I have had season tickets for 29 years and been following junior hockey in Vernon for over thirty five years. I have missed four Vipers home games since 2009 and five Vipers home games since the 2002-03 season. For anyone who couldn't attend or watch tonight's Vipers game, here are my thought's and view's from tonight's game. You may agree or disagree but we all have our own opinion on the game. I try to be unbiased and give a fare game recap from both sides. Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog.
I was at tonight's Vipers-Spruce Kings game as Prince George defeated Vernon 4-1 in front of 2,166 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Bradley Cooper
Prince George: Logan Neaton
1st Period: Just fifty seven seconds into the hockey game the Spruce Kings jump on the games first powerplay. Prince George struggles with the man advantage, doesn't record a shot on the PP as Vernon kills off the minor. A minute later the Snakes get caught with too many men sending the Spruce Kings back to the powerplay. On their first shot of the evening, Dustin Manz redirects home a point shot, giving Prince George a 1-0 lead at 4:52 Nick Bochen & Ben Brar collected the assists. Less then two minutes later the Vipers would get their first man advantage, getting three shots on net, with no real quality chances PG kills off the penalty. About a minute and a half later the Spruce Kings go back on the PP and capitalize. Patrick Cozzi went high glove over former Prince George Spruce Kings goaltender Bradley Cooper, giving Prince George a 2-0 lead at 10:17 Max Coyle and Layton Ahac drew the helpers. Shortly after Coleton Bilodeau couldn't beat Logan Keaton who was dropping to the ice, still managed to make the big save off Bilodeau from the slot on the Snakes first quality chance of the night. Shortly after Patrick Cozzi setup former Penticton Vees forward Ben Brar on an odd man rush, giving Prince George a 3-0 lead at 11:36 Cozzi picked up the lone assist. Mark Ferner and the Vipers would call a timeout. Three and a half minutes later the Vipers setup Ben Sanderson alone in front, who would be robbed by Logan Keaton coming up with a blocker save, keeping this a three goal game. On the same play the Snakes would take a penalty, sending PG back to the powerplay. Max Coyle beat Bradley Cooper giving Prince George a commanding 4-0 lead at 16:59 Ben Poisson & Patrick Cozzi picked up the assists. This was the end of the night for Vipers starting goaltender Bradley Cooper who was yanked in favor of Aidan Porter. Cooper facing his former team for the second time this season, gave up four goals on nine Prince George shots. Shortly after Trey Taylor made a big defensive play, breaking up a Spruce Kings odd man rush. It wasn't that long after that when Ben Poisson's shot come very close to knocking the goal stick out of the hand of Aidan Porter who made the save with the shaft of his stick. It was 4-0 Prince George after 20 minutes of play. The Vipers got into penalty trouble and it cost them as the Spruce Kings score three 1st period powerplay goals, jump out to a commanding 4-0 lead. I don't think you can blame Bradley Cooper on any of the four goals. Vernon was outshooting the Spruce Kings 5-2 at one point before PG never looked back. The Snakes lost all confidence, were almost shocked after falling down 2-0 couldn't recover. Vernon was back on their heels, looked slow and sluggish and outplayed before giving up the third goal about a minute and a half later. Prince George is quick, were moving the puck, hard on pucks, scored/capitalized on their opportunities. The Spruce Kings took advantage of the Vipers discipline. The Spruce Kings were the better of the two teams, carried most of the play. Prince George outshot Vernon 12-8.
2nd Period: The Snakes come out to start the middle frame with some jump/and energy. A quick start off the opening faceoff saw Vernon try and setup former Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Josh Latta at the side of the net, couldn't connect on the pass, on a missed opportunity. The Vipers with a flurry of chances in and around the PG goal, forced Spruce Kings starting goaltender Logan Keaton to be sharp, making two or three quick saves from in close. About two minutes in Brendan Kim's shot was stopped by Logan Keaton who couldn't control the rebound. Kim jumped on the loose puck before being robbed by Keaton who flashed the leather with a glove save, keeping the Snakes off the board. Vernon with some good pressure early. The Vipers would get a powerplay around the midway mark but unable to capitalize. The Snakes had some looks but couldn't find the back of the net. Just over two minutes later PG would get a look with the man advantage in the second half, but like Vernon couldn't capitalize with the PP. It was 4-0 Prince George after 40 minutes of play. While both teams were making their way to the dressing rooms, Landon Fuller still on the Viper bench, was exchanging words with several Spruce Kings before the linesmen had to skate over and send everyone to their dressing rooms. Vernon with a strong start, had some looks and a few chances in and around the PG net, none better the Brendan Kim. But the Snakes couldn't solve Logan Keaton. I thought the Vipers played well for at least the first seven to eight minutes, needed at least a goal if not two goals this period to try and get back in the contest. The Spruce Kings didn't look like the same team that jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening period. Prince George had troubles gaining any traction, struggled getting any kind of offence going, and getting pucks to the net. I thought Vernon's defence was much better this period. Other then a flurry of chances in the opening two minutes, neither team had many quality chances. Vernon outshot Prince George 8-4.
3rd Period: The visiting Prince George Spruce Kings jumped on the Snakes early and often, had Vernon hemmed in their own end early. PG with good pressure, didn't really generate any chances. Landon Fuller with the biggest hit of the night on Ben Brar, got a huge rise from the crowd. Max Coyle also took a big check along the side wall, looked to be in some discomfort on the way to the Spruce Kings bench. I didn't see Coyle return to the ice. With some pressure down low, Matt Kowalski spotted Teddy Wooding at the side of the net, hit the open cage cutting Prince George's lead to 4-1 at 4:56 Logan Keaton couldn't get over fast enough to try and make a stop on Wooding. Kowalski and Connor Marritt drew the helpers. Shortly after PG would get a powerplay after the Snakes would get called for too many men, their second too many men penalty of the evening. Jay Keranen beat Aidan Porter but not the post as the Vipers killed off the penalty. Shortly after Ben Helgeson with speed, beat Logan Keaton five hole as the puck come out the other side, rolled through the blue paint and just missed the far corner. Shortly after with the Spruce Kings on a delayed penalty, Michael Young and Dustin Manz exchanged words and a few punches before dropping the gloves. Both players would get tossed from the hockey game, with Vernon coming out with the man advantage. When's the last time Vipers fans saw a fight? Vernon needing a goal on the PP couldn't capitalize as Prince George kills off the minor. With a few minutes remaining Logan Keaton made a quick glove save off a Viper rushing through the slot. Inside the final minute the Snakes would get a late powerplay but would run out of time before the final buzzer, as Prince George comes away with the 4-1 victory sweeping the season series 2-0. For a second straight period neither team had a lot of chances. At times the play was scrambled and very tight checking with no room for either team to move. A fairly physical third period as the Snakes were laying the body often. I think PG up four goals in the final frame, took their foot off the gas, played a little more defensive-shutdown hockey. Vernon had a few looks-opportunities, needed a little more push offensively. Vernon outshot Prince George 10-7.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Ryan Upson "AP" I thought played with a lot of jump/energy, worked hard in the loss.
Aidan Porter (12 saves) Replaced starting goaltender Bradley Cooper after the Spruce Kings fourth goal, stopped all twelve shots he faced. Wasn't tested much but played well in relief.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
The opening period-penalties cost the Snakes the hockey game. After playing disciplined last night in a 1-0 victory in West Kelowna, Vernon took four 1st period penalties as PG scores three times with the man advantage to basically put the game away. After giving up the second goal, its like the Vipers lost their confidence and were back on their heels, looked flat, quit skating and couldn't recover. I thought the Vipers played better in the 2nd and 3rd periods at times. I really liked their 2nd period but they needed at least a goal if not two goals that middle frame to try and get the crowd into the game and get back into the game themselves. The Snakes struggled offensively, didn't create/or generate enough quality chances to win. You don't often see a team get called for too many men, twice in one game. After winning four straight games for the first time this season, did the Vipers get a little too over confident? Or did the Snakes show what kind of team they really have when facing one of the leagues best? A tough game and loss before heading on the road for a five game road trip, starting Friday in Nanaimo. With the loss Vernon falls to 18-17-7-3 fall back to 6th place after the Silverbacks win in Nanaimo tonight.
Top Player's: (Prince George)
Dustin Manz (1 goal) I thought was very dangerous, skilled and has some wheels. This kid looked very good through out the game before being tossed after dropping the gloves with Michael Young.
Patrick Cozzi (1 goal & 2 assists) Was the Spruce Kings best player tonight. Collecting three points was giving Vernon all kinds of trouble. Not the biggest kid but quick on his feet, has some soft hands, can move the puck and create/generate opportunities. Hard to contain and defend against.
Tyler Schleppe Was another forward who caught my attention. Has some size, skill and plays hard. Played very well in the win.
Max Coyle (1 goal & 1 assist) Also played very well for PG with two points. Played well at both ends of the rink. Took a big check in the 3rd period and I didn't see him return to the ice.
Ben Brar (1 goal & 1 assist) A smooth skater, another Spruce Kings forward who can move the puck up ice in a hurry, was hard to play against tonight.
Liam Watson Brawn Was solid on the blueline.
Logan Keaton (25 saves) Was tested often but come up with at least three or four large saves though out the game, keeping the Snakes off the scoreboard. His 1st period saves off Ben Sanderson and Coleton Bilodeau could have changed the game and then his save off Brendan Kim early into the second period, was another big stop. Covers a lot of the net, doesn't give up many second opportunities, looked calm and confident between the pipes.
Game Thought's: (Prince George)
Holding down the third best record in the BCHL the Spruce Kings come into Vernon and put the game away after the opening frame with a 4-0 lead. PG took advantage of their powerplay, scoring on their opportunities. The Spruce Kings are quick, move the puck in a hurry, create a lot of odd man rushes, hard on pucks and have some skill. Prince George has some size but also some smaller kids. Very well coached and stick to their game plan. This is a very good hockey club. It's hard to believe prior to tonight the Spruce Kings had lost five straight games on the road. PG had just one win in their last five games and lost six of their last ten games before tonight's contest. The Spruce Kings sweep the season series going 2-0 vs the Vipers this year. PG will finish their road trip tomorrow afternoon in West Kelowna. Tomorrow's game starts at 12pm. With the win Prince George improves to 27-11-1-5 are only three points back of league leading Chilliwack.
Jagger Williamson (Injured)
Jesse Lansdell (suspended)
Logan Cash (Injured)
Carver Watson (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Patrick Cozzi (1 goal & 2 assists)
2nd Star: Ben Brar (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Teddy Wooding (1 goal)