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Vipers Cannot Penetrate Steel Curtain

The Vipers played hard and created chances in Merritt on Saturday, but could not get the puck past Tyler Steel in a 5-0 loss.

Steel was particularly strong in the second and third periods when the Vipers mounted a serious challenge during four power plays. Using the "Castlegar Crush" alignment that placed Ryan Renz and Aaron Hadley in front of Steel, the Vipers got shots on net and created several opportunities in and around the crease. However, the big goalie was able to scramble, flop, and swim to keep the puck out.

Steel got lucky on the one puck that cleanly beat him. Adam Tambellini's bullet slap shot from the point came off Steel's right goal post and lodged under the back of his right skate and pad.

At that time the score was 1-0 for Merritt, compliments of a Dane Birks goal very late  in the first period.

Out shot 13-5 in the first period, the Vipers had Danny Todosychuk to thank for keeping the game scoreless until a bad giveaway at the Viper line led to the Centennials flooding the zone. Todosychuk stopped the first attempt, but the puck went back to the blue line where Birks's floater found its way through traffic.

Todosychuk continued his stellar play for the next 30 minutes, especially during a pair of 5-on-3 Merritt power plays in the second period.

Playing with just four defencemen, the Vipers got into real trouble when their two vets, Ryan Renz and Marc Hetnik, were in the penalty box for a full two minutes. However, rookie D-men Bryce Eviston and Michael Statchuk were up to the task, abetted by Brendan Persley and Colton Sparrow on the back end.

The Centennial forecheck finally wore down the Viper D-corps in the third period. After Todosychuk had robbed Derek Huisman to keep the score 1-0, the Cents broke through with three goals in a minute and a half, starting at 10:12.

Todosychuk had little or no chance on one-timers by Regan Soquila, Brent Fletcher, and Silvan Harper, all resulting from a relentless fore check and the Vipers' fatigue on the back end. Jeff Wight added another late in the game as the Cents continued to storm the Viper goal.

 

Alex Gran, the Midget Rocket AP who had played the previous night in Vernon,  was not available to play defence  due to an injury sustained in that game. Other defencemen on the Viper reserve roster were also injured.

 

Geoff Crisfield vows that he will return to action when the Vipers next play on January 4 in Salmon Arm. Brett Corkey also hopes to have recovered from his injury after the Christmas break.