I was at tonight's Vipers-Warriors game as Vernon defeated West Kelowna 4-2 in front of 2,140 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon: Keegan Karki
West Kelowna: Johnny Derrick
Before tonight's game, Former NHLer/Vernon Vipers forward Aaron Volpatti (2003-2006) and his son dropped the puck for the opening ceremony puck drop.
1st Period: Off the opening faceoff, Jackson Caller was forced to make a strong defensive play, breaking up a Warriors odd man rush. About three minutes into the opening frame, Ben Helgeson setup Connor Sleeth who's shot just missed the far corner on a quality chance early. About three minutes later, Keegan Karki was forced to make a quick pad save off Jacob Brockman, keeping this a scoreless hockey game. On the following play, the Vipers would get the games first power play. Forward/captain Connor Marritt with a great opportunity to open the scoring, couldn't beat former Vernon Vipers "AP" goaltender Johnny Derrick on a breakaway. Derrick was then forced to make a stop in close off Jo Jo Tanaka-Campbell. Towards the end of the man advantage, an errand pass bounced over the stick of Hunter Donohoe at the blueline, which allowed Warriors leading scorer John Evans to score on the breakaway, giving West Kelowna a 1-0 lead at 8:21 Evans goal was unassisted, with only fourteen seconds remaining on Vernon's power play. The Tribe killed off the remainder of the minor. Just before the halfway mark, Christian Felton's quick shot from the point, would be stopped by Johnny Derrick on a shot I don't think the Warriors netminder saw with traffic in front. About a minute and a half later with the Snakes buzzing, Dawson Holt would be stopped before shortly after, Brett Fudger would be denied on a wrap around. Johhny Derrick with several key stops within minutes, kept this a 1-0 hockey game. With about six and a half minutes left in the 1st period, WK would get there first look with the PP. The Warriors had two good looks but no real good opportunities, were unable to capitalize with the man advantage. With about four minutes remaining, Jo Jo Tanaka-Campbell took a puck to the face area and went down immediately and didn't get up. The play was stopped while Tanaka-Campbell was attended to by the trainer. A pool of blood was on the ice as Tanaka-Campbell was helped off the ice and didn't return. Inside the final minute of play, Deegan Molford's shot from the slot would be stopped by former Everett Silvertips netminder, Keegan Karki. It was 1-0 West Kelowna after 20 minutes of play. The Vipers made some mistakes and looked a little sluggish at times but overall were the better of the two teams. I thought Vernon created/ & generated way more chances. The Snakes lacked some finish in and around the Warriors goal, couldn't bury there opportunities. Johnny Derrick who attended the Vipers training camp, was sharp between the pipes. The Vipers turned the puck over in there own end, were having troubles breaking out of there own end. The Tribe had a few looks but didn't get a lot of opportunities. John Evans capitalized on a Warriors bounce, scored the only goal of the game, on a shorthanded breakaway. Vernon outshot West Kelowna 8-7.
2nd Period: Off the opening faceoff, Dawson Holt setup Cameron MacDonald on an odd man rush, but MacDonald couldn't connect on the pass, on an early missed opportunity. Shortly after the Vipers setup Connor Sleeth on an odd man rush. Sleeth's shot beat West Kelowna Warriors goaltender, Johnny Derrick but not the post. As the play continued up ice, Tyler Crsitall's shot from the slot beat Vernon Vipers starting goaltender Keegan Karki but hit the post as both teams come very close to scoring on back to back opportunities. The play continued and went back up ice the other way. On what looked like a long dump in play, Johnny Derrick had to jump moving backwards, was forced to make a baseball like grab with his glove, keeping the puck out of the back of the net, on a very awkward looking save, early into the 2nd period. Shortly after Keigo Hachisuka's point shot would be denied by Johnny Derrick who was forced to make a large blocker save. Derrick had to be sharp, was tested early and often in this middle frame. The Snakes would get a PP just over six minutes in. Early into the power play, Johnny Derrick was forced to make a large save at the top of the blue paint after some nice passing from Vernon's PP unit. Halfway through the man advantage, Dawson Holt's shot along the ice, I think fooled Johnny Derrick, beating the Tribe's netminder five hole, tying the game 1-1 at 7:31 Connor Marritt & Max Bulawka collected the helpers. West Kelowna with only one shot in the first twelve minutes of play. With about five minutes left, a big hit from a Warriors player along the side wall, drew some attention, as Christian Felton come flying in levelled a Warriors player, that drew a penalty. On the delayed penalty, a big hit along the end wall, drew a crowd as several players jumped in. Lots of pushing and shoving, before the scrum was broken up. WK would come out of all of this with the power play. The Tribe got a little careless with the puck at the blueline, tried hooking Dawson Holt who stole the puck. Holt went in for the breakaway but was robbed by the quick glove of Johnny Derrick. Derrick flashing the leather, making a large stop with the Warriors on the PP. More rough stuff after the whistle as a second scrum broke out behind the Warriors goal. Everyone got involved before officials had to jump in to break the scrum up, as tempers heated up towards the end of the 2nd period. The Snakes would kill off the remainder of the penalty, before taking a late penalty of there own, sending West Kelowna back to the man advantage. Keegan Karki was forced to make two big stops as Vernon killed off the minor. With the clock winding down, a quick low shot along the ice from the point, forced Keegan Karki to make a save at the buzzer, to end the period. It was 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. The Snakes were the better of the two hockey clubs, outplayed West Kelowna for most of the middle frame. Vernon had a ton of zone time and pressure, had a lot of puck possession and created/generated a ton of opportunities, but again couldn't convert on there chances. The same old story continues, the Vipers offensive problems continue. If the Snakes could have buried there chances, they could have put this game away. Johnny Derrick was solid between the pipes, had to be sharp, was very busy. The Tribe went the first twelve minutes with only one shot on goal, saw a lot of action in there own end. Simon Ferguson and the Warriors bench were not happy with the calls, were complaining to the officials through out the evening. Vernon outshot West Kelowna 18-8.
3rd Period: Off the opening faceoff, I think Tyler Cristall's shot went high and off the mask of Keegan Karki. The Warriors with early pressure, had Vernon back on there heels to open the final frame. Former West Kelowna Warrior Matt Kowalski on an odd man rush, setup Logan Cash to get behind WK's defence, out stretched Johnny Derrick, giving Vernon a 2-1 lead at 3:22 there first lead of the night. Kowalski and Max Bulawka drew the assists. Warriors bench boss and former Kelowna Rocket Simon Ferguson lost his cool at the bench, was arguing over something with one of the officials after Vernon's goal. Assistant coach Ayton Nikkel was also in on the rant, exchanging words with one of the linesmen. Less then three minutes later, the West Kelowna Warriors would get an early power play, that only lasted one shift, before taking a penalty of there own. Just past the midway mark, Matt Kowalski lead an odd man rush, as the Vipers with some slick passing setup a pinching Christian Felton, who gave Vernon a 3-1 lead at 11:09 Kowalski and Connor Sleeth with the assists. Up until this point the Tribe carried the better of the play, but it was the Snakes with two odd man rushes, both ending up in goals. With just over four minutes remaining, Jackson Caller with a bad decision, hit a West Kelowna player from behind. Caller would get two minutes for boarding, as some pushing and shoving occurred after the hit. The Warriors would get Johnny Derrick to the bench for the extra attacker, were unable to really generate much, were kept to the outside. Just as the penalty expired, Vernon would get a late PP. Once control of the puck, the Warriors would get Johnny Derrick back to the bench for the extra attacker. Connor Sleeth with a lengthy shot towards the open cage, missed as the puck went into the corner wall, Sleeth managed to get the puck back, this time hit the bottom of the post, missing on the open goal. The Tribe were able to regain control of the puck and get back into the offensive zone. With time winding down, Carter Wilkie's low shot beat Keegan Karki in front, cutting Vernon's lead to 3-2 at 19:40 Both Warriors goals were shorthanded. After a Vernon timeout, Dawson Holt off the draw, hit the open cage, giving Vernon a 4-2 lead at 19:44 Holt's goal was unassisted. As the seconds were winding down, some pushing and shoving took place in front of the Viper bench. At the buzzer, several players were involved in a scrum in front of the Snakes bench, as Jason McKee was trying to hold his players back from the scrum. Tempers heating up at the end of the game as words were exchanged as the Warriors headed off the ice. Vernon would hang on and come away with the 4-2 victory. West Kelowna with a strong start, jumped on the Snakes early and often. The Warriors had the early edge in play, before giving up an early odd man rush, that ended in a goal. I thought WK had the better of the play in the first half, had a few looks but were kept to the outside, limited on there chances. West Kelowna gave up two odd man rushes in the first half, both resulting in goals. The Warriors may have carried the better of the play and had more zone time, but give Vernon credit, they kept the Warriors forwards to the outside, limited there opportunities. WK didn't generate or create a lot of chances. Keegan Karki made some key stops. West Kelowna outshot Vernon 10-8.
Top Player's: (Vernon)
Matt Kowalski (2 assists) Started both odd man rushes in the 3rd period. Created and started the odd man rushes that lead to Vernon's 2nd and 3rd goals. This kid is a true playmaker. Where would the Vipers be without Kowalski? If he's not scoring goals, he's helping setting them up.
Connor Marritt I thought played well and has stepped up his play the last handful of games.
Connor Sleeth (1 assist) Is a player who got off to a very slow start, was brought in for offensive and struggled to start the season. But as the season has gone on, I think Sleeth has improved and gotten better. He may not be scoring a ton of goals, but has been chipping in with either a goal or two and several assists lately. I thought played hard and had a strong night. Hit the post on an empty net late in the 3rd period.
Dawson Holt (2 goals) Sleeth was injured in a 5-1 loss in Trail January 17th returned to the lineup February 4th in Merritt. Holt collected three assists in a 6-3 win in Merritt that night, has scored four goals and added five assists since returning to the Viper lineup. How big of a pickup has Holt been for the Snakes? The veteran Western Hockey Leaguer played for Jason McKee with the Vancouver Giants was signed October 15th. Holt brings a ton of experience but also the whole package. This kid not only plays hard and competes but puts points on the board. Was very good in the win tonight.
Brett Fudger I thought played very well.
Keegan Karki (23 saves) Hasn't been playing lately due to a nagging injury. Karki wasn't tested a lot but made some key saves at key times in the hockey game. A bigger goaltender, covers a lot of the net, was square to the shooters, played his position well.
Game Thought's: (Vernon)
Other then some turnovers and mistakes, I thought Vernon played very well tonight. After a very disappointing/tough 5-2 loss in Wenatchee last night, the Snakes responded with a big win the following night. I thought the Vipers turned over way too many pucks coming out of there own end in the 1st period, looked a little sluggish at times, but got better as the game continued. The Snakes had several good opportunities in the first twenty minutes, couldn't bury there chances. The Vipers outplayed and dominated the Warriors in the 2nd period, had a ton of quality chances only managed a single goal. If Vernon could have capitalized on some of there chances in that middle frame, they could have easily put the game away, instead they allow West Kelowna to linger around. The Warriors had more edge in play and more zone time in the 3rd period, but I liked the Vipers defensive play. I thought the Vipers kept West Kelowna to the outside, limited the Warriors opportunities. Vernon didn't give up a lot of quality chances, capitalized on two odd man rushes before putting the game away with the empty netter. I don't think the Snakes will be happy with all the penalties, but I did like how they stood up for there team mates and didn't back down from the rough stuff after the whistle. The Vipers still struggle to make a pass that's on the tape. The Vipers with a quick turn around, have one day off, before hosting the Merritt Centennials Monday afternoon. The Vipers will be playing there third game in four days. This year's schedule is a joke! I know the Vipers had a pretty bad schedule about three or four years ago, but this years schedule is terrible. The Vipers started the season, playing a majority of there games on the road and now trying to cram in a bunch of games shortly after games on only a day or two after playing two or three games. Some teams we saw all at once early in the season and now playing West Kelowna five times towards the end of the season. It's just been a weird and not friendly schedule this season. With four games remaining heading into tonight's action, no matter how you looked at it, tonight was a must win if the Vipers want to stay in contention for 3rd or 4th place. The Vipers final four games (Three against West Kelowna) and one against Merritt are teams near the bottom of the standings. If Vernon wants to clinch home ice and 3rd place, they need to win there remaining games and hope Salmon Arm and Wenatchee lose a few. With the brutal schedule, and how the Vipers have struggled at home this season and inconsistent play, fans are still coming out to support the team I have been very happy with the crowds this season and the crowd tonight. With the win the Vipers improve to 2-3 vs West Kelowna this season. The Vipers have three games remaining in the regular season. The Snakes have won three of there last five are 5-5 in there last ten games. With the win, Vernon improves to 29-23-2-1 remain in 5th place are tied in points with Salmon Arm, who lost 4-2 in Merritt tonight. The Vipers are a point back of 3rd place Wenatchee who defeated Chilliwack 4-2.
Top Player's: (West Kelowna)
John Evans leads the team in scoring, was one of if not the Warriors most effective forward tonight. Not the biggest kid but quick, dangerous at times. Very creative and shifty with and without the puck.
Carter Wilkie (1 goal) Is another forward for WK who is dangerous, played well at times in the loss.
Johnny Derrick (30 saves) Derrick attended the Vipers spring camp and training camp in 2017 & 2018 also played in some exhibition games with the Snakes before being cut. Derrick was an "AP" with the Vipers last season, before signing with the Warriors this season. Derrick kept West Kelowna in the hockey game and was the difference. Made some key saves in the first twenty minutes, was at his best in the middle frame, was forced to make several large saves with Vernon pressing in the 2nd period. If the Vipers could have capitalized on some of there chances, this game would have been over in the 2nd period.
Game Thought's: (West Kelowna)
The Warriors never really got there game going, until the 3rd period. The Tribe opened the scoring on a 1st period shorthanded John Evans breakaway, but never did have much control of the play or the contest in the first two periods. West Kelowna only had eight shots on goal halfway through the middle frame, were struggling at getting control of the puck and the play. The Tribe would finally get some zone time and puck possession early to start the 3rd but didn't generate or create a lot of quality chances through out the evening. WK struggled getting pucks to the net and finding some offence. This didn't look like the same West Kelowna Warriors team that won 4-1 January 25th in Vernon. This was a fairly feisty game at times, more so in the 2nd and 3rd periods with tempers heating up. These two teams faced each other twice, early in the season. The Vipers opened the 2019-20 regular season in West Kelowna, September 6th before facing the Warriors October 5th in Penticton at the BCHL Showcase. Up until then, these two teams didn't see each other again, until a home & home series at the end of January. These two teams will finish the regular season next weekend with a home & home series. Who thought of this scheduling? With the Warriors near the bottom of the standings, have clinched a playoff spot and still battling it out to see who they will face in the opening round of the playoffs. The Warriors have three games remaining in the regular season, have lost five straight and lost eight of there last eleven games. With the loss, West Kelowna falls to 14-32-6-3 remain 6th in the Interior division are nine points ahead of 7th place Merritt and fourteen points back of Vernon.
Ben Sanderson (Injured)
Max Palaga (Injured-Out for the season)
Energy Player of the Game:
Logan Cash (1 goal)
1st Star: Dawson Holt (2 goals)
2nd Star: Max Bulawka (2 assists)
3rd Star: Matt Kowalski (2 assists)
I have picked a victory song this season, and after every Vipers 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-Warriors game.