I was at tonight's Vipers-Centennials game as Vernon defeated Merritt 4-1 in front of 1,675 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Ty Taylor
Merritt: Jacon Berger
1st Period: Inside the opening minute Zach Zorn setup Zach Court in front who was denied by Ty Taylor. About a minute and a half later, Niko Karamanis drove hard to the net on a Viper attack, lost control of the puck before trying to get out of the way of Jacob Berger. Just before the halfway mark Jimmy Lambert & Brett Stapley on an odd man rush couldn't convert before the Centennials would get the games first powerplay just seconds later. Shorthanded Niko Karamanis one on one with a quality chance before late in the PP the Cents with some late pressure forced Ty Taylor to make a tough save with two bodies in front. The Vipers with a good penalty kill, would kill off the minor. Shortly after the penalty expired, Bradley Cocca with a quality chance couldn't beat Ty Taylor. With just over five minutes remaining Jesse Lansdell spotted Brett Stapley going to the net, would be robbed by Jacob Berger who come across to make a huge game saver off Stapley. Less then two minutes later Jacob Berger was forced to stop Jordan Sandhu and Josh Latta from in close. Shortly after the Snakes would get their first powerplay of the evening. Jimmy Lambert beat Jacob Berger in close, giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 18:25 Chris Jandric & Jack Judson drew the assists. Inside the final minute the Centennials tried setting up Frazer Dodd on the odd man rush, who missed the net on a missed opportunity. It was 1-0 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. I thought both teams were fairly even for most of the opening frame, but I thought Vernon had the better of the scoring chances. Shots were even 10-10.
2nd Period: Inside the opening minute Jimmy Lambert from the slot would be stopped by Centennials starting goaltender Jacob Berger. Berger was out to challenge made a big blocker save off the Viper alternate captain. Shortly after Josh Latta with two cracks at the loose puck at the top of the blue paint, couldn't solve Jacob Berger before burying the rebound, giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 1:18 Jimmy Lambert collected the helper. Two minutes later Elan Bar lev wise setup Coleton Bilodeau on the two on one, was stopped by Jacob Berger. The Vipers kept the play alive, setup Cameron Trott who was stopped by Berger. Jacob Berger coming up large for Merritt in the opening few minutes. On the same shift, the Vipers would lose Josh Latta for ten minutes after receiving two minutes for a blow to the head and an automatic ten minute misconduct. The Cents jumping on an early powerplay. This was Merritt's first of three straight powerplay's. Derek Brown was dangerous on the penalty kill, had at least two chances shorthanded, also ragged some time off the clock. The Centennials didn't really generate much on any of the three powerplay's as Vernon with a solid penalty kill, killed off all three minors. The Snakes would get a late powerplay, just their second of the game. A minute into the PP Jesse Lansdell connected in front, giving Vernon a 3-0 lead at 17:11 Jack Judson and Brett Stapley picked up the helpers. Inside the final minute Shane Kelly ripped a heavy shot that forced Jacob Berger into flashing the leather, making a glove save. It was 3-0 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers come out of the gates on fire, had several quality opportunities early, managed to score early before getting into penalty trouble. The Cents would three straight powerplay's, couldn't capitalize with the man advantage. I thought the Snakes were the better of the two teams. Vernon with two goals, jumped out to a three goal lead, got a strong penalty kill, played/looked very good in the middle frame. Vernon outshot Merritt 12-9.
3rd Period: Inside the opening minute, Brett Stapley coughed the puck up inside the blueline, allowing Zack Risteau in for the breakaway, fired wide missing the net. On the following play Ashton Stockie with a blast from the point forced Vipers starting goaltender Ty Taylor into making a quick glove save. Vernon would get an early two man advantage and capitalize. Michael Ufberg with a long crease pass spotted Brett Stapley at the side of the goal, beat a sprawling Jacob Berger giving Vernon a 4-0 lead at 6:52 Ufberg & Cameron Trott with the assists. With time still on the clock, the Vipers couldn't convert on the remainder of the second minor. Shortly after Nicholas Wicks missed the net from in close on an odd man rush. With about seven minutes left, Michael Ufberg's quick shot from the blueline forced Jacob Berger into making a big stop. With about five and a half minutes remaining, Brett Stapley took a high hit against the end wall, before Jesse Lansdell jumped in. Everyone got involved in a hurry as a scrum broke loose deep in the Merritt zone. Several punches thrown, while players were trying to grab a hold of just about anyone. Cents captain Tyrell Buckley would get tossed from the contest. Vernon would come out with the man advantage. Before the penalty expired, another scrum broke loose after a Centennials defender crosschecked a Vernon player at the side of the goal after the whistle. This drawing another crowd, as Jack Judson and Joey Berkopec got tangled up, as both players got in a few punches. The officials had to break up the scrum as tempers heated up in a hurry, late in the hockey game. Judson would be the lone player heading off, as the fans at Kal Tire Place let the officials know about the call. Merritt getting away with a no call, evened up the play before getting a shortened powerplay. On the man advantage Jackson Munro wired a wicked shot from the point that beat Ty Taylor breaking Taylor's BCHL shutout record cutting the Vernon lead to 4-1 at 17:45 Munro's goal was unassisted. On the following shift the Centennials would head back to the powerplay as the chippyness continued. The Cents with a ton of pressure late, couldn't capitalize on the man advantage before the final buzzer. Vernon would come away with the 4-1 victory. I thought both teams controlled the play at different times in the game. The Cents with two very good chances early, couldn't capitalize before the Snakes had several looks-opportunities shortly after. It looked like the Vipers may have taken their foot off the gas a bit once up 4-0 as Merritt capitalized on some turnovers and sloppy play in the Viper zone. The Centennials pushed hard in the second half, even down four goals. Vernon outshot Merritt 16-11.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Ufberg (1 assist) I thought had a strong game on the Viper backend. Skating strong, moved the puck up ice, made some smart plays with and without the puck through out the night.
Michael Young I thought played very well on the blueline.
Brett Stapley (1 goal & 1 assist) Had several good looks/chances, was dangerous tonight. Gave the Cents defenders all kinds of troubles in the offensive zone.
Derek Brown Played well, especially on the penalty kill. A smooth skater, is hard to knock off the puck, plays with a ton of confidence, was making things happen.
Jesse Lansdell (1 goal) Played with an edge, was physical, strong on the forecheck/puck, won some battles, played hard at both ends of the rink. I really like this kids compete level.
Elan Bar lev wise "AP" Playing in just his fourth game with the Snakes, I thought was very good. I saw him play with the Vipers earlier in the season and was impressed back then. Attending the Vipers training camp the past two summers, has committed to Vernon for next season. This kid can skate, really sees/reads the ice well. Didn't see a whole lot of ice time.
Jack Judson (2 assists) Looked very good. Showed a lot of poise, moved the puck up ice, looked confident, was moving the puck, made things happen. Wasn't afraid to back down from the rough stuff late in the game.
Ty Taylor (29 saves) Was two and a half minutes away from breaking the BCHL shutout record. The second year Viper played very well between the pipes, made some big stops early off the opening faceoff, looked confident, battled hard. Didn't give up many if any second opportunities.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
I thought the Vipers played very well tonight, fully deserved the victory-two points. I thought Vernon was the better of the two teams overall. The Snakes had a ton of looks/quality chances through out the contest, ran into a hot goaltender in Jacob Berger. The Vipers created/generated a ton of opportunities through out the night. I like Vernon's powerplay. The Snakes went 3-5 with the man advantage. I thought the Vipers kept it simple, were getting pucks to the net, with bodies in front. I also like the penalty kill, as specialty teams was a big difference. The Vipers forced to kill off three straight 2nd period penalties. After a 5-0 loss in Merritt January 12th the Vipers responded with a full team effort tonight. Give the Snakes credit, tonight was their fourth game in six days. Vernon wins the season series 5-1. Tonight's the first game of a three game home stand, where the Snakes have just four regular season home games left. Vernon has won four of their last five and seven of their last nine home games. Tonight was a big game and more important a big two points. With the win Vernon improves to 32-13-1-4 sit atop the Interior Division/BCHL are two points up on Penticton. The Vipers remain three points over Wenatchee who defeated Powell River 5-2 this evening, put some distance between them and Trail, are now eight points up on the 4th place Smoke Eaters. Vernon with just eight games left in the regular season will be scoreboard watching as Wenatchee, Trail & Penticton all have games in hand. Penticton has twelve games left, Wenatchee has ten and Trail has eleven. I hate to say it but with the injuries and other teams having games in hand, the Snakes could fall to 3rd place in a hurry. Big news coming out this afternoon that rookie forward Josh Prokop will be out for the rest of the season, with a shoulder injury. A big blow to the Vipers. With Prokop out of the lineup, the Vipers are now down to a 21 man roster. I wonder why the Snakes traded Sam Anzai at the trade deadline, but didn't replace him, filling the 23 man roster? Doesn't make sense. Will the Vipers call up Elan Bar lev wise for the remainder of the season?
Top Player's: (Merritt)
Sam Miller I thought was one of, if not the Cents better defenceman. Miller saw a lot of minutes, makes that first pass coming out of the zone, can skate, move the puck and is steady on the backend.
Bradley Cocca Played well for Merritt in the loss. Was involved in the play often, goes to the net, creates/generates opportunities.
Jacob Berger (34 saves) Was the busier of the two netminders. Kept his team in the game, most of the evening, giving his team a chance to win. Berger was forced into making several big stops through out the night. The final outcome of the game, could have been a lot different if it wasn't for Berger.
Game Thought's: (Merritt)
I thought the Centennials played hard/well at times but couldn't keep it up for a full sixty minutes. Merritt held their own at times but then had troubles containing Vernon's speed/skill. The Cents heavily relied on Jacob Berger at times to bail them out. The Cents couldn't capitalize on their chances, didn't get near the amount of scoring chances Vernon did. The 2nd period Merritt gives up two goals to fall behind 3-0 really needed a goal or two on the powerplay, instead struggled with the man advantage, are down three goals heading to the 3rd. Give the Centennials credit, even though down 4-0 they pushed back strong, didn't fold the tents, pressed hard in the third only managing one goal. Merritt's last win in Vernon was a 5-4 victory January 18th 2017. Tonight could easily be a 1st round playoff preview depending where the two teams finish the regular season. The Cents have just one win in their last nine road games. Merritt has now lost ten of their last thirteen games. With the loss Merritt falls to 18-23-4-1 sit last in the Interior Division are five points back of Salmon Arm. The Cents return home Friday to host the visiting Penticton Vees. Speaking of the Vees, Head Coach/GM/President Fred Harbinson and his crew were at tonight's game.
Josh Prokop (Injured)
Jagger Williamson (Injured)
Keyvan Mokhtari (Injured)
Mattias Dal Monte
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Brett Stapley (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Jack Judson (2 assists)
3rd Star: Ty Taylor (29 saves)
Merritt Centennials Blog,