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-Warriors game as Vernon defeated West Kelowna 4-3 in front of 2,110 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
West Kelowna: Connor Hopkins
1st Period: The Warriors got the play in deep off the opening faceoff, giving the Vipers defence troubles before Vernon quickly turned the play around, rushing back up ice on a three on two but missed the net. Connor Hopkins couldn't settle back into position quick enough before a quick shot from the point beat Hopkins but not the post as the Vipers come very close to opening the scoring inside the opening minute. A minute later Coleton Bilodeau and Tyler Ho lead a two on one attack, Bilodeau decided to keep and shoot would be stopped by Connor Hopkins. A minute later the Warriors come back on an odd man rush, setting up Parm Dhaliwal who would be denied by Aidan Porter. Minutes later Wyatt Head's point shot had eyes, found its way through traffic, somehow didn't find it's way to the back of the goal after Aidan Porter made the save on a shot I don't think he saw. Minutes later Nicholas Cherkowski with a quick low shot from the circle forced Connor Hopkins into stretching out making a huge leg-pad save, keeping this game scoreless. Just before the midway mark former Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Josh Latta with a quality chance couldn't beat Connor Hopkins. Two minutes later Brandon Dent would be stopped in close by Aidan Porter. Towards the end of the frame Connor Marritt setup Josh Latta going to the net on an odd man rush, beating Connor Hopkins giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 15:21 Marritt drew the lone assist. Off the following faceoff back come the Warriors, Lucas Cullen's shot from the circle looked like it was in slow motion, slowly going over the shoulder of Aidan Porter before gently hitting the post and staying out. The Vipers quickly recovered, rushing back up ice the other way. Connor Hopkins was forced to make a big save with bodies going to the net, before somehow robbing Michael Young on the rebound. Hopkins somehow closed the fivehole at the last second and sitting on the goal line, managed to keep the puck out. Two big stops from the Warriors netminder. On the following play Tyler Ho lead the rush on a two on one, decided to keep and shoot but was denied by Connor Hopkins. With three and a half minutes remaining, Lucas Cullen with a quick shot from the circle beat Aidan Porter ringing his shot off the outside of the post. With two minutes remaining the Warriors would get the games first powerplay but shorthanded Connor Hopkins come way out of his crease to play the puck, former West Kelowna Warriors forward Matt Kowalski beat Hopkins along the side wall, stealing the puck was going to the open cage, passed it off out front where a Viper couldn't hit the open cage with a Warriors defender in front on a missed opportunity. The Tribe couldn't muster much on the powerplay before the final buzzer. It was 1-0 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. I thought West Kelowna had more puck possession and zone time in the first half but it was the Snakes who had the better scoring opportunities. The Warriors pulled away in shots early after being outshot 4-2 were now up 9-4. This was a very entertaining back and forth opening 1st period with a lot of end to end play. Vernon's speed was the difference, wich allowed them to created/and generate more chances. Shots were 14-14.
2nd Period: The Snakes had a ton of jump off the opening puck drop. Off the opening faceoff the Vipers setup Matt Kowalski on an odd man rush who would be stoned in front by Warriors starting goaltender Connor Hopkins. The Tribe come right back the other way, Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter was forced to make a quick save before Michael Young made a strong defensive play, breaking up a West Kelowna opportunity. Vernon would then get two or three quality chances afterwards but again Connor Hopkins come up with some large saves. Josh Latta looked to beat Hopkins but not the post. The Warriors would eventually tie the game early after Bennett Norlin was able to walk in alone untouched and put a nice move in close on Aidan Porter tying the game 1-1 at 3:59 Cavin Tilsley and Sam Anderson collected the helpers. A minute and a half later former Vernon Vipers defenceman Austin Chorney on what looked like a clean centre ice hit, was called for elbowing, giving the Snakes their first powerplay of the evening. The Vipers didn't waist time before Jack Judson beat Connor Hopkins giving Vernon a 2-1 lead at 5:54 Connor Marritt and Josh Latta picked up the helpers. About a minute and a half later the visiting West Kelowna Warriors grabbed their first PP of the middle frame. Vernon would go down two men giving the Tribe a five on three. Aidan Porter had to be sharp early, making one save on a goal mouth scramble but after that the Viper penalty kill was solid killing off both minors. Just as the penalty expired, the Snakes sprung Matt Kowalski in for the parcial breakaway. Kowalski hit the post before the Vipers would regain control of the play and hit the post on their second opportunity. Back to back posts for the Snakes. From here on in it was all Vernon as the Vipers carried the balance of play. The Snakes would get several looks-chances but Connor Hopkins was up to the challenge making several big stops. It was 2-1 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers come out of the gates quick, had several quality looks-opportunities, couldn't capitalize early. The Warriors may have tied the game early, but Vernon responded quickly with a powerplay goal. After a strong penalty kill, killing off the two man advantage, the Snakes seemed to get a big boost and took the game over for the remainder of the period. The Warriors went at least seven minutes without a shot after the two man advantage and managed only one shot for the remainder of the period. The Vipers were the better of the two teams. Vernon outshot West Kelowna 16-10.
3rd Period: Off the opening faceoff Nick Cherkowski spotted Coleton Bilodeau going to the net, who managed to beat Connor Hopkins in close, giving Vernon a 3-1 lead at 0:23 Cherkowski and Michael Young drew the assists. A big goal early to start the final frame. The Snakes were skating and had control of the play early on. Minutes later Brendan Kim on a two on one, decided to shoot and beat Connor Hopkins giving Vernon a 4-1 lead at 5:40 Kim's goal was unassisted. But just less then two minutes later on a questionable call the Tribe respond. Parm Dhaliwal scored cutting Vernon's lead to 4-2 at 7:23 On a play where Aidan Porter come across may have got a piece of the puck with his shoulder, keeping the puck out of the goal. But one referee called it a goal even though the goal light didn't come on. After a lengthy stoppage in play, and Mark Ferner arguing with the referee, the goal stood. It was 4-2 Vernon. This goal seemed to take the life out of the Vipers as Vernon quit skating, were standing still as the Tribe gained momentum. Shortly after the goal Vernon would get a key powerplay but shorthanded the Warriors sprung two players for parcial breakaways but it would be Michael Young and Brendan Kim who both made huge defensive plays, breaking up both breakaways. The Snakes struggled and couldn't get anything going on the man advantage as WK killed off the minor. Just as the penalty expired, the Warriors sprung veteran forward Chase Dubois out of the penalty box, in for the breakaway, who beat Aidan Porter high, cutting Vernon's lead to 4-3 at 13:32 Mike Hardman collected the lone assist. Minutes later Brendan Kim would take an undisciplined penalty giving West Kelowna a key powerplay with just under five minutes remaining. The Warriors couldn't muster much of anything as a strong penalty kill from the Snakes, Josh Latta shorthanded on a breakaway missed the goal on a missed opportunity as Vernon would kill off the minor. Both teams with key powerplays couldn't convert at crucial times in the 3rd. Landon Fuller levelled Lucas Cullen with a clean check along the boards late, Cullen would go down hard and stay down for several minutes, before needing help off the ice. Cullen was very slow and looked groggy making his way to the dressing room, never returned. With time winding down and the Vipers now back on their heels and the Tribe pressing, WK would get Connor Hopkins to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:22 left in the hockey game. The Tribe had Vernon back on their heels and hemmed in their own end but had troubles getting full control of the play and getting pucks to the net. The Vipers managed to clear the zone on several occasions before the final buzzer, hanging on for the 4-3 victory. I thought the Snakes come out of the gates strong, scoring inside the opening minute and were the better team early. The Warriors get within two on a questionable call-goal before cutting the lead to one. The Snakes seem to lose their confidence, quit skating, were back on their heels and lucky to hang on for the win. The Warriors pressed hard to finish the 3rd but unable to really create/or generate much offense. Vernon outshoots West Kelowna 12-11.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Young (1 assist) I thought played very well defensively, made several heads up plays through out the contest.
The line of Matt Kowalski, Josh Latta (1 goal & 1 assist) & Connor Marritt (2 assists) Was by far the Snakes best unit tonight. These three were clicking, moving the puck, using their speed and skill to create/and generate opportunities all night. Very hard to defend against, giving the Tribe all kinds of troubles offensively.
Nick Cherkowski (1 assist) I thought played hard, was strong on the puck, did some little things through out the game that caught my attention.
Jack Judson Was another d-man that played well defensively.
Brendan Kim (2 goals) Has scored all four of his goals this season vs West Kelowna. The rookie d-man played well at both ends of the rink. Played with a lot of confidence.
Coleton Bilodeau (1 goal) Played a strong game up front. Had several looks-chances through out the evening, was skating, going hard to the net.
Aidan Porter (32 saves) I thought played well in the win. Wasn't tested as much as Connor Hopkins but made some big stops when needed. Porter was having trouble outside of his crease, moving-or clearing the puck and on pucks that hit him and went in the air, he would lose sight of a few pucks and didn't know where it was. But overall played very well in goal.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
I liked the Snakes start in all three periods. I thought the Vipers were quick off the puck drop, to quickly generate/and or create opportunities off the opening faceoffs. I thought Vernon played well for most of the game. They were outplayed for a bit in the first half of the opening frame and then kind of went to sleep-lost momentum in the 3rd after giving up the 2nd goal. I thought the Vipers really used their speed to their advantage, were getting lots of pucks to the net and forcing Connor Hopkins into making several large saves. The Snakes created/generated a ton of chances and could have easily added on another five or six goals if it wasn't for the Warriors netminder. Nice to finally see Vernon play with the lead most of the night and go ahead by more then one or two goals. The Vipers did struggle defensively and in their own end. Vernon's defensive coverage wasn't very good and the defence turned over the puck way too many times. The Snakes had troubles clearing the zone, ended up coughing up the puck a lot. Overall a very entertaining hockey game in front of a big crowd. This was the first home game in about three weeks. With the win the Vipers improve to 14-16-6-3 remain 7th in the division are a point back of Trail and three points back of Salmon Arm.
Top Player's: (West Kelowna)
Bennett Norlin (1 goal) I thought was one of the more consistent Warriors forwards tonight in the loss.
Austin Chorney facing his former team played well on the backend. Carried the play up ice on a few end to end rushes, was physical and involved in the play.
Anthony Bishop The former Western Hockey Leaguer saw a lot of minutes on the blueline was steady all night.
Connor Hopkins (38 saves) Was the difference maker in tonight's hockey game. Hopkins made several large saves, keeping his club in the contest on several occasions. Tonight's final score wasn't as close as you would think it was. Hopkins has played the Snakes well this season.
Game Thought's: (West Kelowna)
The Warriors always seemed a step behind the Vipers most of the night. West Kelowna carried the play and had a little more puck possession at times early in the 1st period and then carried the play for a lot of the time in the second half of the 3rd period. But overall I thought the Snakes were the better of the two teams. Vernon had a ton more looks-scoring chances. The Tribe had troubles with Vernon's speed and skill through out the evening. The Warriors had their opportunities but didn't get as grade a chances as the Vipers. West Kelowna managed to tie the game at one point early into the middle frame but always gave up that next goal. Down a goal heading into the final frame, giving up two quick goals just five minutes into the 3rd was a killer. WK with a good push to finish the game, got within a goal but had troubles getting pucks to the net late and never really settled in offensively with the goaltender out for the extra attacker. Saw a few Warriors fans in the rink tonight. With the loss West Kelowna falls to 22-17-0-1 remain 4th in the Interior division are five points up on Salmon Arm and three points back of Wenatchee. The Warriors have dropped three in a row and will host the Vipers twice before the regular season ends. All teams across the league will now wear their away or third set jerseys at home and their home whites on the road for the remainder of the regular season.
Ben Sanderson (Injured)
Jagger Williamson (Injured)
Jesse Lansdell (Suspended)
Logan Cash (Injured)
Carver Watson (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
Connor Marritt (2 assists)
1st Star: Brendan Kim (2 goals)
2nd Star: Josh Latta (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Chase Dubois (1 goal)