huge pad save off Russell. PG rallied late slowly come on in the final minutes, were firing pucks to the net as the Snakes were stuck on sixteen shots for several minutes. It was 1-0 Prince George after 20 minutes of play. I thought the Spruce Kings had the early jump, had some good pressure but didn't generate much for chances in the first six to seven minutes. The Vipers didn't see a lot of puck possession-zone time before coming on as the period continued. Vernon carried the better of the play for most of the period, were outshooting PG 11-3 and 14-4 at points in the 1st. The Snakes with some good opportunities couldn't beat Tavin Grant who played very well in goal for the Spruce Kings. PG looked good the first five-six minutes and come on late in the final few minutes, were lucky to be up 1-0. Vernon outshot Prince George 16-13.
2nd Period: Prince George with a lot of jump come out hard to start the middle frame. About a minute into the 2nd period the puck was tangled up in Ty Taylors skates, causing a bit of a goal mouth scramble in the viper zone. Taylor fell couldn't find the puck laying in the crease with the Vipers desperately trying to clear the puck from the crease, eventually did before the Spruce Kings were able to poke away. Taylor had troubles getting back to his feet on a strange play to start the period. Two and a half minutes in Steven Jandric with a grade a opportunity at the side of the net was robbed by Spruce Kings starting goaltender Tavin Grant who come across with a huge pad save. Prince George responded with a strong push back shift. About five minutes in Vipers starting goaltender Ty Taylor had to be sharp, made a quick reaction pad save off a back hand from in close before stopping the Spruce Kings on a wrap around chance. PG with some good chances early to start the period. Just before the midway mark the Snakes with a ton of pressure, had several good minutes in the offensive zone, were pressing hard, had a flurry of great opportunities either just fired wide of the net or were denied by Tavin Grant. Just past the halfway mark Vernon would get their first look with the powerplay, but struggled as PG killed off the minor. But with just under six minutes to go, Tyler Anderson's shot looked to be redirected in front by former West Kelowna Warrior Brett Mennear, giving Prince George a 2-0 lead at 14:15 Anderson & Chong Lee with the assists. On the following play the Vipers would get into penalty trouble giving Prince George back to back powerplay's who couldn't convert with the man advantage. It was 2-0 Prince George after 40 minutes of play. Just like the 1st period PG showed a lot of jump early to start the 2nd, had several good chances. The Vipers needed some time before got their game going and come on and once again carried most of the period. Vernon with a ton of flurries in and around the net, were having troubles getting pucks to the net as the Spruce Kings played very well defensively. Prince George with a strong forecheck, were keeping the Snakes to the outside, limiting their chances in the 2nd period. The Vipers unable to capitalize on their chances. Prince George outshot Vernon 10-8.
3rd Period: The Vipers with a strong start would finally get on the board. Just 1:15 into the 3rd Simon Sagissor with a strong shift was able to spot Ryan Brushett going to the goal who undressed Tavin Grant in front, cutting the Prince George lead to 2-1 at 1:15 Sagissor & Austin Adamson collected the helpers. The Snakes pressing hard, were all over the Spruce Kings. Vernon with a ton of pressure couldn't buy a goal after getting several good looks in and around the net. PG playing a lot of the early minutes of the 3rd in their own end, would regain their two goal lead. Tanner Campbell gave Prince George a 3-1 lead at 5:24 after some nice two way passing. Ethan O'Rourke and Tyler Anderson picked up the assists. Vernon responded and once again had loads of pressure in the Spruce Kings end, had some quality chances in and around the net. The Vipers just couldn't catch a break. Just after the midway mark Keegan Ward put Prince George up 4-1 at 12:54 Brett Mennear with the assist. It seemed like the Spruce Kings would get one chance and in it went in a period where they were outplayed. The Vipers responded with a quick push back shift. Steven Jandric spotted Jimmy Lambert in front, cutting the Prince George lead to 4-2 at 13:36 Jandric and Brett Stapley with the helpers. About a minute later the Snakes would get their first of two back to back powerplay's. With good pressure and puck movement Steven Jandric spotted a wide open Cameron Trott who hit the open cage cutting the Prince George lead to 4-3 at 14:56 Jandric & Jimmy Lambert with the assists. Prince George getting into penalty trouble late, would give the Vipers another powerplay on the following shift. Cameron Trott would setup Steven Jandric who tied the game 4-4 at 17:35 sending Kal Tire Place into a frenzy. Trott and Jimmy Lambert collected the assists. The Spruce Kings were stunned, the PG bench was shocked. Vernon kept coming, pressed for the game winner but would run out of time. It was 4-4 after 60 minutes of play. The Vipers with a strong 3rd come out of the gates, scored just 1:15 into the frame to get within a goal, would eventually give up the next two goals to go down 4-1. This was a period where Vernon carried the play, couldn't buy a goal-catch a break were all over PG. The Spruce Kings who saw very little zone time, scored on two of their very few opportunities. The Snakes dominated the 3rd played most of the period in the offensive zone. The Vipers with a ton of opportunities, couldn't solve Tavin Grant who was solid. It wasn't until late when the wheels fell off for the Spruce Kings. PG got into penalty trouble late and it cost them, giving up two late powerplay goals, as Vernon tied the game after being down 4-1 with seven minutes to go. I thought the Spruce Kings defence played well-did a great job at keeping the Vipers to the outside early but late in the 3rd gave the Viper offence a little more room to create/generate plays. Vernon outshot Prince George 19-8.
Overtime: The Vipers got control of the puck off the opening faceoff, but struggled to generate/create any chances. Vernon looked very scary with and without the puck in overtime, almost turned over the puck on a few plays. PG would eventually carry most of the play in overtime but didn't generate any real threat with the puck. No scoring chances at either ends of the rink. It was tied 4-4 after 65 minutes of play. Shots were 1-1.
Double Overtime: The Vipers going with all three forwards for the second overtime, carried a lot of the play early. Ryan Brushett carried the play into the PG zone before using his upper body would knock off one defender before beating Tavin Grant on the wrap around giving Vernon the 5-4 double overtime victory at 3:29 as the Viper bench erupted onto the ice. Grant was just a little slow, didn't react quick enough to get over across the crease in time to stop Brushett. The PG bench was upset as several players were smashing their sticks heading off the ice. Vernon outshot Prince George 2-0.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Cameron Trott (1 goal & 1 assist) I thought really struggled this weekend, looked to be fighting the puck often. I didn't think he played very well in all three games this weekend but really stepped up late in the 3rd this afternoon to get the Vipers within a goal before setting up the game tying goal on the powerplay.
The line of Brett Stapley (1 assist), Steven Jandric (1 goal & 2 assists) & Jimmy Lambert (1 goal & 2 assists) was Vernon's best unit going today. The Viper #1 line was really flying, played with a lot of pace, moved the puck well, were very dangerous in the offensive zone, were clicking all night. Had several quality chances in and around the net. I thought Stapley was strong on the draw, good in and around the net, while Jandric was a force down the wing and also driving to the net a lot. I thought Lambert didn't stand out as much in the first two periods but come on strong to finish the game.
Ryan Brushett (2 goals) Scored the Snakes first and last goals of the game, played with a lot of jump, was skating hard. This kid can really move the puck up ice in a hurry. Has some soft hands, just needs to work on his finish in close. Scored a huge goal for the Vipers in the second overtime.
Connor Clouston I thought played with an edge, was in the face of several opponents this afternoon, was physical, played well on the backend.
Brody Dale Didn't see much ice time today, especially as the game went on. I thought looked-played very well in the 1st period, had lots of jump, was going to the net, had atleast two good chances in front, was generating some opportunities.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
In a game where the Vipers were by far the better team, it looked like they weren't going to pull out the win this afternoon. I thought the Snakes dominated a lot of the play for most of the game. Vernon carried a lot of the play, had a ton of opportunities, couldn't buy a goal-catch a break for the first two periods. The 1st period is where the Vipers really needed a goal to get rewarded for their chances. The Vipers were down a goal heading into the 2nd period could have easily been up four or five goals heading into the 2nd period. I don't think Vernon gave up much for opportunities, played most of the game in the offensive zone. Playing their fourth game in five days give the Vipers credit, I thought they played very well and really stepped up their play in the 3rd. It seemed like the Vipers would get a ton of pressure-quality chances but come up with no goal, before the Spruce Kings come down the ice and score on one opportunity. Give the boys credit, they didn't fold the tents after giving up the 4th goal, played hard, kept battling before forcing overtime. Unlike last night in a game where the Vipers were lucky to win, they deserved to win this afternoon after dominating the play for most of the day. This year's team has a lot of heart, character and veteran leadership, where no game is over. Today was a big character win, extending the Vipers unbeaten streak to four games and now move to within six points of 1st place Penticton.
Top Player's: (Prince George)
Tyler Anderson (3 assists) The former West Kelowna Warriors defenceman played a lot of minutes and was very solid for the Spruce Kings this afternoon. Picking up three helpers played very well on the blueline. A big kid that was hard to beat one on one, plays the body, sees-reads the ice well.
Brett Mennear (1 goal & 1 assist) The former West Kelowna Warriors forward had a strong afternoon in the loss. Was very dangerous through out the game, quick on his feet, can move the puck well, a good skater, has a quick release. Gave Vernon trouble all afternoon.
Ben Brar (1 goal) The former Penticton Vees forward I thought played well in the loss. Has some size, was going to the net, making life difficult for Vipers goaltender Ty Taylor. Played well along the wall, was hard to knock off the puck.
Connor Russell Played well on the PG blueline. Saw a lot of minutes, was hard to play against.
Tavin Grant (42 saves) Was the difference in the hockey game. Without Grant this game would have been over after the opening frame. The Vipers with several great chances in the 1st couldn't solve Grant. Grant made some big stops-kept his team in the contest, giving his club a chance to win. Covers a lot of the net, dosnt give up many if any second opportunities, plays his position well.
Game Thought's: (Prince George)
The Spruce Kings played well at times through out the game but not for very lengthy periods of time. I thought PG had a good start, carried a slight edge in play over Vernon early before having to defend against the Vipers who were took over the edge in play. Prince George come on late in the 1st were lucky to be up a goal heading into the 2nd period. I thought the Spruce Kings played better defensively in the middle frame, kept the Snakes to the outside, limited their chances, still played a lot of time in their own end. But give PG credit, they took a 2-0 lead to the 3rd before jumping out to a 4-1 lead. The Spruce Kings gave up an early goal just over a minute into the 3rd but quickly responded minutes later with two goals. With seven minutes remaining up by three goals, you have to hold onto this lead-game. The coaching staff-players cant be happy with the final seven minutes. The Spruce Kings were outplayed for most of the afternoon, were dominated in the 3rd were lucky to get a point in the loss. The Spruce Kings didn't get nearly as many opportunities as Vernon but scored-capitalized on their chances. I thought Prince George relied on their goaltender to bail them out for most of the day but played very well defensively. PG with a strong forecheck, kept the Snakes to the outside a lot, made the Vipers make quick decesions with the puck in the offensive zone. PG has a big team with lots of zize, needs to play more consistent with the lead. The Spruce Kings have just two wins in their last ten road games.
Shane Kelly (Suspended)
Riley Brandt (Injured)
Hunter Zandee (Injured)
Luke Gingras (Injured)
Ethan De Jong
Energy Player of the Game:
Cameron Trott (1 goal & 1 assist)
1st Star: Ryan Brushett (2 goals)
2nd Star: Steven Jandric (1 goal & 2 assists)
3rd Star: Jimmy Lambert (1 goal & 2 assists)