Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vipers Look To Shut Down Mills:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

Vipers look to shut down Mills

By Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star

Published: March 16, 2010

Goaltender Kirby Halcrow hasn’t got a clue why he and the pesky Quesnel Millionaires are still around in their B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference semifinal series with the Vernon Vipers.

After all, the Vipers were ranked No. 2 in the country and the Mills finished a couple of time zones behind them in the regular season.

Quesnel really had no business forcing the Vipers to beat them 4-0 Monday night at Wesbild Centre and then hop on a bus to the Gold Pan City moments afterwards for Game 6 (Tuesday night).

The Mills converted a few turnovers on their postage stamp-sized rink and surprised the Vipers 3-1 before 1,000 fans Saturday night to even the best-of-seven series. A seventh game, if required, would go tonight in Vernon.

“No idea,” said Halcrow, when asked how the Mills are pushing the Vipers. “I guess our team’s just a bunch of playoff players. It’s good. It’s better late than never. Hopefully, we can keep it going here.”

The Vipers simplified their game, mixed up their lines, wandered into the greasy areas and got steady netminding from second star Graeme Gordon in Game 5. Forwards David Robinson and Rob Short especially paid the price for driving the net as they were assaulted with just about every Criminal Code offence in the book.

“They’re a hard-working team and they’re willing to go to those areas, and we just gotta beat them there and win those battles when we get there,” said Short, named third star. “We did that tonight, for sure.”

Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner was happy to see his team move away from the perimeter and enter the hard-hat zone.

“You need to do it,” said Ferner. “That’s obviously playoff hockey. What our guys have to understand is that it also wears on them. When you’re going there, they’ve gotta lean on you. They’re a younger defence, they’re doing a great job, but we know if we continue to do those things, we’re going to create some opportunities.”

The Vipers outshot the Mills 38-26 before 1,615 fans Monday night in a game which finally saw some real hate ensue. There were two entertaining fights in the late going. Lightweights Dylan Walchuk of the Vipers and Branden Redschlag battled to a draw with Redschlag earning the take-down, while David Robinson of Vernon won a unanimous decision over Brandon Watson in a middleweight tilt.

“This series has been a battle,” said Halcrow, who made 35 saves in Saturday’s win on his 19th birthday. “I don’t really know what went on tonight. We kind of got away from our game there and that’s why they capitalized. You can’t get away from your game-plan against this team. They’re just too good. We gotta be better tomorrow.”

Halcrow, who plans to upgrade some classes and earn a scholarship in the next year, says the Mills’ boisterous fans gives his club a huge lift so he was looking forward to Game 6.

Quesnel head coach Glen Watson, who could get plenty of votes for mayor these days, figures confidence is carrying his youthful troops.

“We’ve kind of chipped away at it and we’ve had some good games against these guys and we believe in what we can do,” said Watson. “It’s interesting and it builds some character for our hockey club and our organization for what we’re doing. It’s going to be sold out tomorrow night.”

First star Connor Jones opened the scoring shorthanded at 10:01 of the first period when he beat Halcrow to a loose puck behind the net and buried his third of the playoffs on an easy wrap-around.

Mike Collins converted a rebound four minutes later after Braden Pimm riverdanced around rookie defenceman Rylan Stanyer and shot from the low slot. Short, who rocked former teammate Eliot Raibl with the hardest hit of the night, struck the crossbar with 40 seconds left in the period.

Vernon went up 3-0 two minutes into the second period when Kellen Jones scored from the mid slot with Sahir Gill and Connor Jones assisting.

Kellen Jones stripped rookie Chris Kerr of the puck deep in the Mills’ zone and just failed on a deke attempt with eight minutes remaining in the period. Five minutes later, Short just missed from the side of the net after a nifty feed by Pimm.

Cole Ikkala completed the offence with 1:36 remaining in the game, snapping a 65-footer into an empty net as Halcrow tried diving back into his cage after starting toward the bench for a sixth attacker. It was Ikkala’s third of the post-season.

“They had more scoring opportunities and we couldn’t seem to generate anything,” said Watson. “Again, it’s a good hockey club we’re playing against and if you give them that inch, they take it on you.”

In Quesnel, Ikkala gave the Vipers a 1-0 first-period lead before the Mills went ahead on second-period goals by former Quebec Major Junior League veteran Joshua Desmarais and Clayton Chessa. Trever Hertz completed the Mills’ offence in the third at Twin Arenas.

The Penticton Vees shut down the Westside Warriors 3-0 Monday night before 1,658 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre to grab a 3-2 lead in that series.

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