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 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 Vipers-Spruce Kings Game 4 of the Fred Page Cup Finals as Prince George defeated Vernon 3-1 to claim their first league championship in franchise history in front of 2,219 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Aidan Porter
Prince George: Logan Neaton
1st Period: The visiting Prince George Spruce Kings jumped on the Vipers off the opening faceoff.. The Spruce Kings with a ton of jump/energy used an aggressive forecheck to hem the Snakes in their own end on several different occasions. PG quickly outshooting Vernon 4-0 early into the contest. The Vipers needed almost six minutes to record their first shot of the evening before the Spruce Kings would get the games first power play just over six minutes in. Prince George with some good looks, couldn't get pucks to the net before the Vipers would take a second penalty, sending the Spruce Kings to a two man advantage. Vernon would kill off the remainder of the first minor, before Max Coyle setup Nolan Welsh in the slot, redirected his shot past Aidan Porter in front, giving Prince George a 1-0 lead at 9:28 on the Spruce Kings one and only shot of the PP. Layton Ahac & Max Coyle collected the assists. About three minutes later Spruce Kings forward/captain Ben Poisson with a low shot from the side wall, forced Aidan Porter to make a difficult save on a quick shot from a bit of an angle. It looked like Porter was caught napping/or didn't see the shot, was quickly forced to make the save at the last second. About a minute or so later Jesse Lansdell's shot from the slot was stopped by Logan Neaton before the puck somehow got behind the PG netminder. The puck looked to be rolling towards the goal line before a Spruce Kings defender quickly shoved the net off stopping play before tempers heated up with a scrum in and around the blue paint. On the following play the Spruce Kings would head back to the man advantage, their third of the opening period. The Vipers with a strong penalty kill would kill off the minor. Shortly after the power play, Ben Poisson on a wrap around would beat Aidan Porter along the ice before hitting the far post as PG come very close to taking a 2-0 lead with about five and a half minutes to go. With just under three minutes remaining the Spruce Kings couldn't jam home a loose puck on a goal mouth scramble. Emotions boiled over at the buzzer between Jesse Lansdell and Dustin Manz as the two were given two minute slashing minors. It was 1-0 Prince George after 20 minutes of play. Unlike last night it was all Spruce Kings. Prince George jumped on Vernon early and often and outplayed/dominated the first twenty minutes. The Spruce Kings playing with a lot of jump/energy, were strong on the forecheck, gave the Vipers defence all kinds of troubles, didn't get a lot of shots on goal but capitalized on their chances. The Snakes couldn't gain any kind of traction, played a lot of the 1st period in their own end or neutral zone. Vernon struggled offensively, getting out of their own end and through the neutral zone. The Vipers were outshot 7-1 at the halfway mark and 9-2 at one point. Vernon had one real good look/quality chance otherwise didn't see a lot of time with the puck/or zone time. Both teams didn't really generate/or create a lot of quality chances. Prince George outshot Vernon 9-5.
2nd Period: Just seventeen seconds into the middle frame the Vipers would get their first PP of the contest. The Snakes struggled with the man advantage, had troubles getting pucks to the net and generating any kind of offence. Vernon didn't record a shot on the power play as PG killed off the minor. Three minutes later the Spruce Kings would get an early power play and capitalize. On their first shot of the man advantage, Patrick Cozzi setup Ben Poisson who ripped a lazer of a shot top shelf beating Vipers starting goaltender Aidan Porter high, giving Prince George a 2-0 lead at 5:14 Cozzi and Max Coyle drew the helpers. Both teams went back and fourth with no scoring chances at both ends of the rink. Both teams had troubles getting pucks to the net. With a minute remaining Vernon would get a late PP but couldn't capitalize before the buzzer. It was 2-0 Prince George after 40 minutes of play. I thought this was a fairly evenly played period but with no real quality scoring chances. Both teams seemed to go back and fourth but neither team mustered many pucks to the net. Both teams had troubles getting their offence going. I don't think the Snakes had one quality chance all period. The Vipers really needed a goal to try and get back in the game and get within a goal heading to the 3rd. This was a fairly dull-boring period with very little action. Vernon outshot Prince George 8-4.
3rd Period: The Vipers started the final frame on the man advantage that was carried over from the 2nd period. Vernon couldn't capitalize with the PP as Prince George killed off the minor. The Spruce Kings would get an early power play but spent a lot of time in their own end, just ragging time off the clock. PG looked like they were more content to just take time off the clock and did as Vernon killed off the minor. Thirteen seconds after killing off the penalty, the Snakes went right back to the sin bin, sending the Spruce Kings back to the power play. Captain Ben Poisson with a great opportunity to basically put this game away, looked to have Aidan Porter beat rang his shot off the post as Poisson looked skyward in disbelief. The Vipers with a good PK would kill off the penalty. Less then two minutes later the Vipers would go to the PP. Teddy Wooding with a rocket of a shot beat Spruce Kings starting goaltender Logan Neaton top shelf, got Vernon on the board and cut the Prince George lead to 2-1 at 9:42 sending Kal Tire Place into a frenzy. Wooding's goal was unassisted. This goal was huge, not only did it get the Snakes to within a goal but it gave the Vipers some life, momentum and got the crowd into the hockey game. The Snakes starting laying the body and finishing their checks, come outhitting, were very physical for the next several shifts. Now why didn't they do this at the start of the game? Vernon started pressing and with an aggressive forecheck had PG hemmed in their own end. With about seven minutes remaining, I think it was Jesse Lansdell from the slot forced Logan Neaton to come out of the blue paint to make a huge pad save, before the Vipers went for which looked like an open cage but a Spruce Kings defender blocked the shot on a goal mouth scramble. With about five minutes left the puck come out front at the top of the crease where Ben Sanderson couldn't get his stick on it as the Vipers come close again. Vernon just cant catch a break or get any bounces go their way this series. The Snakes continued to press and with about four minutes left Logan Neaton come across the blue paint to make another big stop with the left pad I think off Jesse Lansdell or Logan Cash. Vernon with all kinds of pressure, had some good looks-chances couldn't tie the game. Mark Ferner and the Snakes would call a timeout before getting Aidan Porter to the bench with about 1:40 remaining. Teddy Wooding looked to tie the game inside the final minute but Logan Neaton somehow managed to get his shoulder on the Wooding shot with fifty one seconds left. PG with several blocked shots inside the final minute before Michael Young tried getting the puck across the ice to Jack Judson who couldn't handle the pass, lost the battle along the wall to Patrick Cozzi who hit centre ice and then the empty net, giving Prince George a 3-1 lead at 19:20 sending the Spruce Kings bench into a frenzy. This goal basically put the game away as PG can taste victory. The Snakes would get Aidan Porter back to the bench for the extra attacker off the following faceoff, the Vipers would get the play in deep before running out of time as the Spruce Kings come flying off the ice, as sticks, helmets and gloves are thrown in the air as the Prince George Spruce Kings win their first BCHL league Championship in franchise history. At the other end of the rink the Vipers left on the bench and the ones on the ice, sulked their heads down in disappointment. Both teams would eventually line up at centre ice for the annual hand shake before the Vipers skated off the ice. League commissioner Chris Hebb handed out each Spruce Kings player with a medal before handing off the Fred Page Cup to captain Ben Poisson as the Spruce Kings celebrated on Kal Tire Place Ice in front of a small group of friends and family who were snapping pictures from the PG bench. The start of the period didn't look bright for the Vipers after not able to capitalize on a power play to start the 3rd that was carried over from the middle frame, then were forced to kill off back to back penalties. It wasn't until Teddy Wooding's power play marker gave the Snakes some life, momentum and brought some energy and life into Kal Tire Place, that the Vipers woke up and emptied the tanks for the final ten minutes. It was all Vernon the second half of the period. The Snakes ramped up the physical play, poured on the pressure late, had several good looks-great opportunities couldn't solve Logan Neaton. The Vipers didn't catch a break-or a bounce in the 3rd or this entire series, had troubles finding the back of the net. A hard fought 3rd period wasn't enough as the Vipers season comes to an end in front of their fans. Vernon outshot Prince George 6-5.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Landon Fuller I thought played another strong yet physical game for the Snakes. Played a heck of a game in the overtime loss in Game 3 Tuesday.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
The Vipers entered tonight down 3-0 in the series were looking at a huge mountain to climb. Vernon wasn't the same team I saw play in the 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 last night. The Snakes were outplayed the 1st period, played most of the opening period in their own end, had troubles getting out of their own end and gaining any kind of traction. The Vipers played better in the 2nd and 3rd periods but struggled offensively. Vernon had troubles getting pucks to the net the entire hockey game. The Snakes had one maybe two good looks/opportunities in the first two periods. It wasn't until Teddy Wooding's 3rd period power play goal that woke the Vipers up, gave this team some life, momentum and a huge boost of energy. It was the final nine-ten minutes of the 3rd where the Snakes played and looked like the same hockey club I saw play last night. The Vipers had some very good chances in the second half of the third period, couldn't solve Logan Neaton who was the difference in the game and the series. Vernon has had troubles scoring goals all season, ran into a hot goaltender in the league finals. The Snakes had all kinds of troubles getting to the front of the net, getting second opportunities and rebounds. Don't get me wrong the Vipers worked hard and played hard tonight just ran into a very good yet very strong Prince George hockey club that's much better. Going back to the regular season the Spruce Kings have won eight straight games over the Vipers. The Vipers lose a playoff series on home ice for the first time since 2007 when the Nanaimo Clippers won the Fred Page Cup in six games over the Vipers. The Snakes went through a lot of adversity this season. First it was the sale of the hockey club. The Wray family held onto the team all summer not selling the team until opening day of the regular season. This was a huge blow to the Vipers and the organization as rumors went around training camp of players not wanting to play in Vernon due to not knowing who will be the teams owner, the Vipers didn't attract or bring in any high end recruits, due to no scouting on the verge of ownership and once the ownership was settled and the 2018-19 season began, the Vipers then ran into injuries, suspensions and former Western Hockey League players joining the team, before leaving the team. The Vipers roster was different on almost every game night. Players in and players were out of the lineup on a regular basis. When the season started, Vernon struggled offensively and scoring two goals in a hockey game was a good night. The team struggled in the standings the first half of the season, sitting from last in the Interior division to 5th spot at times. In December the Vipers were last in the division and the playoffs didn't look very bright. I will be the first to say before in December I didn't give this team a chance to win one playoff game. It wasn't until after the Holidays when the team started play in January when something happened. The Snakes lost just five games in the second half of the regular season and were one of if not the hottest team since the Christmas break. Vernon started winning and kept on winning, the fans continued to come out and support this team as the crowds slowly started to grow as the season was winding down. I had changed my mind come the start of the playoffs. After from what I saw in January and February this was a totally different hockey club. The playoffs were a whole new season and what a playoff run it was! The Vipers win their 17th Interior division championship and get to the league finals. I myself and Im pretty sure many other Vipers fans didn't see this team going to the Fred Page Cup. What can you say about the job Mark Ferner and the Vipers coaching staff did with what they had this season? Hats off to those three gentlemen! The Vipers have nothing to hang their heads about and should be proud of what they accomplished in the second half of the regular season and playoffs. This series could have gone either way. If the Vipers catch a break or get a bounce or some puck luck in any of the four games, who knows what happens. I really think the Snakes needed at least one win in Prince George to come home with the split, if not needed to win Game 3 last night to get back in the series and still have a chance. I would like to take this time to congratulate the entire Vipers organization, players and coaches on a great season! It may not have been the most exciting first half of the season the team or its fans wanted to see, it was the second half of the season that made it so much more exciting! I would like to thank and wish all the veteran players who wont be back next season, all the best in your hockey/or life journey and thank you for some great memories! You all will be missed!
Here is a look at the previous playoff matchup's vs Prince George
1990-91 Mowat Cup Vernon defeated Prince George 3-0
1991-92 Mowat Cup Vernon defeated Prince George 3-0
1994-95 Mowat Cup Vernon defeated Prince George 4-0
1998-99 2nd round Vernon defeated Prince George 4-0
1999-00 1st round Vernon defeated Prince George 4-2
2004-05 2nd round Vernon defeated Prince George 4-1
2005-06 1st round Vernon defeated Prince George 4-1
Here is a look at Vernon's previous league championship finals
1969-70 Vernon defeated Victoria 4-2
1971-72 Vernon defeated Penticton 4-3
1987-88 Vernon defeated Richmond 4-1
1988-89 New Westminister defeated Vernon 4-2
1990-91 Vernon defeated Chilliwack 4-2
1991-92 Vernon defeated Bellingham 4-0
1995-96 Vernon defeated Langley 4-1
1996-97 Surrey defeated Vernon 4-1
1998-99 Vernon defeated Chilliwack 4-1
1999-00 Chilliwack defeated Vernon 4-1
2001-02 Chilliwack defeated Vernon 4-2
2002-03 Vernon defeated Chilliwack 4-0
2004-05 Surrey defeated Vernon 4-1
2006-07 Nanaimo defeated Vernon 4-2
2008-09 Vernon defeated Powell River 4-2
2009-10 Vernon defeated Powell River 4-3
2010-11 Vernon defeated Powell River 4-0
2013-14 Coquitlam defeated Vernon 4-0
Mark Ferner said on the radio post game show, the Vipers have a possible 14 players that could return for next season. I took a look at the Vipers roster and here is my guess on the possible 14 players that could come back for next season.
Next season? What can we expect as Vipers fans? John & Tom Glen got their first taste as junior hockey owners this season with very little to no changes. What will happen over the summer-off season? Will we see any changes/or any major changes? Will they keep the Vipers name? Will they change the team colors-jerseys-logo? Will we see any changes in the office? Will we see any changes to Kal Tire Place? Will Mark Ferner, Kevin Kraus and Larry Draper be back next season? Rumor is none of the coaches have contracts for next season. There has been a ton of different rumors going around Kal Tire Place/Vipers games since training camp opened in late August and continued through out the season. Let the rumors and speculations continue.
Top Player's: (Prince George)
Layton Ahac (1 assist) Played very well last night, had another solid game on the backend in Game 4.
Patrick Cozzi (1 goal & 1 assist) Played a hard fought game, battled and competed all night. Was hard in on pucks and never quit skating.
Ben Poisson (1 goal) This kid is a heck of a hockey player! Scored once but had several good looks/quality chances through out tonight's game. Has a wicked shot, really sees/reads the ice well, goes to the net, plays smart.
Nolan Welsh (1 goal) I thought played very well, has some quickness, can move the puck and create/generate opportunities, finds the holes to create some open ice.
Logan Neaton (18 saves) Wasn't nearly as busy as last night's 44 save performance, was still forced to make that large save in key times of the hockey game tonight. A bigger netminder, covers a lot of the net, gives up very few to zero second opportunities, smothers the puck on almost any play he gets, makes the big saves when called apon. Without this kid, the Spruce Kings are not the same hockey team.
Game Thought's: (Prince George)
The Spruce Kings jumped on the Snakes early and often off the opening faceoff, once again opened the scoring, and once again played with a lead, something they have done all series. A very strong defensive effort tonight, limiting the Vipers chances, once again shut down Vernon's top point getter's. PG's defence boxes the Vipers to the outside, blocked some shots tonight, not nearly as many as in Game 3 force the Snakes to the outside and along the wall. The Spruce Kings play with an aggressive forecheck, are right on top of you, don't give Vernon any time or space to think. This team doesn't generate a ton of chances, capitalizes on their opportunities. Both teams struggled offensively tonight, both teams didn't get a lot of quality chances, also had troubles getting pucks to the net. A very low shot total. The Spruce Kings have won thirteen straight games, are 16-1 in the playoffs. Prince George has won fourteen of their last seventeen road games. A good size turnout of Spruce Kings fans at tonight's game, including several parents and family members. For all you West Kelowna Warriors fans, Crazy Mary was at tonight's game and has been at almost every Vipers playoff game this entire playoff run. Prince George made their first trip to the BCHL league finals last year fell short in five games to the Wenatchee Wild, win their first Fred Page Cup in franchise history and will now advance to the Doyle Cup to face the AJHL Champion Brooks Bandits. Because the Bandits are this year's Royal Bank Cup host team, the Spruce Kings and Bandits both automatically advance to the 2019 RBC Cup in Brooks, Alberta. I would like to take this time to congratulate the Prince George Spruce Kings entire organization and their fans on a great season and playoff run!
To all the fans and regular viewer's who visit my blog, just because the Vipers season come to an end tonight, please do not stop coming here. I will continue to update the blog daily through out the off season/summer with any kind of Vipers/or team news, trades and Vipers alumni news etc. I would like to take this time to thank all of you, the viewer's and fans of this blog who visit the blog on a regular basis. I recently hit 1.6 million viewer's a few months ago and the numbers continue to climb. Without you, this blog wouldn't exist. For the one's who don't know, this is like a second job which I don't get paid. I do this out of my own goodness as Vipers hockey is something I cherish and enjoy! Hockey is my life and I try my best to keep all Vipers fans and anyone else who visit's this blog updated with all the Vipers news through out the season and off season. I try my best at keeping it professional and as unbiased as possible. There is several countless hard hours put into this blog daily. It takes several long hours a day of just searching the web, twitter accounts, facebook, team websites, blogs, local newspapers and so on to try and find info to post on this blog daily. Thanks to everyone who has posted comments through out the season, good or bad please keep em coming! Enjoy your summer and will see everyone back at the rink for Vipers training camp in four months.
Energy Player of the Game:
No player was announced
No players were announced