Friday, March 26, 2010

Vipers Look To Put Away Penticton:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

Vipers look to put away Penticton

By Graeme Corbett - Vernon Morning Star

Published: March 25, 2010

PENTICTON – The Vernon Vipers made up for a mediocre night of even-strength hockey by putting on a spectacular special teams clinic against the Vees Wednesday night.

The Snakes made Penticton pay for a lack of discipline by going 3-for-7 on the powerplay to earn a 5-0 win in Game 4 of their best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference final at South Okanagan Events Centre.

They even managed to score shorthanded on a sensational solo effort by Mike Collins midway through the third period. After winning a foot race to a loose puck in the neutral zone, the Boston product faked out a Penticton defender with a time-bending toe drag before beating netminder Sean Bonar with a high backhand.

Penticton, who suffered their first home loss of the playoffs, were unsuccessful in four powerplay attempts.

The Vipers hold a 3-1 edge in the series, and will look to end the Vees’ season tonight at Wesbild Centre. If necessary, Game 6 would go Saturday in Penticton, and Game 7 would return to Wesbild Sunday (all games 7 p.m.). The Vees won 4-0 in Game 3 with Bonar earning first star with 37 saves.

“We had an opportunity to steal one in this building tonight and now we get to go home and we’ve got a pretty good stranglehold on this series,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner. “It’s not over by a long shot, but going home up 3-1 is a good thing.

“That hockey team is not going to roll over for us; we’re going to have to go out and earn everything we get.”

Despite the lopsided score, the Vipers weren’t at their best in front of 2,171 fans. Both teams looked nervous early, making uncharacteristic turnovers. Bryce Kakoske’s first two goals of the post-season, both set up by linemate Jonathan Milhouse, seemed to steady Vernon’s composure.

“You look at the games Penticton and Vernon play against each other and they’re usually played a little bit better,” said Ferner. “We were physical, we paid attention to details, but I think we came out a bit nervous.

“We needed everybody tonight, and everybody came,” added Ferner, a comment that could have easily applied to the two boisterous bus loads of yellow hard hat-wearing Vernon fans that made the trip south.

Both goalies were tested early as Vernon’s Connor Jones tried a one-handed poke to beat Bonar (23 saves), but hit the post in the first minute. Shortly after, Vernon keeper Graeme Gordon (21 saves) had trouble handling Matt Paltridge’s shot from inside the blueline, with the puck trickling dangerously through the crease.

Gordon has four shutouts in his last six games, and Ferner praised the North Vancouver product for bouncing back from an injury that kept him out of the lineup late in the regular season.

“He’s found his game. He was our best player tonight... a couple of those saves were just phenomenal. He has that ability, he’s in the zone right now and that’s good for our hockey team.”

Milhouse set up Kakoske’s first goal by burning defenceman Joey Laleggia before feeding his linemate for a one-timer from the slot at 7:31 of the first period.

Early in the second period, Milhouse fired a shot from the sidewall, with Kakoske redirecting it five-hole. Kakoske, a Vernon product, says the Vipers’ scoring depth has been one of the keys to this series.

“It’s awesome to not have to rely on just one line all the time. Our line (Milhouse and Dylan Walchuk) has been playing great the whole time, even though we haven’t really been putting up numbers, but it’s starting to come.

“This is a hard building to play in, so we just had to come out hard and know they’d come back. We just kept pushing and it worked out well tonight.”

Penticton responded with a solid second period, earning a two-minute stint of pressure in Vernon’s end after Gordon (third star) made an acrobatic diving save to rob Garrett Milan on his doorstep. The veteran keeper lost his stick and borrowed defenceman Adam Thompson’s blade while they were hemmed in the zone.

Said Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson: “Our guys are working their butts off. We’re playing a heck of a team... when you’re killing seven or eight penalties you’re not going to have much juice.”

Added the Vees Denver Manderson: “I thought we had some good shifts, some good momentum. Take a penalty and they go and score. That just kills you. Clearly we needed more chances. There’s nothing else do to but try and look forward.”

Thompson made it 3-0 Vernon when his point shot appeared to redirect off Paltridge midway through the second frame. Cole Ikkala, batting the rebound out of mid-air from Stevie Weinstein’s point shot, capped Vernon’s scoring.

Meanwhile, in the Coastal Conference final, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs held a 3-1 series lead over the Powell River Kings heading into Game 5 Thursday night at Weyerhauser Arena in Port Alberni.

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