Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kal Tire Buzz Inspires Vipers:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

Kal Tire buzz inspires Vipers

by  Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star

Jan 30, 2016

Parents Weekend. Chris Crowell jersey retirement night. Oh, and Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack and his coach were in the house.

The buzz in the building seemed to inspire the Vernon Vipers as they rallied for an entertaining 3-2 B.C. Hockey League victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night before 2,402 boisterous fans at Kal Tire Place.

Vernon was without clutch forwards Odeen Tufto (leading scorer), Riley Brandt, Christian Cakebread and Hunter Zandee, all sidelined with illness or concussion and representing 54 goals. Salmon Arm was missing veteran d-man Ryley Booth and forwards Carson Bolduc and Cam Couture.

“I think our team does a little bit better when we’re under the gun,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “Last game in Salmon Arm, we lose two forwards after the first period and go out and put up seven in the second. I think when you’re down guys, you just go out there and play hockey. The shifts are short and you keep it simple.”

The Silverbacks, trying to atone for a 10-5 loss two weeks ago at the Shaw Centre in a tilt they were leading 5-1, went ahead 2:17 after the national anthem when call-up Josh Latta sniped his first BCHL goal on a scramble. Assists went to Marcus Mitchell and Jared Turcotte. Latta, 17, leads the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League and the Vancouver NW Giants in points with 53.

D-man Kodi Schwarz, who was talking to college scouts after the game, made it 2-0 just 82 seconds later with a shot from the left hash marks, his fourth of the year, from Turcotte.

The Vipers responded when blueliner Mitchell Oliver’s wrister from the right point beat Angus Redmond with 13 seconds left in a hit to the head penalty to Cam Trott on Charlie Michalowski. Trott was also assessed a misconduct. D-man Darren Rizzolo earned the assist on Oliver’s third of the season.

Vernon levelled the score at 14:24 of the second period when Ben Butcher scored on a sweet wraparound to the right post for his eighth of the season. Liam Finlay, who took first star and the Fortis Energy Player of the Game, and Brett Stapley pocketed the helpers. Butcher’s father, Garth, a former NHLer, was in the building.

Ex-NHLer Joe Sacco was also at Kal Tire Place and watched his son, Joe, bury the winner at 3:31 from the right circle after a nice cross-ice feed by captain Colton McCarthy. It was Sacco’s eighth of the campaign.

“Typical Vernon Vipers start against Salmon Arm tonight which isn’t our biggest asset against this team,” said Kraus.  “We battled back and we were able to tie it and eventually get the winner early in the third. I think our  team is definitely starting to learn how to win these tight games and good for our team to mature as a group.”

Salmon Arm outshot Vernon 33-29 with Andrew Shortridge posting his 16th win in a fast-paced, hard-hitting, entertaining contest.

Butcher went into the corners and did the heavy lifting alongside Finlay and Stapley. Butcher has played his best hockey as a Viper since getting sucker-punched by Reed Gunville of the West Kelowna Warriors and breaking his nose at the buzzer in a Jan. 12 game at Royal LePage Place.

“We just talked about keeping it simple, making sure we’re playing within our systems and doing the right things,” said Butcher, a Bellingham product. “We were going hard and everybody chipped in; it was a good effort by the team.

“Pretty unbelievable, on Parents Weekend, being my last year in the league and all, getting the win in front of my dad was pretty special.”

The teams met again Saturday night at the Shaw Centre in front of an expected sellout on Hockey Day in Salmon Arm.

The Silverbacks are third in the Interior Division, two points behind the Warriors, 7-1 winners over the Cowichan Valley Capitals in Duncan. The Vipers hold down the fourth and final playoff berth with 45 points, five ahead of the idle Trail Smoke Eaters. Trail hosted the first-place Penticton Vees Saturday night. Nick Jones compiled 2+1 as the Vees shelled the Smokies 6-1 before 2,367 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“We’ve got a lot of momentum here. See if we can get the win tomorrow and get another four points (Wednesday night) in PG and keep going from there,” said Butcher.

Salmon Arm left winger Mitch Skapsi, obtained from the Chilliwack Chiefs at the trade deadline, felt the Gorillas deserved a better fate Friday.

“It was a tough one, those 3-2 losses are tough on a team especially when you work hard,” said the 19-year-old Abbotsford product. “It was just one lucky bounce for them and they made it 3-2. It’s so frustrating because we had so many chances and we lose.

“We had a couple of players missing. No excuses. We still need to perform and everybody needs to  play their role and hopefully we can win tomorrow’s game.”

Skapsi, who played for Ferner and the Western Hockey League Everett Silvertips as a 16-year-old,  said the Silverbacks certainly had the 10-5 debacle on their minds during game preparation.

“We definitely had motivation. They showed us up in our barn and we were trying to do the same to them and it didn’t go in our favour.”

SNAKE BITES: Lack and and his Salmon-Arm based goalie coach, Lyle Mast, sat quietly through the first period, but then were bombarded by fans for photos and autographs after being noticed... Colorado Avalanche Director of Player Development Dave Oliver, of Vernon, was also in the house with his wife and son...Conor Webb of the Vernon Midget Tier 2 Vipers backed up Shortridge with Brendan Barry in sick bay...The Langley Rivermen clipped the Merritt Centennials 4-3 with Vernon product Brett Jewell getting his 11th goal of the year for the Cents...The Snakes have won four straight and were 5-3 in January heading into Saturday night. Vernon visits Merritt Saturday in one of 10 February tilts to finish the regular season. The roadrunner Wenatchee Wild are here Feb. 26.

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