I was at tonight's Vipers-Clippers game as Nanaimo defeated Vernon 3-2 in front of 1,965 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Reilly Herbst
Nanaimo: Jordan Naylor
1st Period: The game got off to a bang. Inside the opening minute, the Clippers turned over the puck in the offensive zone before Dawson Holt sprung Vernon product Matt Kowalski in for the breakaway who chipped the puck up and past Jordan Naylor, getting the crowd to there feet, giving Vernon an early 1-0 lead at 0:57 Holt & Logan Cash drew the assists. Twenty two seconds later, Liam Ryan's shot along the ice beat Reilly Herbst, tying the game 1-1 at 1:19 on a goal Herbst was either screened or was caught off guard. Travis Walton and Tyler Williams with the helpers. Less then five minutes later, Josh Kagan with some slick moves undressed a Snakes defender, before being stopped by Reilly Herbst before burying the rebound, giving Nanaimo a 2-1 lead at 6:02 Devon Mussio and Joshua Bourne collected the assists. About three minutes later, Logan Cash on an odd man rush, spotted Ben Helgeson driving to the net, would be denied in close after Jordan Naylor with a large pad save in tight, kept this a one goal hockey game. A minute and a half later, Jackson Caller's point shot got through traffic, but stopped by Jordan Naylor, making a tough save with bodies in front. Two minutes later, Liam Ryan with a high shot from the circle, caught former Chicago Steel netminder Reilly Herbst high in the mask, making a tough save from in close. Several opportunities at both ends of the rink, all within minutes apart. With about six minutes remaining the Clippers would get the games first power play. Just over a minute into the PP, Ben Helgeson hits a Nanaimo player along the side wall, from behind. Helgeson and the Vipers catch a big break, wasn't given a penalty as the play continues. Joshua Bourne finds Helgeson and starts to rough him up as the two get tangled together. Bourne would be called for roughing, taking away the Shipmen's man advantage. Both teams went to four on four before the Snakes with a shortened PP. Dawson Holt's shot from the high slot, beat Jordan Naylor but not the post as Vernon come within inches of tying the contest. Towards the end of the man advantage, Jo Jo Tanaka-Campbell had Jordan Naylor down and out, looked to have a wide open cage, somehow couldn't hit the open net, on a missed opportunity as Nanaimo kills off the minor. Just as the penalty come to an end, Connor Marritt gives a questionable crosscheck, sending the Clippers to a late man advantage. The Vipers with a big PK kill off the minor just before the period comes to an end. It was 2-1 for Nanaimo after 20 minutes of play. The Snakes with a quick start to the hockey game, jump on Nanaimo early. Matt Kowalski opens the scoring inside the opening minute, but the Vipers don't hold the lead for long. I thought the Shipmen had a slight edge in play in the first seven to eight minutes, carried a slight edge in play. The Vipers played better towards the midway mark and for the remainder of the period. I thought Vernon had the better scoring chances, hit one post and looked to miss on an open net. Both teams looked fairly even. Vernon outshot Nanaimo 11-9.
2nd Period: The Snakes with a strong start, jumped on the visiting Clippers off the opening faceoff. Vernon was getting pucks to the net often, as Jordan Naylor looked to have troubles with his catching hand, was dropping some fairly routine shots. Hunter Donohoe with a quick clapper from the top of the circle forced Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Jordan Naylor into flashing the leather, making a quick glove save about six minutes into the middle frame. About a minute and a half later, the Vipers would get there first power play of the evening and come within inches of tying the game. A shot from well out, beat Jordan Naylor five hole, but the puck didn't cross the goal line. The puck come out the other end, froze near or on the goal line, before a Nanaimo defender cleared the puck from the crease as the Clippers killed off the minor. Vernon was outshooting Nanaimo 8-2 at the halfway mark. Just past the midway mark, the Snakes would jump on there second man advantage of the 2nd period. But only forty four seconds later, Dawson Holt was sent to the sin bin for slashing, sending both teams to four on four. The Shipmen would get a late PP that Vernon would kill off. In the second half, Connor Sleeth and Dawson Holt looked to get in behind the Nanaimo defence but two solid defensive plays from Aiden Hansen-Bukata broke up both Viper opportunities. At one point, during the play Landon Fuller and Joshua Bourne got tangled up at the Nanaimo bench alongside a second Clipper player. The referee and linesmen both tried breaking up the scuffle as the play continued. As Fuller went to the bench, both players were exchanging words. Both benches then started breaking back and fourth at each other, as tempers quickly heated up in a hurry. Nothing further occurred as the game continued. Inside the final minute, Josh Kagan went around Nicholas Kent before outwaiting Vernon Vipers starting netminder Reilly Herbst, going high and over a sprawling Herbst, giving Nanaimo a late 3-1 lead at 19:24 Joshua Bourne drew the helper. Kagan's goal was a killer, giving the Shipmen a two goal lead heading into the 3rd. It was 3-1 Nanaimo after 40 minutes of play. The hometown Vipers were the better of the two teams, as the Snakes outplayed Nanaimo for most of the 2nd period. Vernon jumped on the Clippers early and often, were getting pucks to the net, had a ton of zone time, more puck possession, but couldn't capitalize on there chances. The Shipmen played a lot of the middle frame in there own end. The Clippers had a few shifts in the offensive zone towards the end of the period, managed to capitalize on a late opportunity inside the final minute, on a massive goal late. Vernon didn't have any puck luck or get the bounces go there way this period. Vernon outshot Nanaimo 12-5.
3rd Period: The Vipers struggled off the opening faceoff. Vernon looked very disorganized were turning over pucks, making very poor decisions and passes and caught out of position. The Vipers showing no energy, looked lifeless at times early into the final frame. Brandon Dent with a good look, had a quality chance to give the Shipmen a 4-1 lead four minutes in, couldn't solve Reilly Herbst who was forced to make a difficult save, kept his team in the game. The Snakes went almost six minutes without a shot were hemmed in there own end at times, had troubles breaking out of there own end and through the neutral zone. The Vipers would get an early power play, but struggled early. The Snakes looked very disorganized. About halfway through the man advantage, after some slick passing, Matt Kowalski setup Connor Marritt in the high slot ripped a quick shot past Jordan Naylor, cutting Nanaimo's lead to 3-2 at 6:40 Kowalski and Reilly Herbst pocketed the assists. The Captains goal got the crowd back into the game and brought some life back into the building. This goal also gave the Snakes some life as the Vipers started playing with a little more jump and energy. With about seven minutes remaining, Logan Cash tried feeding a Viper forward driving towards the goal, couldn't connect on the pass, on a missed opportunity. Shortly after Max Bulawka looked to have an odd man rush, had the puck picked from him on a solid defensive play from Aiden Hansen-Bukata. With about 4:50 left in the 3rd Darren Naylor and the visiting Clippers called a timeout. With about three and a half minutes remaining, the Shipmen setup Mackenzie Merriman who went hard to the net, crashing into Reilly Herbst and then the back of the net, as the play continued. Herbst and Merriman were ok. Jason McKee and the Snakes called a timeout with 2:11 left in the final frame. With 1:56 remaining, Viper forward/captain Connor Marritt stepped over the blueline, ripped a shot that beat Jordan Naylor, grazing the far post as the hometown Vipers come within inches of tying the contest. The Snakes would get Reilly Herbst to the bench with 1:50 to go for the extra attacker. Vernon with lots of pressure, couldn't find an open lane, were struggling to get pucks to the goal. Nanaimo would ice the puck twice inside the final minute. Inside the final minute the Vipers spotted Matt Kowalski at the circle, forced Jordan Naylor into coming across the blue paint, to make a large pad save. The Shipmen would keep the Vipers to the outside, take away there time and space, before icing the puck with one second left on the clock. Instead of the faceoff deep in the Shipmen zone, the faceoff was at center ice, as fans were complaining, the game ended as Nanaimo hangs on for the 3-2 win. The Vipers looked very disorganized and struggled to start the 3rd, didn't show much life, were turning pucks over, making poor decisions with and without the puck, went almost six minutes without a shot on goal. Connor Marritt's power play marker, got the crowd and the Vipers back into the game. Vernon seemed to build some momentum, got some jump and energy back in there game, carried the play for most of the remainder of the period. The Snakes may have carried the play for the remainder of the period but had troubles generating offence. The Vipers had a ton of pressure and zone time, but were kept to the outside, had troubles getting pucks to the net. Landon Fuller played up front in the 3rd period. The Clippers defence did a great job at keeping Vernon's forwards to the outside, limiting there opportunities and closing the shooting lanes, come up with some big blocks late in the period. Nanaimo with a solid defensive 3rd period.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Hunter Donohoe Who has been struggling this season, since joining the Vipers, I thought has played much better the last few games and played very well in the loss tonight. Made some smart plays coming out of his own end, carried the puck often, was joining the rush and moving the puck. Was good at both ends of the rink.
Matt Kowalski (1 goal & 1 assist) Facing his former team played well for most of tonight's game. Brought some jump and energy to the lineup, opened the scoring for Vernon inside the opening minute, on a highlight reel goal. Turned over the puck in his own end a few occasions but created/generated some chances through out the evening.
Connor Marritt (1 goal) Stepped up his game in the 3rd, scored on the PP to get the Vipers to within a goal, hit the post with less then two minutes left in the hockey game. I don't think the Viper captain played well the entire night, but ramped up his game in the final twenty minutes.
Dawson Holt (1 assist) Returned to the Vipers lineup Tuesday in the Snakes 6-3 win in Merritt, is one of the Vipers more consistent forwards. A veteran forward, now wearing the "A" plays hard and competes most night's. I really like this kid and think Vernon is a much better team with Holt in the lineup.
Logan Cash (1 assist) I like this kids jump/energy and thought he created/generated chances through the out the game. Cash has been in and out of the lineup his two years with the Snakes, I thought played a hard, smart game in the 3-2 loss.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
I thought the Snakes played very well this evening and held there own vs one of the top teams in the Island division for most of the game. Overall I thought the Vipers were the better team, but had troubles generated/ and creating offence. The Vipers may have got twenty eight shots on Jordan Naylor but didn't force the Clippers netminder to make any real difficult saves. Vernon needed to get more bodies in front, go for the grey area and make Naylor's night a little more difficult. The Vipers needed to get Nanaimo's goaltender moving side to side, a lot of the Snakes shots were shot right at him. The Vipers opened the scoring inside the opening minute, but couldn't hold the lead, allowed Nanaimo to tie the game twenty two seconds later. The Snakes outplayed the Clippers in the middle frame, but couldn't capitalize on there chances, also didn't get any puck luck or bounces go there way. Giving up the third goal inside the final minute of the 2nd period was a killer. Instead of only being down a goal heading into the 3rd, now the Snakes were down two. This goal took the life out of the Vipers and it showed the first five or six minutes to start the final frame. The Vipers may had had loads of pressure and zone time late in the 3rd needed more urgency and pucks to the net. The Vipers needed to win the battles along the boards and didn't. Your not going to win many hockey games when your down a goal and only get five shots on goal in the 3rd period. The Snakes needed to play with a little more desperation come the final twenty minutes. One thing I have noticed, is the Vipers don't seem to be turning over the puck as much as they were a few weeks ago. This team still cant make a pass or receive a pass. You think by this time of the season, these kids would be able to make a pass. What is with this team, falling behind almost every game lately and having to try and come from behind game after game? The Vipers don't have the offence/scoring to come from behind on a nightly basis. This team has come from behind on a few occasions but they aren't very good playing from behind. Looking at the standings I was thinking the Clippers may come in here and come away with a fairly easy win. Give Vernon credit for holding there own vs a good Nanaimo team. A few mistakes cost Vernon the game and the two points. A tough loss on a night when 3rd place was on the line. With the loss Salmon Arm stays ahead of Vernon in the standings. With the Silverbacks 3-2 overtime loss in Penticton, a Viper win and Vernon could have moved into 3rd. The Vipers have won three of there last five games but lost six of there last ten. The Vipers with only six games remaining in the 2019-20 regular season. With the loss Vernon falls to 27-22-2-1 remain 4th in the Interior division are one point ahead of 5th place Wenatchee and now two points back of 3rd place Salmon Arm. Vernon and Salmon Arm have tomorrow off, while Wenatchee plays in Langley. A Wild win and Wenatchee would leap frog the Vipers into 4th place. Does anyone know what happened with Graham Turnbull? Listening to the post game show on the drive home, Turnbull's post game show was cut very short and he mentioned thanks for Todd Miller who stepped in tonight.
Top Player's: (Nanaimo)
Mike Kennedy I thought played very well on the Clippers backend. Not the biggest kid but was steady all evening.
Josh Kagan (2 goals) Leads the Shipmen with twenty four goals, was hard to contain, defend against, played well.
Joshua Bourne (2 assists) Played with an edge, was physical, in the face of several Vipers, was good at both ends of the rink. Looked to get under Vernon's skin, was exchanging words with several Vipers through out the game.
Liam Ryan (1 goal) Had some looks/chances, played well.
Aiden Hansen-Bukata Made at least three or four defensive plays, Played very well on the Clippers blueline. Was hard to beat one on one.
Devon Mussio (1 assist) Was another Nanaimo defender who played very well.
Jordan Naylor (26 saves) Attended the Vipers training camp in 2016 Wasn't tested often but played well between the pipes for the visiting Shipmen. Isn't the biggest goaltender but plays his position well. Has a fairly good glove hand. His defence did a great job of keeping Vernon's forwards to the outside and away from the front of the net/blue paint.
Game Thought's: (Nanaimo)
The Clippers didn't outplay or dominate tonight's game, took advantage of a few Viper mistakes, capitalized on there opportunities and played very well defensively. Jordan Naylor made the saves when called apon, had some help from his team in front. Nanaimo didn't generate a lot of offence, had some zone time, but not a lot, didn't look like a 2nd place team. I thought with the way the Vipers have been playing this season and facing one of the league's top teams, Nanaimo may come in and win easily. The Shipmen had to work hard and earn the win and the two points. The Clippers sit 2nd in the Island division and fifth overall in league standings, have a few players with some skill but overall didn't impress me a lot. Nanaimo goes 0-3 with the man advantage, while the Vipers go 1-4. Clippers Head Coach/GM Darren Naylor played parts of one season in Vernon with the 1989-90 Vernon Lakers. Naylor's son is of course goaltender Jordan Naylor. Prior to tonight the Clippers had lost five straight on the road and had only one win in there last eleven road games. Nanaimo's last win in Vernon was a 4-3 double overtime victory January 16th 2009. The Clippers have won three straight are 5-5 in there last ten games. The Clippers sweep the regular season series 2-0 after a 5-0 win over Vernon in Nanaimo October 27th. With the win Nanaimo improves to 31-16-2-2 remain 2nd in the Island division are eight points ahead of Powell River and seven points back of division leading Cowichan.
Ben Sanderson (Injured)
Energy Player of the Game:
Connor Marritt (1 goal)
1st Star: Josh Kagan (2 goals)
2nd Star: Matt Kowalski (1 goal & 1 assist)
3rd Star: Jordan Naylor (26 saves)
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Here are some photo's I took before and during tonight's Vipers-Clippers game.