I was at tonight's Vipers-Spruce Kings game as Vernon defeated Prince George 2-1 in front of 2,086 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Keegan Karki
Prince George: Carter Woodside
1st Period: The hometown Vipers jumped on the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings off the opening puck drop, early and often. Veteran defenceman Landon Fuller with a big hit along the side wall, about two minutes into the contest. Fuller looked to be shaken up, was down on one knee, was forced to limp off the ice on one leg. Fuller was attended by the trainer on the bench, before making his way to the dressing room. Fuller seemed to be ok, would return to the Viper bench later. Vernon would jump on the games first power play just before the halfway mark. In the opening seconds, former West Kelowna Warriors forward Max Bulawka looked to have an open cage, would be robbed by the goal stick of Carter Woodside who made an unbelievable save at the side of the goal, keeping this game scoreless. Somehow they don't count this as a shot on goal as the PP continues. Late in the man advantage, Hunter Donohoe's shot from the blueline, got through traffic but went off the crossbar and up into the netting behind Prince George's goal, stopping play. Vernon with two good opportunities couldn't capitalize with the power play. It was all Vipers in the first half, as Vernon was ahead in shots 7-0 at one point, while the Spruce Kings needed close to twelve minutes to record there first shot of the hockey game. With about five and a half minutes left in the 1st period, Landon Fuller's point shot would be stopped by Carter Woodside, Ben Helgeson jumped on the big rebound, would be denied by Woodside on a big stop in close. About a minute later, "AP" Reagan Milburn did all the work, down low on a hard shift to setup Jo Jo Tanaka-Campbell in front would be stoned by Carter Woodside. Shortly after the Snakes setup Ben Helgeson on some nice three way passing, but Helgeson couldn't solve Carter Woodside. With a minute remaining, the Spruce Kings would get there first PP of the evening. PG was unable to capitalize before the final buzzer. I thought the Vipers outplayed the Spruce Kings in the first half, carried all of the play, had full puck possession but didn't generate a lot for offensive chances. Towards the end of the opening frame, is where Vernon started clicking and created/generated some very good quality chances. The Snakes had at least four or five real good opportunities late. The Spruce Kings played most of the first half in there own end, were badly outplayed and hemmed in there own end. I thought PG slowly started to come on in the second half and were finally able to get some play in the offensive zone. The Vipers were the better of the two teams. Vernon outshot Prince George 10-6.
2nd Period: The Spruce Kings started the middle frame on the man advantage that was carried over from the 1st period. Off the opening faceoff, Connor Sleeth shorthanded had a good look/opportunity would be stopped in close. The Vipers were able to kill off the minor. About seven minutes in a Viper defender looked to come very close to putting the puck in his own net. With a player chasing him down, the Vernon d-man was coming out from behind his own net, looked to almost do a wrap around and put the puck past his own goaltender as the Vipers catch a break. The Snakes thought they opened the scoring at the midway mark. On a goal mouth scramble at the top of the crease, Carter Woodside looked to make the save as a Viper beat the Spruce Kings goaltender five hole. Just as the puck was going through his legs, the referee blew the whistle just seconds before the puck crossed the goal line. The goal was waived off as the Viper faithful let the officials what they thought of the call. Shortly after the Spruce Kings sprung Will Kushniryk in for the breakaway. Kushniryk would be denied by Vernon Vipers starting goaltender Keegan Karki who was pushed back into the goal, as Brendan Hill joined the play. Hill tried jamming the puck past Karki. Six minutes later Will Kushniryk spotted Corey Cunningham with a laser pass. Cunningham got past his defender before ripping a wicked shot high and past Keegan Karki, giving Prince George a 1-0 lead at 16:03 Kushniryk drew the lone assist. With the Snakes pressing inside the final two minutes, Vernon was able to control the play on a delayed penalty. The Vipers moved the puck around, were unable to capitalize until a PG player touched the puck with only nine seconds left in the frame. Vernon was able to wind the clock down almost to the end of the period. It was 1-0 Prince George after 40 minutes of play. Both teams were fairly evenly matched early and for a lot of the first half. The play went back and fourth with both teams looking scrambled and disorganised at times. Not a lot of flow as either team didn't really generate or create much for offensive chances. The Vipers had a little more puck possession and a slight edge in play in the second half. Not a lot of scoring chances for both teams this period. Vernon outshot Prince George 13-6.
3rd Period: The Snakes started the third with the man advantage, that was carried over from the middle frame. Early into the PP Vernon product Matt Kowalski looked to have the top part of the net open, but a strong defensive play by a PG defender forced Kowalski's shot to go up into the netting behind the goal. The Vipers would miss the net on at least three heavy shots from the point as the Spruce Kings kill off the minor. Minutes later on a lengthy dump in, Keegan Karki come way out of his crease to play the puck, but looked to over skate the puck as the puck got tangled up in his skates, was lucky to get out of the way while a Viper defender was able to scoop up the loose puck and move up ice. Just before the halfway mark, the Vipers would get only there third PP of the hockey game. The Vipers once again missed the net on several shots, couldn't beat Prince George Spruce Kings starting goaltender Carter Woodside on a goal mouth scramble as PG killed off the minor. Just as the penalty expired, Connor Marritt tied the game 1-1 at 10:57 getting the crowd to there feet. Ryan Shostak and Nicholas Kent collected the helpers on a hard working shift down low. The Spruce Kings push back off the following faceoff, actually come very close to re-taking the lead on a quick shot from down low, forced Keegan Karki to make a tough save from a sharp angle. PG with a good push after the goal, have the Snakes on there heels for the next shift or two. The Vipers managed to settle down and escape a flurry of chances from the Spruce Kings. With about five and a half minutes left in the 3rd period, the Snakes cant clear the zone. I didn't see who took the shot, but a shot from the high slot forced Keegan Karki to make a tough save with bodies in and around the net, on a quality chance for PG. The Vipers would finish the period with a ton of pressure, missed on several shots from in and around the net. Vernon would get some good looks inside the final three minutes. With pressure late, Trey Taylor's shot would be stopped by Carter Woodside, who couldn't smother the puck, allowing Connor Sleeth to pounce on the rebound at the front of the crease to find the back of the net, giving Vernon a 2-1 lead at 19:43 as Kal Tire Place went into a frenzy. Max Bulawka & Taylor picked up the assists. Alex Evin and the Prince George Spruce Kings would call a timeout. The Vipers would ice the puck on the following faceoff. PG would win the draw and get two looks but run out of time, as the Snakes hang on for the 2-1 victory. The Vipers carried most of the play, other then a few shifts here and there, were all over Prince George. Vernon had some good looks, but fired wide of the net at least a half dozen times. The Vipers had a ton of zone time and pressure but didn't really generate a lot of opportunities. Give the Vipers credit they didn't quit and battled/competed all night. The Spruce Kings may have been outplayed most of the period and played most of the 3rd in there own end, I thought played fairly well defensively. The Spruce Kings kept Vernon's forwards to the outside often, took away the shooting lanes and limited there chances. PG blocked several Viper shot attempts. And when the Snakes were getting chances and pucks to the net, Carter Woodside played very well between the pipes. Vernon outshot Prince George 14-6.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Here are some players I thought stood out or played well for Vernon.
Jackson Caller I thought played well on Vernon's defence. Was good at both ends of the rink.
Connor Marritt (1 goal) Where has the Vipers captain been lately? I cant remember the last time he scored before tonight. The third year Viper has been almost invincible the past few months but stepped up his play, especially in the 3rd with a strong performance the final twenty minutes.
Jo Jo Tanka-Campbell I thought played well through out the Viper win this evening. Took a hit in the 3rd period I think? went down and was a little slow getting up, but seemed to be ok and stayed in the game.
Reagan Milburn "AP" I really liked in the Vipers 3-2 loss in West Kelowna last weekend. I thought held his own and played very well tonight. This kid looks promising for next season.
Nicholas Kent (1 assist) I thought had a strong game on the Snakes blueline. Played very well at both ends of the rink.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
The Vipers were the better of the two teams, I thought played hard, battled and competed but didn't generate or create enough opportunities through out the night. When Vernon did generate some offence, they couldn't bury there chances. The Snakes outplayed the Spruce Kings at times, had a ton of zone time and pressure in the offensive zone but had troubles generating chances. I just don't think the Vipers have the skill/or talent to blow out teams near the bottom of the standings, like Trail's 9-2 win over PG Wednesday. The Vipers missed the net way too often tonight. I thought the Snakes improved with there defensive struggles, didn't turn over the puck as often as in previous games. I'm still very disappointed in the passing. The Vipers struggled tonight making a tape to tape pass. In all three periods Vernon carried the better of the play but only managed a few opportunities now and again. If the Vipers had the scoring/skill level players, they should have put this game away in the 1st period. Due to there lack of skill/scoring, the Spruce Kings are able to hang around in a scoreless game, gain some confidence before opening the scoring. Give the Vipers credit for not quiting, battling hard and competing until the final minute of play, to earn another come from behind win. I know it was against one of the teams near the bottom of the standings, but two back to back come from behind wins at home, will maybe bring some confidence to this group and help them grow as a team. These are games you have to win. At this time of the season, you have to beat teams below you in the standings, no excuses. This was a must win for the Vipers tonight. The Vipers sweep the season series vs PG 2-0. A fairly good size crowd on hand tonight, with former Vernon Vipers captain/forward David Robinson in attendance. The Snakes have a quick turn around travel to Penticton tomorrow to face the 1st place Vees. Penticton hasn't played since January 24th vs Merritt, while Vernon has played two games in the last three days. The Vipers have won three of there last five games and six of there last ten games. With the win Vernon improves to 26-20-2-1 remain 3rd in the Interior division are five points ahead of 5th place Wenatchee, one point ahead of 4th place Salmon Arm and fourteen points back of 2nd place Trail.
Top Player's: (Prince George)
Here are some players I thought stood out or played well for Prince George.
Corey Cunningham (1 goal) This kid has some wheels, scored a real nice goal, played well through out the game in the loss.
Preston Brodziak Was one of the more dangerous forwards for PG. A big kid that was always involved in the play, had some looks.
Will Kushniryk Also has some wheels, can skate, move the puck and another dangerous player for the Spruce Kings. Was involved in the play, created/& generated some chances.
Carter Woodside (35 saves) Was the difference, was forced to make some big stops keeping his team in the hockey game. Woodside was the busier of the two netminders, was out to challenge, played very well between the pipes.
Game Thought's: (Prince George)
The Spruce Kings were outplayed most of the evening and didn't have any business even being in this hockey game. But give the Spruce Kings credit, they battled hard, played well defensively at times, limiting Vernon's chances, kept the Viper forwards to the outside, closed the shooting lanes, blocked some shots. PG played most of the game in there own end. The Spruce Kings were hemmed in there own end for several lengths at a time in the 1st and 3rd periods. Prince George didn't see a lot of time in the offensive zone, didn't get many opportunities. A re-match of last season's league final, saw the Spruce Kings lose there Head Coach and several veteran players off last years championship team. PG struggled at times were hanging on, relying on there goaltender. I didn't like the Spruce Kings third jerseys. Mostly red with a wide white stripe through the middle with the Spruce Kings logo. I spotted a small handful of PG fans in attendance, as was Penticton Vees Head Coach/GM/President Fred Harbinson along side some of members of his hockey team. Tonight's the fifth game of a six game road trip. PG plays in West Kelowna tomorrow. The Spruce Kings have lost four straight on the road. PG won 5-3 in Penticton November 27th. The Spruce Kings have lost four straight and seven of there last ten games. With the loss Prince George falls to 16-28-2-3 remain last In the Mainland division are seven points back of 4th place Langley.
Ben Sanderson (Injured)
Jack Glen (Injured)
Dawson Holt (Injured)
Max Palaga (Injured-Out for season)
Energy Player of the Game:
Ryan Shostak (1 assist)
1st Star: Connor Sleeth (1 goal)
2nd Star: Carter Woodside (35 saves)
3rd Star: Connor Marritt (1 goal)
I have picked a victory song for the Vipers this season and after every win I will play Tarzan Boy by Baltimora
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Here are some photo's I took before and during tonight's Vipers-Spruce Kings game.