I was at tonights Game 4 of the Interior Conference Finals as Vernon defeated Penticton 5-0 in front of 2,171 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Vernon: Graeme Gordon
Penticton: Sean Bonar
1st Period: Just 19 seconds into the game Penticton would get an early powerplay but it was the Vipers with the first scoring chance of the game, as Connor Jones hustled to beat the Vees d-man and then went in for the breakaway, as Sean Bonar come out of his crease to try and beat Jones to the puck, Connor got off a shot that beat Bonar but hit the post. Back come the Vees with a shot from the slot handcuffed Graeme Gordon, Gordon couldnt control the rebound as the puck went through the crease as Penticton with a great chance on the man advantage. This was the lone real quality scoring chance all period as Vernon would kill off the minor. The Vipers then took over and dominated the remainder of the period. Just over two minutes into the period Vernon would get its first powerplay of the night but couldnt find the back of the net as the Vees killed off the minor. The Vipers best scoring chance came after Kevin Kraus's point shot was tipped in front that ended up just missing the far corner. Vernon with some good pressure really controlled and dominated the play down low and in and around the Penticton net. The Vipers played physical, had lots of jump and moved the puck well. Bryce Kakoske and Jonathan Milhouse with a two on one, Milhouse setup Kakoske who beat Sean Bonar at 7:31 giving Vernon the 1-0 lead and the all important first goal of the game. Milhouse and Dylan Walchuk with the helpers. Vernon then just got the puck in deep and didnt give the Vees any room to break out, foring the play back in deep. The Vipers with the dump and chase kept this up for the next several minutes as Penticton was being forced back into their own end on each shift. The Vees couldnt get much of anything going as they didnt register a single shot in the final eight minutes. Vernon didnt get many quality chances but controlled the play down low on the forecheck more. The Vipers were by far the better team up 1-0 after 20 minutes of play. Penticton outshot Vernon 9-5.
2nd Period: Penticton come out strong getting the puck in deep off the draw and forchecking the Vipers down low. Vernon looked a little slow to start the period having all kinds of troubles with the Vees forecheck. Penticton moved the puck well dominating the play along the boards but couldnt get anything towards the net. Some good pressure by the Vees would last too long as Vernon would get its second powerplay of the night, and before the powerplay expired the Vipers were given a short two man advantage. The Vipers moved the puck well, just after the first minor expired Jonathan Milhouse setup Bryce Kakoske again for his second goal of the night at 5:03 on the powerplay giving Vernon the 2-0 lead. Milhouse & Steve Weinstein with the assists. But back come Penticton, once again getting the puck in deep and with some strong forecheck once again controlled the play and were all over the Vipers in the offensive zone. Vernon was having troubles clearing the zone as the Vees poured on the pressure. Graeme Gordon would make two huge saves one after another on Garrett Milan at the side of the net keeping the Vipers in the game. Shortly after Gordon would lose his stick as the Vipers were caught running around in their own end. Eric Filiou was all alone in front but couldnt beat Gordon. Penticton really controlled the play for a good four or five minutes with some good pressure down low, but give the Vipers credit they forced the Vees to the outside and Graeme Gordon come up with the big save when needed. Vernon would then get another powerplay and once again make the Vees pay. Mike Collins setup Adam Thompson who wired his shot past Bonar at 10:11 giving Vernon the 3-0 lead. Collins & Dan Nycholat with the assists. Penticton with back to back undisaplined penalties were in the hole 3-0. The Vipers with very little offence in the 2nd managed just one real good scoring chance. Kellen Jones setup Connor Jones who snuck between the Penticton defenceman and put a nice move on Sean Bonar but was robbed by the glove of Bonar. This period was all Penticton as the Vees dominated the play but were unable to score on their chances. Garrett Milan at the side of the net was stopped by Gordon who looked very solid between the pipes tonight. As the period went on you could see the frustration on the Vees bench. A few players with their heads down low, as Penticton couldnt seem to get any bounces. Vernon was up 3-0 after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers outshot the Vees 11-6.
3rd Period: Off the draw Sahir Gill & Connor Jones with a two on one, Jones setup Gill who couldnt beat Bonar. The Vees would get an early powerplay, Graeme Gordon made his biggest save of the night on a huge save in close (didnt see the player who got the shot off) Vernon was able to kill off the minor. Logan Johnston with a great chance went in on the parcial breakaway but fired high and over the net. The Vees with some pressure early in the period couldnt find the back of the net. Then Penticton got into penalty trouble taking back to back minors. Sean Bonar made a few saves as the Vees excaped killed off both penalties. After a huge penalty kill Penticton would go on the man advantage but it would be the Vipers penalty kill that would put an end to tonights game. Braden Pimm setup Mike Collins who beat the Vees d-man and then put a nice move on Sean Bonar to score shorthanded at 13:15 giving Vernon a 4-0 lead. Pimm & Adam Thompson with the assists. This goal really took the life out of the Vees as their wasnt much left in the tank. Before the penalty expired Penticton would get a short two man advantage, Fred Harbinson decided to pull Sean Bonar for the extra attacker. The Vipers wouldnt come close to getting anywhere near the empty net as Vernon killed off both minors and Bonar was back between the pipes for the Vees. Late in the game another undisaplined penalty by Penticton sent the Vipers back on the man advantage and the Vipers once again made the Vees pay. Cole Ikkala beat Bonar at 19:38 putting Vernon up 5-0 with Steve Weinstein & Garrett Noonan collecting the assists. In the end Vernon would defeat the Vees 5-0 and now take a 3-1 series lead. Vernon outshot Penticton 12-6.
Top Players: (Vernon)
Curtis Gedig I thought played a very strong game on the Vipers blueline. Gedig looked very confident with the puck all night. Made some real nice moves clearing the zone and also had a few nice rushes up ice.
The line of Dylan Walchuk (1 assist), Bryce Kakoske (2 goals) & Jonathan Milhouse (2 assists) was the Vipers best line. Milhouse has really stepped up his play come these playoffs. Was again skating very well, made some nice plays, made two nice passes to Kakoske for two Vernon goals. Kakoske had a real solid game, Bryce played well down low, battled hard, won the battles along the boards and scored the Vipers first two goals of the game. Dylan Walchuk was also impressive tonight, hasnt put up many numbers in the playoffs but looked good with and without the puck, battled hard all night.
Adam Thompson (1 goal & 1 assist) Played a solid game on the blueline. Thompson has really played well vs Penticton and looked very strong tonight.
Graeme Gordon (21 saves-shutout) Most Vernon fans didnt see much in Graeme Gordon and thought he wasnt good enough, well what can you say about Gordon now. Gordon struggled in the first two playoff games vs Quesnel but has really played well since Game 5 of the Quesnel series. Gordon now with four shutouts (1 shy of the Tyson Motz record) was solid between the pipes tonight. Gordon made two huge saves off Garrett Milan in the 2nd period and made two huge saves in the 3rd to give the Vipers a chance to win.
Top Players: (Penticton)
Garrett Milan has been Penticton's best player in this series and was again tonight. Milan not the biggest kid plays with a ton of heart and never stops working. Milan carried the puck alot tonight, was robbed by Graeme Gordon three times in the 2nd period. Was skating hard and working hard all night, was buzzing in and around the Vernon net most of the game. Should have had atleast two goals but couldnt beat Gordon.
Derik Johnson and Bo Dolan both played well again for the Vees tonight. Johnson and Dolan both played very well in Penticon's 4-0 win in Game 3.
Sean Bonar (23 saves) Didnt have to make any real outstanding saves, other then maybe the Connor Jones glove save in the 2nd period. Bonar still played well and couldnt be faulted on any of the Vipers five goals.
Game Thoughts: (Vernon)
Tonight was a key game. A Vernon win and they take a 3-1 series lead, a Penticton win and the series is all tied 2-2 with a Game 5 in Vernon and back to Penticton for Game 6. I wasnt sure how the Vipers would play tonight after losing in Game 3 4-0 and getting very frustrated with no bounces or puck luck. Well the Vipers come ready to play tonight, they dominated the opening period, played very physical, won the battles and the races and scored the all important first goal. Then they come out flat to start the 2nd and get outplayed for most of the period but thanks to some solid goaltending from Graeme Gordon and two huge powerplay goals the Vipers come out of the 2nd with a 3-0 lead. If Vernon dosnt score on the powerplay and the Vees get an early one to start the period, we have a totally different hockey game. Instead Vernon scores on their chances and the Vees dont. Specialty teams was also the difference tonight, Vernon goes 3-7 with the man advantage and also scored shorthanded. Penticton goes 0-4 on the powerplay. Give the Vipers full credit for battling hard all night, they played physical and played with alot more grit and edge compared to last night. Vernon now with a stranglehold on the series taking a 3-1 lead heading home for Game 5 with a chance to win the Interior Conference Championship and eliminate the Vees. Nice to see a huge Vernon crowd at tonights game. You guys all deserve a pat on the back for making a ton of noise.
Game Thoughts: (Penticton)
I was a bit surprised to see the Vipers control and dominate the 1st period. I was expecting the Vees to come out hard and once again play with that same intensity and drive they showed us last night in Game 3. Penticton with just one real good quality chance in the opening period couldnt stop the Vipers forecheck. Give full credit to the Vees they seemed to re-group and come at the Vipers hard in the 2nd really taking it to them. A quick goal or an early bounce and the games tied but instead Penticton takes a few undisaplined penalties and its 3-0 Vernon. I thought the Vees played very well in the 2nd other then the undisaplined penalties, carried the better of the play but couldnt score on their chances. Penticton played a little too agressive and it cost them giving up two powerplay goals. After some good chances and pressure by the Vees you could see the frustration on the guys faces midway through the 2nd period. Penticton's powerplay that was so deadly during the regular season hasnt done much of anything in this series. & where has Denver Manderson & Beau Bennett been all series? Manderson did record three points in Game 3 but I still didnt think he had that great of a game. Im actually surprised the Vipers have a 3-1 series lead, in no way was I expecting this. Penticton now needs to empty the tank and put everything on the line in Game 5 as their 100 point record season is all on the line. A win and they play Game 6, a loss and the season's over. You can bet Fred Harbinson will have his troops ready for Game 5 as the Vees wont want to fall to the Vipers for a second straight season.
Aaron Hadley (AP)
Trevor Fitzgerald (AP)
1st Star: Bryce Kakoske (2 goals)
2nd Star: Jonathan Milhouse (2 assists)
3rd Star: Graeme Gordon (21 saves-shutout)