I have had season tickets for 29 years and been following junior hockey in Vernon for over thirty five years. I have missed four Vipers home games since 2009 and five Vipers home games since the 2002-03 season. For anyone who couldn't attend or watch tonight's Vipers game, here are my thought's and view's from tonight's game. You may agree or disagree but we all have our own opinion on the game. I try to be unbiased and give a fare recap from both sides. Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog.
I was at tonight's Vipers-Silverbacks game as Vernon defeated Salmon Arm 4-1 in front of 2,357 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Salmon Arm: Matthew Armitage
1st Period: Just thirty eight seconds into the contest former Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Josh Latta with a quality chance couldn't beat Matthew Armitage inside the opening minute. A minute later Michael Young's point shot would be kicked out by Matthew Armitage who made a big pad save before a goal mouth scramble at the top of the Silverbacks crease. Several Vipers banging away at the loose puck, with Matthew Armitage scrambling around trying to smother the loose puck. Vernon couldn't capitalize after several chances in and around the blue paint. The Snakes jumped on the Backs early and often were quickly outshooting SA 4-1 just minutes in. The Silverbacks responded with a few solid shifts of their own the other way. Five minutes in, Justin Wilson with a good look-opportunity from the slot would be denied by Aidan Porter. Salmon Arm now outshooting Vernon 6-4 at this point. Just before the halfway mark John Little on a two on one decided to shoot couldn't solve Aidan Porter, before Matthew Verboon would be stopped in close on the rebound. Two big stops from Aidan Porter. Less then a minute later, Matthew Armitage would get caught way out of the blue paint as the puck took a funny bounce off the end wall, coming out front before Vernon product Coleton Bilodeau couldn't hit the open cage with a backhand from the high slot as the S'Backs catch a huge break on a missed opportunity from Bilodeau. At the midway mark Ben Sanderson returning to the lineup made some slick moves in close before being denied by Matthew Armitage. The Silverbacks goaltender couldn't control the loose puck before a goal mouth scramble as several Vipers banging away couldn't find the back of the net. On the play Vernon would come out with the games first powerplay. The Snakes with a solid PP moved the puck around, found some looks, created some chances but unable to capitalize as SA killed off the minor. Shortly after Coleton Bilodeau on the breakaway beat Matthew Armitage giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 14:51 Bilodeau's goal would be unassisted. Less then a minute later the Apes would get their first look with the man advantage but shorthanded Connor Marritt sprung Josh Latta in for the parcial breakaway who ripped a low shot inside the post and in, beating Matthew Armitage, giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 16:50 Marritt drew the lone assist. With Salmon Arm still on the PP Aidan Porter made a large save at the side of the goal, couldn't recover in time before John Little spotted Matthew Verboon in front who beat Porter, cutting Vernon's lead to 2-1 at 18:16 with just seven seconds remaining on the penalty. Inside the final minute the S'Backs spotted Noah Wakeford who's shot just went high and over the crossbar on a quality chance before the final buzzer. It was 2-1 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. The Snakes jumped on Salmon Arm early and often, had some good looks-opportunities before the Silverbacks responded with a good push back shift. Both teams had some good looks-chances but overall I thought the Vipers were the better of the two teams. Vernon had more chances and more offensive zone time. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 17-14.
2nd Period: The Vipers would jump on an early powerplay but unable to capitalize. Vernon had some good looks but couldn't find the back of the net. The Snakes then got a little sluggish as the Backs picked up their game and took over a little of the momentum early on but unable to really create/or generate much for offence. Just over six minutes in the Vipers would go on the man advantage and capitalize. Connor Marritt was the last Viper player to touch the puck on a bit of a strange play. The puck looked to be in the air before dropping down and just barley crossing the goal line before a Salmon Arm defender quickly cleared the puck from the goal line. The referee standing near the side of the net, signaled a goal while everyone on the ice looked a little confused. No argument from the Silverbacks bench as the goal stood. It was 3-1 Vernon at 8:26 Josh Latta and Landon Fuller collected the helpers. Minutes later the Apes would get a PP but shorthanded the Vipers penalty kill went to work. Josh Latta and Connor Marritt with an aggressive forecheck, forced the S'Backs into turning the puck over in their own end. Both Latta & Marritt with two quality chances each on the PK wich got a huge ovation from the crowd at Kal Tire Place. Still on the man advantage, Matthew Verboon setup Tyson Gayfer going to the goal, missed the net. Vernon with a solid penalty kill, killed off the minor. Minutes later Noah Wakeford looked to have a wide open cage, somehow fired high and over the goal, on another missed opportunity. With minutes left in the middle frame, back come the Snakes who had several quality chances un able to solve Matthew Armitage. With two minutes remaining, Hudson Schandor couldn't handle a rolling puck that rolled through the crease and past Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter. It was 3-1 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. Other then a few shifts it was all Snakes for most of the second period. The Vipers carried a lot of the play. SA had some good looks in close but couldn't catch a break, didn't have any puck luck in and around the Viper goal. If the Silverbacks capitalize on any of these, its a whole different game heading into the 3rd. The Apes went almost the entire period with just one shot on goal, before getting two shots towards the end of the period. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 13-3.
3rd Period: The Backs jump on the Vipers early off the faceoff. Landon Fuller loses his stick and the Vipers are in a bit of a panic before clearing the zone, springing Matt Kowalski in for the parcial breakaway who beats Silverbacks starting netminder Matthew Armitage but just misses the far corner. The Snakes get an early powerplay but unable to capitalize. Both teams really open up shortly after as the play goes back and forth with both hockey clubs getting some very good looks-quality chances. Salmon Arm had several looks-opportunities in close, but couldn't hit the net. Matthew Armitage once again got caught out of his crease as the puck come right back out front, but the Snakes couldn't get a clear shot at the open cage as too many SA defenders were in the way. The Apes with no puck luck tonight at all. Just past the halfway mark SA would get a powerplay but with no real quality chances, as Vernon's penalty kill was solid. Just as the penalty expired, Nick Cherkowski was patient with the puck, outwaited his defender before sliding a nice pass across the ice, setting up Elan Bar-Lev-Wise going to the net, who beat Matthew Armitage, giving Vernon a 4-1 lead at 13:34 Cherkowski with the lone assist. This got the Vipers bench fired up as everyone jumped when the puck went in. From here on in the Silverbacks couldn't gain any traction and had troubles gaining any kind of offence. The Snakes did a good job at blocking some late shots and keeping the S'Backs to the outside. In the dying seconds with time winding down, Wyatt Marlow with a quick shot from the slot beat Aidan Porter but not the post. Vernon would hold on to win 4-1. The Backs had some looks-chances early in the period but couldn't catch a bounce or break, had troubles hitting the net from in close. The Vipers with a big penalty kill halfway through the period, come back the other way and score on an odd man rush, wich basically put the game away. This was a big blow to the Apes. Salmon Arm outshot Vernon 11-9.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Landon Fuller (1 assist) I thought was one of the more effective d-men. Was physical, hard on pucks and played well at both ends of the rink.
The line of Matt Kowalski, Josh Latta (1 goal & 1 assist) & Connor Marritt (1 goal & 1 assist) Played with a ton of chemistry, were flying, creating-generating chances through out the game. Kowalski didn't stand out as much but Latta and Marritt were really clicking, both played with a ton of energy, were aggressive on the forecheck, very strong on the PK and both worked hard through out the evening. This line has really come on strong as of late and played very well the last handful of games.
Carson Golder "AP" Was wearing #8 Played a solid game on the Vipers blueline. This kid looked very impressive. A very good skater, played well at both ends of the rink, showed a lot of confidence, didn't look out of place at all. A very good defenceman.
Ben Sanderson Returned to the Vipers lineup after being out ten weeks with an injury, made a strong return. Playing with two "AP"s (affiliated players) Really used his speed and skill to his advantage tonight. Had a few looks-chances, was hard to contain with his speed-quickness. I forgot how quick he is on his feet. Gave the Salmon Arm defenders all kinds of trouble.
Nick Cherkowski (1 assist) I thought played a hard fought game.
Steel Quiring "AP" Was wearing #17 Was another affiliated player that didn't look out of place. Played very well, worked hard, was going to the net, had a few wacks at a loose puck on a goal mouth scramble in the opening frame.
Teddy Wooding Went pointless but not for his effort. Made a few Silverbacks defenders look silly with some slick moves tonight. Played with a lot of jump/energy, was very shifty in the offensive zone, but couldn't finish.
Brendan Kim I thought had another solid game on the Viper backend.
Coleton Bilodeau (1 goal) Was another forward who played hard-very well. Had some looks-opportunities, was skating hard, moving his feet, made things happen.
Aidan Porter (27 saves) Didn't have a busy night between the pipes but played his position very well. Took away a lot of net, forcing the Apes to shoot for the corners, in wich they were missing the net often, with very little open netting. Porter was good all around.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
This was one of if not the Snakes best game of the season. For the first time in a very long time I think Vernon played almost a complete sixty minute game with a solid effort from every player on the ice. The Vipers seemed to have turned things around in the month of January playing some of if not their best hockey of the season, but tonight I think was probably their best game-effort of the season. If your a Vipers fan, this was a very entertaining-exciting game to watch. Who was this Vipers team tonight? I was very impressed with their passing, there defensive game was very good, compared to some games as of late. I thought specialty teams was very solid and also a huge difference maker. The Snakes played very disciplined and stayed out of the box tonight, but also were a force on the penalty kill, scoring once shorthanded but also had several chances while on the PK. The whole team looked to be on the same page tonight, played with a ton of confidence and showed it. Where has this team been all season? The Snakes with still five regulars out of the lineup, seven if you include the two new players they acquired at yesterday's trade deadline. Don't forget the Vipers also were using four "AP"s. The Vipers blocked a lot of pucks tonight, were hungry for pucks, winning a lot of battles-races, took away time and space from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, as did a good job at shutting down the Backs top units. The Vipers caught several breaks and had the puck bounce their way all night. Another big crowd on hand for the third straight home game. I didn't give this team much hope come playoffs, but if they play like they did tonight, anything can happen. Assistant coach Kevin Pederson was not behind the Vipers bench tonight. With the win Vernon improves to 16-16-7-3 are 6th in the division tied in points with Salmon Arm. The Vipers are a point up on Trail and only five points back of West Kelowna for 4th. The Vipers are in West Kelowna next Friday. Vernon has at least a point in four straight games and five of their last six games.
Top Player's: (Salmon Arm)
Jonathan Krahn Not the biggest kid but played hard, faught his way through traffic to try and find open ice, played well in the loss.
Matthew Verboon (1 goal) Has played very well against the Snakes this year, scored once but created/generated some chances. Was one of the more dangerous forwards for the Silverbacks.
Noah Wakeford Played well at times, had some looks, just couldn't finish around the net.
Matthew Armitage (35 saves) Was forced to make several quality stops through out the night, keeping his team in the hockey game. Played very well other then gave up a lot of rebounds-second opportunities. Was caught out of his crease on three different occasions but luckily the Vipers couldn't capitalize on the open cage.
Game Thought's: (Salmon Arm)
The Silverbacks had some good looks-opportunities though out the night but didn't get any puck luck-or bounces go their way. Salmon Arm had troubles hitting the net in close, couldn't finish in and around the Vernon goal. The Apes top point getters were quiet tonight, didn't really stand out or do much through out the game. The Backs had troubles getting pucks to the net as the Snakes blocked a lot of shots. The S'Backs defence gave up a lot of shots and second and third opportunities. Salmon Arm gave up a lot of odd man rushes. The Apes struggled offensively in the 2nd period, had just one shot for most of the period, until getting two shots towards the end of the period. The Silverbacks looked a little off tonight for some reason, just not the same Salmon Arm team I saw the last five meetings vs the Vipers. The Silverbacks win the season series 5-1. With the loss Salmon Arm falls to 19-17-4-0 sit 5th in the Interior division are tied in points with Vernon and five points back of West Kelowna.
Jagger Williamson (Injured)
Jesse Lansdell (Suspended)
Jack Judson (Suspended)
Logan Cash (Injured)
Carver Watson (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Connor Marritt (1 goal & 1 assist)
2nd Star: Josh Latta (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Coleton Bilodeau (1 goal)