Merritt, BC: The Vernon Vipers put up a season high 44 shots on the Merritt, goal, but it was a goal in the final minute from newcomer Dawson Holt was the difference as the Vipers won 3-2.
It was a tale of two segments in the first period as the Vipers looked locked in for the first half, with the Centennials reciprocating in the final half. No offense, but not from a lack of effort as both teams generated a number of quality opportunities. The shots finished even 12-11 in favour of the Cents, but both Reilly Herbst and Ryan Winter were locked in a perfect for a scoreless first period.
The Vipers dominated the shot clock in the middle frame and thanks to an early powerplay were able to get on the board first. A Matt Kowalski shot was blocked in front and Connor Marritt pounced on the rebound and ripped it past the glove of Winter to give the Vipers a 1-0 lead. Despite the heavy shot and chance advantage, the Vipers failed to increase their lead. The Cents were opportunistic and evened the game up off a neutral zone turnover and Rylan Van Unen went far post and in to even the game at 1. Five minutes later, another turnover and another goal as Josh Kagan was set up on a 2 on 1 to make it 2-1 Merritt. The turning point of the game was a sequence late in the 2nd period. Payton Matsui was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Herbst made a great save to ensure his team went into the dressing room trailing by 1.
The third was by far the Vipers best period. They started on a powerplay and generated some chances, but more importantly generated momentum. The ice continued to tilt in the Vipers favour as the period approached the midway mark. Following the media timeout, the Vipers executed on a set play that saw Jackson Caller backhand home his first of the season to even the game up. The Cents had some chances of their own and again the Vipers defence was solid and so was the goaltending. A chance in front of the Vipers goal that wasn’t converted on turned into a rush the other way and Dawson Holt rifled home a hard shot from the right circle in the final minute to give the Vipers a 3-2 lead. The Cents would pull their goalie in an attempt to even up the game, but Bar-lev-Wise was perfect in the final two defensive zone draws and the buzzer sounded to give the Vipers their 3rd straight win.
The Vipers are next in action Friday night when they travel to Penticton to take on the Vees.