I have had season tickets for 29 years and been following/watching Junior hockey in Vernon for over thirty five years. I have missed four Vipers home games since 2009 and missed 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 3 of the Interior division finals Vipers-Wild game as Vernon defeated Wenatchee 7-2 in front of 2,065 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Wenatchee: Austin Park
1st Period: The Vipers with a strong forecheck off the opening faceoff couldn't create/or generate any chances before the Wild pushed back with a quick transition game up ice, Aidan Porter come behind his goal to play the puck, turned the puck over to Blake Bargar who fired a quick shot towards the net come very close to banking his shot in and off Aidan Porter who was scrambling back into the blue paint. The Snakes escape which could have been a disaster play/goal just forty two seconds into the contest. The Wild would carry the play early with a ton of puck possession and zone time before getting their first shot of the evening almost three minutes into the opening frame. The Vipers responded with some nice three way passing. Assistant captain Jesse Lansdell spotted Brendan Kim setup Logan Cash going to the goal, giving Vernon a 1-0 lead at 4:39 on the Vipers first shot of Game 3. Kim & Lansdell drew the assists. Cash returning to the Vipers lineup after missing the last four games. Just before the halfway mark Josh Arnold with a quality chance in front would be denied by Aidan Porter. With six minutes remaining Blake Bargar got in behind the Vernon defence got a high shot off from in close, forced Aidan Porter into making a tough save, getting a piece of Bargar's shot with the shoulder, keeping this a one goal game. With about three and a half minutes to go the Snakes tried setting up Ben Sanderson driving to the goal, couldn't reach/connect on the pass before getting the puck shortly after come back with a opportunity in front couldn't solve Austin Park in close. Wenatchee come right back up the ice the other way before Josh Arnold would be stopped in close at the side of the Vipers net. Vernon would get the games first power play towards the end of the 1st. Vipers forward/captain Jagger Williamson tried setting up Teddy Wooding on a two on one rush, couldn't hit the net from the slot on a missed opportunity. The visiting Wenatchee Wild would kill off the minor. It was 0-0 after 20 minutes of play. I thought the Snakes were outplayed early with Wenatchee having a lot of early puck possession and zone time. The Vipers responded with a few push back shifts. Both teams didn't have a lot of quality chances, had some looks with not a lot of pucks getting to the net. I would say the Wild had a slight edge in play but not by much. Wenatchee outshot Vernon 8-4.
2nd Period: The Vipers with a strong start to the middle frame, had the early puck possession. Former Kelowna Rockets and Western Hockey League veteran forward Lane Zablocki with a physical shift early into the 2nd period was finishing his checks, hitting anybody in a black jersey. Zablocki & Blake Bargar would get tangled up along the side wall, before wrestling to the ice. Both players would pick up minors. Shortly after Ben Sanderson with some speed going hard to the goal, beat Wenatchee Wild starting goaltender Austin Park with a wicked back hand top shelf, giving Vernon a 2-0 lead at 4:08 getting the fans to their feet early. Teddy Wooding picked up the only helper on the play/goal. Just over two minutes later on a good push back shift, the Vipers unable to clear the zone before Matt Gosiewski's shot would be redirected in on it's way to the net by Brian Adams cutting Vernon's lead to 2-1 at 6:33 Gosiewski & Murphy Stratton collected the assists. The Wild with a huge goal get right back into the hockey game. Just past the halfway mark Landon Fuller leveled Brian Adams the hockey player, not the singer hard near the penalty box sending Adams to the ice hard. Adams didn't get up, needed attention from the trainer was able to get up on his own strength, looked to be a little woozy on his way to the bench, made his way to the dressing room with the trainer and didn't return to the hockey game. Fuller would get charged with boarding, sending Wenatchee to their first power play of the evening. The Snakes with a solid penalty kill, killed off the minor as the Wild didn't record a single shot with the man advantage. Just as the penalty expired AJ Hodges alone in the slot ripped a quick shot forcing Vernon Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter into making a large save from in close, keeping this a one goal game. This save was key as forty two seconds later Ben Sanderson would get stopped in close. Austin Park couldn't control the rebound on a goal mouth scramble, the puck come back to the point to Landon Fuller who looked to have an open cage ripped a heavy shot that missed the open net hit a body or two in front of the blue paint and somehow the puck ended up in the back of the goal, giving Vernon a 3-1 lead at 13:57 Fuller's shot looked to hit a player or two in the crease before somehow finding it's way into the back of the goal on Fuller's first goal as a Vernon Viper. Teddy Wooding and Lane Zablocki drew the assists. Twenty seconds later the Snakes spring Tyler Ho in for the breakaway beat Austin Park five hole, giving Vernon a 4-1 lead at 14:17 Coleton Bilodeau picked up the assist. Two goals in twenty seconds, opens up the game, was this the TSN turning point? Eight seconds later on a strange call, Vernon product Coleton Bilodeau looked to be taken to the ice was given two minutes for roughing, sending the crowd at Kal Tire Place into a frenzy, letting the officials know what they thought of the call/penalty. The Wild with just their second PP of the night/period. Wenatchee with a few good looks, couldn't solve Aidan Porter as the Snakes kill off the penalty. With about two and a half minutes left in the middle frame, PJ Fletcher with a rocket of a shot from the top of the circle, beat Aidan Porter but not the goal post as Wenatchee comes within inches of making it a two goal game. Porter and Vernon catch a break late in the period. It was 4-2 Vernon after 40 minutes of play. I thought the Snakes were the better of the two teams, carried a lot of the play, had more puck possession, zone time and scored on their opportunities. The Wild had just two shots on goal halfway through the period, had troubles gaining possession and getting any quality time in the offensive zone. For a second straight period neither team had a lot of offensive chances, didn't get a lot of pucks to the net. The TSN turning point may have been Vernon's two quick goals twenty seconds apart, giving the Vipers a 4-1 lead. Vernon outshot Wenatchee 9-5.
3rd Period: The Wild down three goals to start the final frame, attack early off the opening puck drop. Josh Arnold on a quality chance fifteen seconds in cant beat Aidan Porter. Porter with a big stop early. Off the following draw, a shot from the point hits/bounces off two players going to the net, forces Aidan Porter to make a large right pad save, just squeezing the puck under his right pad/skate, keeping this a three goal game. Wenatchee with a ton of pressure early, looking to climb back into the hockey game. The Snakes survive an early push from the defending league champs answer back with a crushing blow. Michael Young with a rocket off the draw beat Austin Park five hole on a shot it looked like Park didn't see/react too until the puck had already beat him, hitting the base of the net, coming right back out, giving Vernon a commanding 5-1 lead at 5:01 Teddy Wooding with his third assist of the night. This basically put the game away early into the third period. I was surprised to see the Wild didn't pull Austin Park at this point in the hockey game. Instead Bliss Littler leaves his starting goaltender between the pipes to finish the contest. 1:11 later Marko Reifenberger crashes the net, knocking into Aidan Porter, also knocks the net off and into the end boards, causes a bit of a scuffle as several Vernon players, come to Porter's aide. Some pushing and shoving between the altercation as several players take some shots at Reifenberger, who was the only player sent to the sin bin for cross checking. The Snakes come out of the first real altercation of the game, on the PP. Up 5-1 at this point and on the man advantage, it looked like the Vipers took their foot off the gas to start the power play, passing the puck around before Jagger Williamson setup Teddy Wooding who beats Austin Park on a highlight reel goal, giving Vernon a commanding 6-1 lead at 7:12 Williamson & Jesse Lansdell collected the assists. Just before the midway mark Lucas Sowder with some speed cant solve Aidan Porter in close on a quality chance. On the same play/shift Porter is forced to make a second stop seconds later. Porter with two large saves in a 6-1 hockey game. Minutes later former Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Josh Latta steps over the blueline before ripping a quick snap shot high past Austin Park, giving Vernon a 7-1 lead at 13:52 Latta's goal was unassisted. Several fans started making their way to the exits with the Snakes in full control. Towards the end of the hockey game Blake Bargar beat Aidan Porter, rang his shot off the post before jamming away at the rebound at the side of the goal. Bargar would eventually push the puck past Porter and into the back of the goal, cutting Vernon's lead to 7-2 at 18:04 The goal light didn't come on but the one official was behind the Vernon goal, got a good look at the play/goal. Lucas Sowder drew the lone helper. Off the following faceoff a scrum deep in the Snakes zone, some pushing and shoving between both hockey clubs, drew a crowd as tempers heated up inside the final two minutes of play. Jesse Lansdell, Brendan Kim and Blake Bargar would all draw minors. Lansdell and Bargar would be sent to the dressing room. The Wild would finish the game on a late power play, had some looks before running out of time as Vernon comes away with a big 7-2 commanding victory in Game 3, takes a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 tomorrow in Vernon. Down three goals to start the frame Wenatchee presses hard off the opening puck drop. The Wild with several good looks/quality chances inside the opening minute cant solve Aidan Porter. The Vipers manage to escape an early attack from the Wild put the game away with Michael Young's blast from the point. The Snakes with three third period goals on just seven shots, look to take their foot off the gas at times. Wenatchee with several good looks/opportunities, get rubber to the net only manage one past Aidan Porter who was solid between the pipes in the 3rd period. The Wild press and carry a lot of the play in a lopsided third period. The Snakes score on their opportunities, put the game away early. The Wild really needed a goal inside the opening minute on one of their grade a chances to try and get within two goals, cant capitalize on their chances, end up surrendering three goals in the blowout. Wenatchee outshoots Vernon 15-7.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Michael Young (1 goal) I thought played very well at both ends of the rink. Not just because he scored the fifth goal of the hockey game, but his overall defensive and offensive play at both ends of Kal Tire Place. By far Vernon's best d-man.
Ben Sanderson (1 goal) The son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson, Played a heck of a hockey game in the win tonight. Sanderson's speed and quickness really opened up the ice, created/generated chances through out the game. Was dangerous all night. Was hard to contain and defend against. Has been one of Vernon's more consistent players since the Christmas break.
Teddy Wooding (1 goal & 3 assists) I think Wooding has had the most looks/opportunities in these playoffs, finally gets rewarded with four points in the win in Game 3. This kid comes to play game in and game out, competes, battles and creates/generates chances each and every game, is a hard working kid. May not catch the breaks or get any puck luck some games, but continues to battle and work hard. Had a heck of a game tonight.
Brendan Kim (1 assist) The former Penticton Vees "AP" defenceman I thought played very well on the Vipers blueline. I noticed made one mistake I think in the 2nd period, otherwise played very well on the backend.
Logan Cash (1 goal) Making his return to the Snakes roster after missing the previous four games with an injury, opened the scoring for Vernon. Cash collided with Vipers forward/captain Jagger Williamson in Game 5 of the Vipers/Trail Smoke Eaters series left the ice that night and didn't return. Williamson broke his nose on the play, missed some of the game that night, but returned with a full visor and hasn't missed any action since the collision. Cash really used his big body, was going hard to the net through out the game, was skating hard, strong on pucks, battled/competed every shift.
Lane Zablocki (1 assist) The former five year Western Hockey League veteran forward played a physical-hard hitting game. Played with a lot of jump/& energy.
Aidan Porter (26 saves) After giving up three goals on sixteen Wild shots in Game 2 Sunday in a 3-0 loss come back with a heck of a game in Game 3. Porter was solid between the pipes, looked confidence, played his position well. Come very close to getting caught out of his net inside the opening minute of the contest, was forced to make some large saves early off the opening puck drop in the 3rd period.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
The Snakes with a strong shift off the opening faceoff, then had troubles with a an attacking Wenatchee Wild team. The defending division and league champion Wild had lots of puck possession and zone time early, but no real quality chances early. The Vipers escape before opening the scoring just over four minutes in. I thought Vernon was outplayed at times in that opening period, responded well with a few good push back shifts. The Vipers with a very strong 2nd period scored three goals on just nine shots. How big were the two back to back goals, just twenty seconds apart? TSN turning point? Ben Sanderson scores to give the Snakes a 2-0 lead early in that second frame, before the Wild reply back just over two minutes later. The Vipers respond with those two quick goals twenty seconds apart, seem to open up the game a little and put the pressure on Wenatchee. I really liked Vernon's game in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Vipers score three goals on nine shots in the middle frame, score three goals on seven shots in the final frame. Overall I thought the Snakes capitalized on their chances, played disciplined, played well defensively and got some timely saves from Aidan Porter. In the 3-0 loss Sunday in Game 2 the Vipers allowed Austin Park to make a few big saves early, get his confidence rolling. Tonight, Park was unable to make that first big stop or first few large saves. Gives up the first goal on Vernon's first shot, couldn't really settle into the hockey game, wasn't really forced to make many big saves in the loss. I would like to see Nick Cherkowski and Elan Bar-Lev-Wise back in the lineup and playing with Coleton Bilodeau. I think these three/4th line plays hard, plays with a lot of confidence and has chemistry together. This line is much more effective then the Vipers fourth line they played tonight. I think both Cherkowski and Bar-Lev-Wise bring a lot to the table/Snakes lineup. How big will Game 4 be tomorrow? If anything the Snakes get the split and get another home game in this series. Vipers will have to be at their best tomorrow if they want to push the Wild to a commanding 3-1 series lead. So far this is a much different series compared to the Vipers/Smoke Eaters seven game series. No real bad blood or intensity in the Interior division finals yet. More skill and hockey being played. This series is more coaching/a chess match, waiting to see what the other coach/team's move is. Since the Wild joined the league in 2015 the Vipers and Wild have never really had a hate on for one another. These two teams have never really had much of a rivalry so far. Former Vernon Vipers forward/captain David Robinson (2006-07 & 2009-2011), former Vernon Vipers forward Trevor Keenan 2002-03) and former Vernon Lakers defenceman and assistant coach Keith Chase (1982-1991) were all in attendance tonight. A good fair size crowd on hand for tonight on a midweek game.
Top Player's: (Wenatchee)
Murphy Stratton (1 assist) This kid saw a ton of ice time, until the 3rd period with the game out of reach was limited. A big forward seemed to be on the ice every second shift at times, really sees/reads the ice well. Moves the puck up ice, creates/generates chances.
Brian Adams (1 goal) Played well until taking a huge check from Landon Fuller in the 2nd period, didn't return.
Josh Arnold I thought played very well for the Wild. Had several good looks/chances in the first two periods, was dangerous with and without the puck. Always going to the net, looking for opportunities. Was hard to defend against.
Blake Bargar (1 goal) Was another forward who had several looks/opportunities. A big body, goes to the net.
Drake Usher I thought played well on the backend.
Game Thought's: (Wenatchee)
The Wild with a strong start, had good pressure, early puck possession and a lot of zone time, had the Vipers reeling at times, but unable to really generate any kind of offensive chances. Wenatchee then surrenders the games first goal early in a 1st period I thought the visitors had a slight edge in play. The Wild give up an early go to start the middle frame, battled back to get within a goal just over two minutes later. The Wild cant capitalize on their first power play of the night, end up giving up two quick back to back goals, twenty seconds apart are now down 4-1. This was the killer and basically put the game away. Wenatchee gets a second look with the man advantage shortly after Vernon's fourth goal but again can't capitalize on the PP. The Wild hit a post with about two and a half minutes remaining in the 2nd period, don't catch a break or get the bounces go their way. Down three goals to start the 3rd I thought Wenatchee attacks off the opening faceoff, gets two grade a opportunities, cant solve Aidan Porter, before giving up the fifth goal minutes later and the games basically over. The Wild give up three goals on nine shots in the second frame and then three goals on just seven shots in the 3rd, don't get the goaltending they needed tonight. I don't think you can blame any of the goals on Austin Park but Wenatchee needs a big save or two at some point in this hockey game. I was surprised the Wild and Bliss Littler leave Park in for all seven goals and the entire game? I thought for sure Park's night was done after the Snakes fifth goal. Maybe the Wild plan on using Cal Sandquist in Game 4? Who will get the start in goal tomorrow? Will Wenatchee go back with Park? This was a much closer game then the final score. I thought up until the Vipers two quick back to back goals, twenty seconds apart, this was a tight hockey game with very limited chances. Both teams didn't get a ton of offensive chances, the Vipers scored/capitalized on their opportunities. Both teams also didn't get a lot of pucks to the net. The Wild would eventually get fifteen shots on goal come the 3rd period. The Wild were missing two key players tonight, both Christophe Fillion and Christophe Teller were out of the lineup. Before Vernon's two quick back to back second period goals, it was anyone's game at that point. How big is tomorrow's Game 4? A Viper win and the Wild's season is on the line, heading home for Game 5 Friday. A Wenatchee win and the series is tied with the Wild regaining home ice advantage. The winner of this series will face the Prince George Spruce Kings, who eliminated the Victoria Grizzlies tonight, winning the series 4-0. A very select few Wild fans at tonight's game.
Energy Player of the Game:
Jesse Lansdell (2 assists)
1st Star: Teddy Wooding (1 goal & 3 assists)
2nd Star: Aidan Porter (26 saves)
3rd Star: Landon Fuller (1 goal)