I was at tonights Game 5 as Vernon defeated Quesnel 4-0 in front of 1,615 fans at the Wesbild Centre.
Vernon: Graeme Gordon
Quesnel: Kirby Halcrow
1st Period: During warm up former Vipers defenceman, Eliot Raibl & Garrett Noonan were having words, Brandon Watson then started yapping with Graeme Gordon before David Robinson & Mike Collins stepped in and exchanged words. Both teams got off to a bit of a slow start with very little action in the first five minutes. Vernon would get the games first powerplay five minutes into the opening period. Kellen Jones with the Vipers best chance was stoned by the quick leg save off Kirby Halcrow as the Mills killed off the minor. Quesnel would come right back, a big win in the Vipers zone the puck would come back to Eliot Raibl whos screened shot just missed the far corner. Gordon then made a huge pad save off Rylan Stanyer's screened point shot. Quesnel would get their first man advantage of the period, but it was the Vipers penalty kill that went to work. Kirby Halcrow misshandeled the puck inbehind his net, coughing it up to Connor Jones who went around the net and slid the puck in the open cage as a diving Halcrow tried to make the save putting Vernon up 1-0 at 10:01 Jones shorthanded goal was unassisted. Back come the Millionaires, Justin Hogan on the wrap around was stopped by Gordon, Taylor Holst who was left all alone in front couldnt beat Gordon on the rebound. Before the penalty expired the Mills went on a short two man advantage but Vernon's penalty kill would excape killing off both minors. Vernon then stepped up the physical play and took over control in the second half of the period. Rob Short laid out some huge checks, as the Vipers were buzzing in the Quesnel zone. The Vipers with some good speed and physical were winning the races and the one on one battles down low. Halcrow come up with a nice glove save to keep the Vipers off the board. Braden Pimm then setup Mike Collins who beat Halcrow at 14:33 giving Vernon a 2-0 lead. Pimm & Kevin Kraus with the assists. The Vipers come very close to going up 3-0 as Rob Short with a blast from the slot hit the post. Darick Ste-Marie made a nice move on the Vernon defenceman, walked in but was stopped by Gordon who looked very sharp in the opening period. A very fast paced physical 1st period with Vernon up 2-0 after 20 minutes of play. The Millionaires outshot the Vipers 11-10.
2nd Period: Just 2:05 into the 2nd period some nice three way passing from Sahir Gill, Connor Jones and Kellen Jones put Vernon up 3-0. Gill fed Kellen Jones who went in all alone putting a nice move on Halcrow in close going fivehole. Gill & Connor Jones with the helpers. Just under a minute later Quesnel would head on the powerplay but again it was Vernon's penalty kill who had the chances. Braden Pimm & Mike Collins went in two on one, Pimm held and put a nice move in close on Halcrow but couldnt beat the Mills goaltender in close. Quesnel couldnt capitalize as the Vipers killed off the minor. Back come the Vipers as Sahir Gill went in all alone but was stopped by Halcrow who made another huge save in close on the goal line. Vernon had the better chances getting some good quality chances in close but couldnt beat Halcrow. The Mills would go on another powerplay but again the Vipers penalty kill was solid killing off the minor. Just as the penalty expired Mike Collins and Rob Short went in two on one, Collins fed Short who was stopped by Halcrow. The Millionaires couldnt seem to generate much offence in the middle frame getting one real good chance but Graeme Gordon made a big pad save kicking out the shot from the slot. Rob Short with a wrist shot from the circle was stopped by Halcrow. Vernon with some good chances only managed to get one past Halcrow. Quesnel would get a late powerplay but again couldnt generate much offence as the Vipers penalty kill killed off the minor. Vernon got lucky on several occasions in the 2nd after coughing up the puck in their own end. Garrett Noonan, Mike Collins, Braden Pimm & Bryce Kakoske all caused turnovers inside the Vernon zone. The Vipers looked a little sloppy at times in their own end. Late in the period Sahir Gill, Connor Jones and Kellen Jones on a three on two, Gill made a nice pass over to Coonor who setup Kellen in front who went in close untouched but couldnt beat Halcrow who come up with some big saves. Halcrow also got lucky on one oaccasion after coughing up the puck to Mike Collins. The Vipers were the better of the two teams in the 2nd period up 3-0 heading into the 3rd. Vernon outshot Quesnel 14-10.
3rd Period: Off the draw the Vipers would get the play in deep and the Gill-Jones line went to work down low as Sahir Gill was stopped at the side of the net by Halcrow. The first five or so minutes Vernon just got the play in deep and forechecked as the Mills had troubles getting into the Vernon zone. The Vipers with some good quick shots from the slot and point in the first six or so minutes all forced Kirby Halcrow to be sharp and alert as he was forced into making the save and stopping the play. Justin Hogan with the Mills best chance ripped a high blast from the circle that just went high and over the Vipers net. A penalty filled 3rd as the Vipers went on the powerplay but couldnt capitalize as the Mills killed off the minor. The entire 3rd was very chippy and both teams exchanging words during the play and after each whistle. David Robinson and Branden Redschlag exchanged slashes and words in the neutral zone. The Mills seemed to be after Robinson all night. Vernon would then go on a short two man advantage but again couldnt find the back of the net as the Mills excaped killing off both minors. Vernon owned the 3rd as the play was in the Quesnel end for most of the final period. The Millionaires couldnt get anything going for most of the 3rd, Quesnel was having all kinds of trouble with Vernon's speed and skill down low. The Mills would head on the powerplay but it was Vernon who killed off the minor. Both teams exchanged several powerplays with neither team finding the back of the net. With under three minutes to play the Mills tried getting Halcrow to the bench for the extra attacker, Halcrow headed to the bench but the Mills couldnt get the puck in deep, Halcrow tried getting back into the net but it was too late as Cole Ikkala hit the empty cage at 18:24 giving the Vipers the 4-0 lead. Just after the goal Taylor Holst went after Kevin Kraus before both players exchanged words and punches. Kevin Kraus & Garrett Noonan with the assists. Off the draw Dylan Walchuk went after Branden Redschlag as both dropped their gloves. Off the next draw Brandon Watson then chased down David Robinson, giving him two crosschecks to the back before both players dropped the mits. Quesnel was very frustrated by this point and now started getting very chippy in the last two mintues. With the Vipers on the powerplay Kirby Halcrow gave a crosscheck and a few shots to the head of Rob Short, Short then gave a slash back as tempers started to flare. Some pushing and shoving then started as Clayton Chessa had two Viper players by the jersey. Alot of yapping back and forth between benches in the dying seconds. In the end Vernon would take Game 5 4-0 and grab a 3-2 lead in the series. The Vipers outshot the Millionaires 14-5.
Top Players: (Vernon)
The line of Sahir Gill (1 assist), Connor Jones (1 goal & 1 assist) & Kellen Jones (1 goal) was very strong for the Vipers. Sahir Gill had several good chances in close, played with alot of jump, made some nice heads up plays. Both Kellen & Connor Jones were flying all game, both wwere very dangerous down low and on the cycle all night. Also very good on the penalty kill. Connor Jones had several big hits tonight as well. Gill really looked good on the Jones line.
Rob Short played a heck of a hockey game. Short with lots of emotion, hustle and physical play was very strong up front. Short with a great chance late in the 1st hit the post.
David Robinson played a strong game up front for the Vipers. Robinson was a wanted man by the Mills all night, guys were in his face all game, exchanging words, giving Robinson little shots after the whistle. Robinson went to the net all night, worked hard down low, wasnt afriad of the rough stuff, battled hard all night.
Kevin Kraus (1 assist) I thought the Vipers Captain played a solid game on the blueline. Kraus made a few nice defensive plays, and laid out a few big checks.
Adam Thompson was another defenceman who played very well.
Graeme Gordon (26 saves) (2nd Shutout vs Quesnel this season) Gordon played a heck of a game between the pipes for Vernon. Gordon looked to have his confidence back, looking very confident between the pipes. Gordon made some big-tough saves in the 1st and played very well through out tonights contest. Handled his rebounds well and played his position well. Nice to see Graeme bounce back after a few shaky games in his last few starts.
Top Players: (Quesnel)
Kirby Halcrow (34 saves) Halcrow didnt have to stand on his head tonight, but still played very well. Yes he did cough up the puck a few times, leading to Vernons first goal but still come up with some big saves to keep his team in the game, especially in the 2nd and 3rd periods.
Rylan Stanyer played a strong game on the Millionaires blueline. I was impressed with this kid.
Justin Hogan with a few good chances, one on the powerplay in the opening period and then one early to start the 3rd played well at times for Quesnel.
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
Tonight was a huge must win for the Vipers. They didnt want to head back to Quesnel for Game 6 down 3-2 in the series. Vernon really started to turn it on late in the 1st and then carried the better of the play in the final two periods. The Vipers played a very physical game, won many one on one battles and races to the puck. Vernon's speed and skill was just too much for the Mills to handle tonight. Scoring first and then going up two goals in the opening period was huge. Vernon looked very good on the penalty kill but struggled on the powerplay. I thought the Vipers were also very good down low and in and around the net. They paid the price by going into the grey area's, battled hard down low, a very chippy game with lots of penalties. I didnt think Vernon played very well in their own zone, several turnovers or poor passes breaking out of the zone, ended up on the Mills stick. The Vipers were ready and come to play tonight, really controlled most of the play, especially in the 2nd and 3rd. Vernon with a ton of great chances, especially in the 2nd period couldnt beat Halcrow. A very dissapointing crowd tonight. Its a shame more fans dont come out to watch the Vipers.
Game Thoughts: (Quesnel)
I thought the Millionaires played fairly well in the 1st period other then giving up the shorthanded goal. As the game went on and the Vipers turned up the physical play Quesnel started to have troubles. The Mills couldnt compete and stop the Vipers speed and skill, Vernon was all over the Mills down low and in and around the net. Quesnel with several chances on the powerplay, struggled. Vernon is so dangerous on the penalty kill and it showed tonight, scoring once shorthanded and come close on a two on one. The Millionaires need to capitalize on their chances and not give Vernon so many odd man rushes. Graeme Gordon also come up with some big saves early, those shots go in and we have a totally different hockey game. A very chippy game coming from both teams, but I wasnt impressed with the cheap shots in the last few minutes by the Mills. Quesnel couldnt generate much offence in the 2nd and with just five shots in the 3rd was outplayed most of the final period. The Mills now head back home in a must win situation and try and force a Game 7 back here Wednesday. Give the Mills credit for forcing six games, not many people gave them a chance in this series, Quesnel isnt out of this series just yet, you know the Mills will bring their best tomorrow night.
1st Star: Connor Jones (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Graeme Gordon (26 saves)
3rd Star: Rob Short