I was at tonights Game 1 of the Interior Conference Finals as Vernon defeated Penticton 6-0 in front of 2,082 fans at the Wesbild Centre.
Vernon: Graeme Gordon
Penticton: Sean Bonar
1st Period: Vernon would get the games first powerplay just 1:18 into the 1st, but it was Eric Filiou who stepped over the Vipers blueline shorthanded and wired a quick shot just high over the crossbar. Back come the Vipers, with some good puck movement Dan Nycholats blast from the point beat wich looked to be a screened Sean Bonar at 2:13 giving Vernon the early 1-0 lead. The Vipers kept coming, getting some good chances in close. Jonathan Milhouse with a quick shot from the circle just missed the far corner. Curtis Gedigs screened point shot somehow was stopped by Bonar. Graeme Gordon was forced to make once real nice pad save off a shot from the point by a Vees defenceman. The Vees would then get their first powerplay of the night but it was the Vipers penalty kill who looked very solid. Braden Pimm & Mike Collins managed to kill off most of the penalty. Pimm & Collins hard work ragged off several key seconds off the clock. Mike Collins with four Penticton players on him ragged off some valuable time off the clock while inbehind the Vees goal. Vernon would kill off the minor. The Vipers were the better of the two teams getting far more scoring oportunities. Connor Jones, Kellen Jones & Sahir Gill on a three on two, Gill setup Connor who was stopped by Bonar and then Bonar was forced to make another big save off Kellen in the slot. Penticton did get some good scoring chances but not nearly as many as Vernon. Graene Gordon was forced into making a real nice save at the side of the goal with taffic in front. Dan Nycholats blast from the point was stopped by Bonar with traffic in front. Connor Jones with a shot from in close was stopped by the quick glove of Sean Bonar. Very late in the 1st the Vees with a great chance in front couldnt beat Gordon, Braden Pimm then setup Jonathan Milhouse for the breakaway, Milhouse ripped his shot past Bonar with just 2.5 seconds remaining giving the Vipers a 2-0 lead. Pimm & Kevin Kraus with the helpers. Vernon outshot Penticton 16-8. The Vipers were up 2-0 after 20 minutes of play.
2nd Period: Off the draw Vernon would get the puck in deep, Braden Pimm with a shot from the circle beat Bonar fivehole as the puck come out through the other side, it would hit the skate of Vees d-man, Derik Johnson and lay in the crease as both Johnson and Bonar scrambled to clear the puck out of the goal area. Off a draw in the Penticton zone the puck come back to Garrett Noonan whos blast was stopped in front by Bonar. The Vipers with some pressure and chances in the first few opening minutes. Shortly after the Vees would get a man advantage but were unable to setup and get much of any quality chances as the Vipers would kill off their second penalty kill. Just after the penalty expired Penticton would win the draw in the Vipers zone, the puck come back to Matt Paltridge whos blast from the point hit the end boards, taking a funny bounce coming right back out front to Graeme Gordon at the side of the net, the Vipers goaltender had to be alert and cover up the puck. This was the lone Vees scoring chance. Both teams would go back and forth with a good pace to the game but no real quality chances at either ends of the rink. Dan Nycholat made a strong defensive play to break up a Vees odd man rush. Vernon then took over from here on in and dominated the remainder of the period and the entire game. With Sean Bonar down and out, the Vipers with two great chances at an empty net couldnt get the puck up and over Sean Bonar. Vernon kept the play alive inside the Vees zone and the Connor Jones, Kellen Jones & Sahir Gill line went to work with some strong forecheck and cycle down low dominating the boards and in and around the net. These three kids passed the puck around like it was on a string, Sahir Gill on a great scoring chance was stopped by Bonar on the wrap-around. Shortly after Jonathan Milhouse and Bryce Kakoske with some amazing passing setup Dan Nycholat who beat Bonar for his 2nd goal of the night at 10:32 putting Vernon up 3-0. Milhouse & Kakoske with the assists. Milhouse did all the work on the goal to keep the puck alive, with some hard work Milhouse found the opening to create the scoring chance. Vernon was winning all the one on one battles, races to the puck and laying the body on the Vees who couldnt generate anything. Penticton with just a single shot on net in the final seven minutes of play. David Robinson with some good hustle down low, tried cutting towards the net but was stopped down low by Sean Bonar. Late in the 2nd Garrett Noonan with an unreal move ripped his shot past Bonar at 16:17 giving the Vipers a 4-0 lead and in full control. Cory Kane & Rob Short with the assists. The Vipers passing and breakout was looking real good through out tonights game. Vernon was up 4-0 after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Vees 18-6.
3rd Period: Just thirty seconds into the final frame Vernon would get its second powerplay of the night. Rob Short with a wicked shot from the slot was stopped by Bonar. This was the Vipers only real good scoring chance as Penticton would kill off the minor. Again it was all Vipers in the early going. With Penticton getting a penalty the Vipers moved the puck around for a good solid thirty seconds as the Vees couldnt touch the puck, Denver Manderson with no stick was all over the ice. The Puck ended up out front where Kellen Jones hit the empty net at 7:37 giving the Vipers a 5-0 lead. Kevin Kraus & Steve Weinstein with the assists. By this point the Vees were not in tonights hockey game, Penticton wasnt skating, hitting or battling as the Vees were getting outworked and outplayed real good by the Vipers. The play got a little sloppy for a few minutes before both teams went back and forth with very little scoring chances. Connor & Kellen Jones with some nifty passing couldnt beat Bonar. Kevin Kraus's point shot was tipped in front wich beat Bonar but hit the post, this making for a scrum in front of the Vees goal. Some pushing and shoving started with Luke Curadi dropped the gloves with Braden Pimm. Curadi on the way to the box started having words with Vipers Captain Kevin Kraus. Vernon come up with a few chances in the second half of the 3rd as the Vees were just trying to regroup and get ready for tomorrows Game 2. Very late in the period Penticton would go on its third powerplay of the night but again the Vipers penalty kill was the difference. David Robinson setup Rob Short who went in all alone, waited for Sean Bonar to go down and then roofed his shot up and over the Vees goaltender giving Vernon a 6-0 lead with their third shorthanded goal of these playoffs. Robinson with the lone helper. In the final minute the Vees pressed on the man advantage, Captain Denver Manderson was stopped at the side of the net on the Vees only real quality scoring chance of the period. In the end the Vipers took a 1-0 series lead with a convincing 6-0 win over the Vees. Vernon outshot Penticton 13-5.
Top Players: (Vernon)
Garrett Noonan (1 goal) I was very impressed with the play from Vipers d-man Garrett Noonan. I thought Noonan played very well at both ends of the rink, looked good on the powerplay. Scored a real nice goal late in the 2nd period.
Dan Nycholat (2 goals) Nycholat played a real solid defensive and offensive game tonight. Nycholat come up with a big defensive effort in the 2nd period to break up a Vees odd man rush. Was the Vipers best defenceman tonight.
The line of Connor Jones, Kellen Jones (1 goal) & Sahir Gill looked good up front. Both Jones Twins had some real nice nifty passing plays going through out tonights game. This line was real good in the 2nd period with a very strong aggresive forecheck, Penticton had all kinds of troubles trying to defend against this line.
Cole Ikkala played fairly well this evening. It seems as of Ikkala has found his game over the last few games and come on strong. Ikkala played physical, worked hard and battled hard all night.
Jonathan Milhouse (1 goal & 1 assist) I said it before tonights game, Milhouse needs to step up and come ready to play tonight and for this series. A veteran on this Vernon team has been quiet so far these playoffs but really come to play tonight. Looked very good especially in the games first two periods. Was really skating, working the puck well down low, battling hard and fighting off checks. Was very hard to knock off the puck tonight. Looked very good down low.
Rob Short (1 goal & 1 assist) Has looked very strong so far these playoffs. Short played physical, battled hard and looked ready to go tonight. Played with a ton of energy.
Graeme Gordon (19 saves) Gordon made 19 saves for his third straight shutout. Gordon is now two off the BCHL record for most playoff shutouts wich is held by former Viper goaltender Tyson Motz who had 5 back in 2001-02. Gordon who was injured and struggled late in the regular season really has stepped up his game after being pulled after the first two playoff games vs Quesnel. Gordon who was 1-3 vs Penticton during the regular season made a few big saves in the opening period and didnt really see all that much action as the game went on. Still Gordon was there to make the save when called apon. Nice to see this young kid get his confidence back and being play this well at this time of year.
Top Players: (Penticton)
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
I would have never guess a 6-0 win for the Vipers in Game 1 of the Interior Conference Finals. Wow what a game, the Vipers come ready to play and almost dominated tonights game right from the start. Vernon looked very good and has played very well in its last three games. Vernon played physical as they outhit the Vees, outworked, & outplayed Penticton for most of Game 1. The Vipers won most of the one on one battles, races to the puck and dominated the puck and boards down low. I was very impressed with the passing and breakout. Dont forget the defence, the Vipers defence did a great job at shutting down the Vees big guns all night. Vernon has now won three straight meetings between these two teams (regular season & playoffs) Vernon now needs to take advantage of home ice and head to Penticton up 2-0 in the series. The Vipers cant get too over confident and come back tomorrow with the same style and game plan for Game 2.
Game Thoughts: (Penticton)
After so many close games between these two teams in the regular season who would have predicted a 6-0 Vernon blowout tonight. Penticton did get a few good chances in the opening period and couldnt beat Graeme Gordon who made some nice saves but even with those chances Vernon still carried the better of the play. I thought the Vipers were by far the better of the two teams. Penticton with two maybe three chances at most in the final two periods looked tired and not like the same Vees team were all use to watching. The Vees big guns were shutdown and no where to be seen. Sean Bonar made some nice saves but wasnt forced to make the huge saves to keep the Vees in the hockey game, like we have seen him do in the past. I thought Bonar was average tonight. On the way home the radio broadcast said this was the first game the Vees have been shutout all season. & Im sure this was one of if not the only game they have been outshot so bad like tonight (47-19) Penticton wasnt in tonights game, I didnt see a whole lot of guys competing and doing the little things it takes to get a win in the playoffs. The Vees now will be looking for the split, as they dont want to head home down 2-0 in the series. Remember Vernon was 2-1 in Penticton this season, with the lone loss coming in Overtime. You can bet Fred Harbinson wont be too pleased with his clubs effort and Penticton will be ready to battle and come back tomorrow with a much better performance.
1st Star: Dan Nycholat (2 goals)
2nd Star: Jonathan Milhouse (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Graeme Gordon (19 saves)