Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Vipers Return To Cup Final:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

Vipers return to Cup final

By Graeme Corbett - Vernon Morning Star

Published: March 30, 2010

The Powell River Kings want to make team history. The Vernon Vipers want to continue a trend.

The Kings have advanced to the B.C. Hockey League’s Fred Page Cup final four times since 1991, but have yet to claim the crown. Vernon has ushered them out three times (twice as the Lakers), including last year’s 4-2 best-of-seven series win.

The Vipers advanced to final by icing the Penticton Vees 4-1 in Game 6 of the Interior Conference final Saturday night at South Okanagan Events Centre. This will be the Snakes’ 10th trip to the dance since 1996, earning titles in 1996, ‘99 and ‘03.

The Kings stunned the Alberni Valley Bulldogs by swiping the final three games of the Coastal Conference final, capped by a 3-0 shutout in Game 7 Saturday night at Weyerhauser Arena in Port Alberni.

Games 1 and 2 of the Fred Page Cup go Friday and Saturday night at Wesbild Centre, after which the series heads to the Sunshine Coast for Games 3 and 4, Monday and Tuesday respectively at the Powell River Recreation Centre.

The Kings have eight returnees from last year’s Coastal championship team, and similar to that roster, they have a top-heavy offence with three of the top-four playoff scorers – Daniel Carr (24 points), Matt Garbowsky (24 points) and Mat Bodie (22 points) rank second to fourth respectively.

The Vipers have 14 Royal Bank Cup veterans. Kellen Jones, with 12 points in 12 games, is the top sniper for Vernon, who have played four fewer games than the Kings.

“They’ve obviously got scoring up front and a hot goalie (Josh Watson). They’ve been there before and they’ll be eager to turn the tide,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Jason Williamson.

“We build a team for a seven-game series, and whenever you can do that, it’s going to benefit you. We roll our lines and everybody gets the ice time.”

Despite a 26-point gap between the two teams in the regular season, things have tightened up in the post-season. They share identical goals for (3.80) and against (1.90) averages.

“We have a lot of new faces so we don’t have the continuity they (Vipers) have,” said Kings’ head coach Kent Lewis. “We can skate and we’re a tough club. You gotta have fun at this time of the season. It’s all about attitude and expectation and you play hard and build on experience.”

Blessed with a strong defensive core, led by Bodie (captain) and 20-year-old Darcy Huisman, the Kings beat the Dawgs without sniper Jordan Grant for three games.

“It’s a little of everything,” said Lewis, when asked if Grant was being bench for discipline reasons. “He had some health issues. There are lots of rumours out there. Let’s just say it’s a closed-door issue. He’s day-to-day.”

Graeme Gordon has been rock-steady in the post-season, leading all keepers with a 1.49 goals against average, and .940 save percentage. Watson, who has been the Kings’ go-to guy, is right behind him at 1.94 GAA and .921 save percentage.

In the special teams department, the Vipers hold the advantage on the penalty kill, stopping all but two of 36 powerplays.

The Kings have allowed 12 goals on 60 attempts (80 per cent).

Connecting at 26.14 per cent, Powell River has an edge on the powerplay, with Vernon trailing at 22.64 per cent.

Saturday night in Penticton, the Vees played with desperation early on, with Eric Filiou earning the opening goal at 4:05.

Viper d-man Dan Nycholat (second star), using David Robinson as a screen, beat netminder Sean Bonar (26 saves) with a powerplay point shot less than two minutes later. Williamson says the momentum started to shift after that.

“They pretty much carried the play until they scored that goal,” he said. “After that, we started to outshoot them and get good offensive zone pressure.

Vernon’s Mike Collins picked off a pass and set up Braden Pimm (third star) for a shot on his off-wing to complete the first-period scoring.

Robinson, tipping Adam Thompson’s point blast, and Connor Jones, burying a cross-crease pass from Kellen, completed the scoring midway through the third frame. Both goals came on the powerplay, as Vernon went 3-for-4 and Penticton was scoreless in three attempts.

“Special teams was huge. For whatever reason, we got some bounces and we killed some penalties. It all comes from momentum.”

Gordon backstopped Vernon with a 29-save, first star showing.

SNAKE BITES: Viper grad Aaron Volpatti, who signed with the Vancouver Canucks last week, made a stellar pro debut with the Manitoba Moose Monday night. Volpatti scored once and won a fight with Logan MacMillan as the Moose iced the Abbotsford Heat 5-2 before 6,505 AHL fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.

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