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 1999-2000 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 game recap from both sides. Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog.
I was at tonight's Game 4 Vipers-Silverbacks game as Vernon defeated Salmon Arm 2-1 taking a 3-1 series lead in front of 998 fans at the Shaw Centre.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Salmon Arm: Ethan Langeneger
1st Period: The Vipers with two good chances off the opening faceoff. Just over fourty seconds into the contest Michael Young's shot from the blueline would be denied by Ethan Langenegger before Connor Marritt with a great opportunity on the rebound couldn't bury his chance in close. Two big stops inside the opening minute by Ethan Langenegger. The Silverbacks with a strong push back, moved the puck back up ice in a hurry off the following faceoff, before getting a shot off from down low/near the goal line that forced Aidan Porter to squeeze tight up against the post and somehow managed to keep the puck from sneaking in, a close call. Chances at both ends of the rink early. The Vipers come right back the other way, Ben Sanderson's shot would be stopped before Vernon product Matt Kowalski on the rebound, gave Vernon an early 1-0 lead at 1:25 Sanderson & Carver Watson picked up the helpers. A large cheer from all the Viper fans that made the quick trip up to cheer on their Snakes in Game 4. A few minutes later Michael Young's point shot would be redirected in front stopped by Ethan Langenegger on a quality chance from the Vipers. Minutes later the Vipers would get the games first powerplay. The Snakes setup Teddy Wooding alone in the high slot who couldn't handle/connect on the pass on a missed opportunity. Viper captain/forward Jagger Williamson with a quick shot from in close couldn't fool Ethan Langenegger making a quick reaction save with the pad. Vernon with a ton of pressure, had some good looks/chances couldn't grab a two goal lead as the Apes got some big stops from Ethan Langenegger and killed off the minor. Just before the halfway mark as the Vipers were breaking into the offensive zone, Jagger Williamson was lying on the ice in front of the Viper bench. After the whistle stopped play, the Snakes bench erupted saying their captain was speared by Justin Wilson. Mark Ferner and the Viper bench were fired up and really letting the officials know they missed a call. After a fairly lengthy delay Wilson would get called for slashing while Williamson would be called for unsportsman like diving. The crowd at the Shaw Centre getting a little restless starting giving it to the Vernon bench and the officials wanting a delay of game penalty. On the following play/shift Josh Latta setup Connor Marritt on the two on one attack, Marritt would get in behind the Salmon Arm defence but be denied in close by Ethan Langenegger. Shots were 11-1 for Vernon at this point. The Snakes would jump on their second powerplay of the evening shortly after, again getting some good looks/chances Vernon couldn't capitalize with the man advantage, as once again Ethan Langenegger was solid between the pipes, as the S'Backs escape and kill off the minor. Coleton Bilodeau on the wrap around shortly after couldn't beat Ethan Langeneger. Just over a minute later the Backs would get their first PP of the night. Just seconds into the man advantage, Aidan Porter had to make a tough looking shoulder save, this was SA's second shot of the opening frame and their first shot since the opening two minutes. Aidan Porter was forced to make another quick reaction save to keep this a one goal game as the Vipers would kill off the penalty. About a minute or so later Aidan Porter was forced to make a difficult save with bodies in and around the crease, on a shot that looked to handcuff the Vernon goaltender but stayed out. Salmon Arm gained a little momentum towards the end of the 1st period before taking a penalty inside the final minute, sending the Snakes to the PP late in the 1st. Vernon unable to do much with the powerplay before the final buzzer. It was 1-0 Vernon after 20 minutes of play. It was all Vipers the entire period as the Snakes dominated the 1st period. The Vipers jumped on Salmon Arm early and often, carried the play for most of the twenty minutes. Vernon had full puck possession and created/generated several quality chances through out the period. Connor Marritt had a heck of a period, had at least two maybe three great opportunities. Ethan Langenegger kept the Backs in the game, stopping sixteen Vernon shots, was solid between the pipes. SA played most of the 1st in their own end, would eventually gain a little momentum towards the end of the period, to generate a little traction late. The Apes had all kinds of trouble with Vernon's forecheck and puck battle along the wall. The Snakes dominated the wall, won most of the races and puck battles, were hard to contain down low. The Snakes battled/competed hard for the full twenty minutes. Salmon Arm had troubles getting out of their own end, getting any kind of sustained pressure in the offensive zone and getting pucks to the net. It was all Vipers who could have easily been up three or four goals. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 17-6.
2nd Period: The Snakes started the middle frame on the man advantage that was carried over from the end of the opening period. The Vipers couldn't seem to settle down and get much going as the Silverbacks escape yet another Vernon powerplay and kill off the remainder of the penalty. Just over three minutes in Josh Latta and former Kelowna Rockets forward Lane Zablocki in on the two on one, Latta who couldn't get the puck across to Zablocki due to the Salmon Arm defender playing the play right, decided to keep and shoot would be denied by Salmon Arm Silverbacks starting goaltender Ethan Langenegger. About a minute later Vernon would get an early man advantage. The Snakes with their fourth powerplay of the evening, were having troubles putting this game away on the powerplay. It wasn't until the dying seconds of the man advantage when Michael Young's shot from the backend would be redirected on it's way to the goal by Matt Kowalski for his second of the night at 5:56 Young and Jack Judson drew the assists. On the following play/shift the Apes would get just their second PP of the night. SA struggled with the man advantage, as Jagger Williamson was close to breaking in for the breakaway ran out of room as a Salmon Arm defender quickly hustled back, limiting Willaimson's space who was forced to dump the puck in deep. Vernon would rag a lot of the clock and limit the S'Backs puck possession and kill off the minor. Just over a minute later the Silverbacks headed back to the powerplay. Jack Sampson looked to have all kinds of room in front for a shot, decided to pass witch was blocked by a Viper defender in front, taking away a grade a scoring chances in front, as Sampson was left shaking his head. For a second straight powerplay the Silverbacks struggled with the man advantage. Connor Marritt chased the loose puck down ice, ended up stealing the puck away from Ethan Langenegger who was way out of the blue paint, Marritt tried sliding the puck into the open cage before a Backs defender and Ethan Langenegger hustled back to break up Marritt's shot as Salmon Arm was very close to giving up a shorthanded goal. Vernon with another solid penalty kill, killed off the penalty. The Vipers would get into penalty trouble this period taking another minor about a minute and a half later sending the S'Backs back to the PP. SA would finally generate some offence and get some good looks/chances on the man advantage. Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter had to be alert, making a couple of difficult saves down low as Salmon Arm was pressing. The Silverbacks couldn't tie the game after three straight back to back to back powerplay's and it was still 1-0 Vernon. With about two minutes remaining Lane Zablocki on an odd man rush, decided to drive hard to the goal, got in behind the Salmon Arm defence for the breakaway, tried to outwait Ethan Langenegger who stretched out making a large save late in the period, keeping this a two goal game. Jesse Lansdell with about fourteen seconds left forced Ethan Lanegenegger to squeeze the five hole tight, making a tough save in the dying seconds. The Snakes with two solid opportunities inside the final two minutes. It was 2-0 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. The Vipers were the better team early and carried the play, thanks in part to back to back powerplays. It was shortly after Vernon's second goal when the Vipers got into a little penalty trouble, giving Salmon Arm three straight powerplay's. The Apes would struggle with the first two PP's gave up several shorthanded chances did manage to press on the third powerplay, get some looks but struggled getting pucks to the net. The Silverbacks weren't shooting, were getting a little too cute with the puck, instead tried dishing it off on a chance where they should have shot the puck. The Crowd was getting a little restless with the Backs powerplay, yelling "shoot the puck" "shoot the puck" As the period continued I thought SA come on at times, had some pressure, zone time and a little more puck possession. Other then the opening six minutes or so Salmon Arm played well and got a little better as the period continued. The Apes really could have used at least one goal on the PP to get within a goal. I thought the Vipers penalty kill was solid, managed to create/generate several opportunities shorthanded, played with a lot of jump/energy, once again were hard on pucks, strong along the wall and again were winning the puck battles/races for the puck. Give credit to the Snakes defence who blocked several shots on the PK. How big was Matt Kowalski's powerplay goal? Instead of going into the final frame up a goal, the Vipers carried a two goal lead into the 3rd. Ethan Langenegger made two large saves late in the period, keeping this a two goal lead. Overall I thought the play was evenly matched at times. Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 12-9.
3rd Period: Landon Fuller and Brendan Kim coughed up the puck inside the first two minutes, were very lucky the Backs didn't capitalize on the defensive errors, instead Salmon Arm couldn't capitalize after fumbling the puck on both occasions. The Snakes catch a big break early into the 3rd. Down two goals heading into the 3rd Salmon Arm was pressing early and often as the Vipers defence was having trouble with the Apes strong forecheck early. Salmon Arm carried the play early but had troubles creating/generating any kind of offence. Vernon forced to move the puck in a hurry were having troubles getting through the neutral zone. The Silverbacks were outshooting the Snakes 5-2 just four minutes in but with no real quality chances. The Vipers would catch a bit of a break after former Vipers d-man Darren Rizzolo was just a little too aggressive along the end wall, was sent to the sin bin sending Vernon to the powerplay just over seven minutes in. The Silverback fans didn't like this call, really giving it too the officials. The Snakes couldn't capitalize with the man advantage as SA killed off the minor. Shortly after the powerplay, Coleton Bilodeau with a great look/chance in close couldn't solve Ethan Langenegger. The S'Backs had some good looks but once again, were passing off the puck instead of shooting, missing on some missed opportunities. The Vipers would get called for icing on a lengthy shift, Connor Marritt was bagged on the play. The Snakes would win the draw, clear the zone and able to make a quick change but would get caught on the change, allowing former Vernon Viper defenceman Sol Seibel to setup Andy Stevens who ripped a wicked seeing eye shot past Aidan Porter, cutting Vernon's lead to 2-1 at 14:42 getting the fans off their feet, bringing some life into the building. Seibel with the only assist on the goal. With five minutes remaining the Silverbacks pressed and pressed hard but never really had any quality chances. Salmon Arm would call a late timeout and tried getting Ethan Langenegger to the bench with 1:20 left for the extra attacker. The Backs would be called for too many men as the linesmen didn't see the goaltender on the bench. The play was blown down and no penalty was called with a faceoff at centre ice. SA would get Ethan Langenegger to the bench with about a minute remaining, with pressure deep in the zone the Apes had some looks had troubles getting pucks to the net before Jagger Williamson and Justin Wilson looked to get tangled up in front of the penalty boxes. It looked like Wilson's stick was caught in Williamson's jersey as Wilson went to pull the stick out he would spear Williamson in the face as the Viper captain dropped to the ice then holding his hands over his face, quickly making his way to the Viper bench where he was attended by the trainer. Wilson was given four minutes for spearing sending the Snakes to a late powerplay with just nineteen seconds remaining. The Silverbacks would get control of the puck but would run out of time before the final buzzer as Vernon hangs on for the 2-1 victory and a 3-1 series lead. The S'Backs carried a lot of the play, down two goals were pressing hard. Salmon Arm had a lot of puck possession but not a lot of pressure in the offensive zone. The Backs had troubles getting pucks to the net and quality chances. A lot of SA's shots were from well out or either just missing the net. The Silverbacks gained a little momentum once getting on the board, pressed hard to finish the game but the Snakes defence played well. The Vipers looked a little shaky to start the period, had their troubles getting out of their own end and through the neutral zone, but seemed to settle down as the period continued, played very well defensively. Shots were 10-10.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Young (1 assist) I thought played very well on the Vipers blueline. Was getting pucks to the net, also played well defensively.
Matt Kowalski (2 goals) I haven't really noticed the Vernon product in this series until tonight. Scoring both of the Snakes two goals, was in the right place at the right time. Was going to the net, looking for opportunities-open ice. Played well in the win.
Ben Sanderson (1 assist) Was really skating hard, battled/competed, was generating chances, created some open ice, played well.
The line of Josh Latta, Lane Zablocki and Connor Marritt I thought was Vernon's best unit this evening. This line didn't put up any points but generated/created a ton of opportunities. All three were flying, skating hard, moving the puck up ice in a hurry, battled/competed, were strong on pucks down low, going to the net, had some very good looks/chances, were hard to contain and defend against.
Carver Watson (1 assist) I thought really struggled in Game 1 but has really turned his game around and played much better as the series has gone on. I think Watson has really come into his own in Games 3 & 4 in Salmon Arm and played two solid games on the road. Playing with a lot of confidence, moving the puck up ice, has played very well and smart hockey at both ends of the rink.
Coleton Bilodeau Had a chance or two in Monday's 2-1 overtime victory, had a few looks-opportunities tonight, played well.
Aidan Porter (24 saves) Wasn't tested much like Ethan Langenegger at the other end of the Shaw Centre but made the stops when called apon. Lost the bid for the shutout with just over five minutes to go in the 3rd period, played well tonight. Let in three soft goals in Game 1 has really redeemed himself and stepped up in the series since Game 1. Playing with a lot of confidence.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
I thought the Vipers played a heck of a road game in a very important Game 4. The series is either tied 2-2 or the Snakes were coming home with a 3-1 series lead. Tonight's game was very important to both teams. For a second straight game the Vipers outplay/dominate the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm. I really liked Vernon's game tonight. I thought the Vipers were very strong on the forecheck, hard on pucks, won a lot of the puck battles/races, were hard to defend and contain down low, gave Salmon Arm's defence all kinds of troubles along the wall and in and around the top of the blue paint. Vernon goes 1-6 with the man advantage but other then maybe one powerplay I thought the Vipers powerplay looked good. Had several good looks-opportunities couldn't solve Ethan Langenegger. I also liked the Viper penalty kill. Blocking shots, hard on pucks, created/generated several quality chances shorthanded. Vipers captain Jagger Williamson has been a marked man all series and was one again tonight. Justin Wilson went after Williamson twice tonight, taking penalties on both plays. The Vipers lose all three regular season games in Salmon Arm, win Games 3 & 4 in the playoffs, who would have guessed that? After losing 5-3 in Game 1 and the Silverbacks record vs the Vipers this year, who would have guessed Vernon would win the next three games? The Snakes weren't very good away from home at the start of the season but since the Christmas break Vernon has won ten of their last twelve road games. A great turnout of Vipers fans in attendance, that made a lot of noise. The Vipers now have a chance to win the series Friday night in Vernon.
Top Player's: (Salmon Arm)
Nick Unruh I thought used his size and speed, found ways to get open, played well but got better as the game went on.
Ethan Langenegger (37 saves) For a second straight game the Silverbacks netminder gives his team a chance to win and keeps his team in the game. If it wasn't for Langenegger in Games 3 & 4 the Vipers could have easily won either game by a wide margin. Game 3 could have easily been over after the opening frame and tonight, the Vipers could have gone up three or four goals if it wasn't for Langenegger. A bigger goaltender, covers a lot of the net, is hard to beat down low, plays with a lot of confidence, had Vernon's number during the regular season, has played very well against the Vipers this season.
Game Thought's: (Salmon Arm)
For a second straight game the Silverbacks got off to a poor start and couldn't recover. The Backs have found themselves trailing the last two games, having to play catchup hockey and cant complete the comeback. The Apes were outplayed/dominated in the first twenty minutes, had no business being in the hockey game. SA was very lucky to only be down a goal heading into the middle frame, could have easily been down 3 or 4-0 after the 1st period if it wasn't for their goaltender. The S'Backs were outworked and outplayed for at least the first half of the game. Salmon Arm lost a lot of the puck battles, races and battles down low. The Backs had troubles defending and containing Vernon's speed and strong work ethic. The Apes had troubles getting pressure-zone time through a lot of the game. The Silverbacks had some good looks/chances but didn't get a ton of overall grade a chances. SA had troubles getting pucks to the net, for whatever reason were passing on chances where they should have shot. Lots of errors with the puck in the slot/crease area. What has happened to the Silverbacks offence? The Backs with just three goals in their last three games. Salmon Arm's top offensive leaders looked frustrated through out tonight's game. The Silverbacks have struggled on home ice, have lost five straight at home and won only five of their last thirteen home games. Salmon Arm has just one win in their last eight games and three wins in their last twelve games. Was tonight the S'Backs final home game of the season? Will Justin Wilson be suspended for his spear to the face of Jagger Williamson?
Olson Werenka (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
1st Star: Matt Kowalski (2 goals)
2nd Star: Ethan Langenegger (37 saves)
3rd Star: Jesse Lansdell