The Vipers finished their season in dramatic fashion, winning each of their last four games by a single goal. The latest win, Saturday's 3-2 overtime thriller against Merritt, gave the team and their fans a good feeling to carry them until the new season starts in September.
In Prince George last Friday, Brendan Persley scored an overtime winner. This Friday, he set up Colton Sparrow's winner with 27 seconds remaining in the third period versus Penticton. And this Saturday, he notched another winner at 1:28 of the second overtime.
The deciding blow came during three-on-three play when Andrew Tegeler drove to the net while being hounded by Sebastian Pare. Tegeler was unable to force the puck past Centennial goalie Tyler Steel, but Persley jumped on the loose puck.
Persley and Tegeler were prominent in the Viper scoring on Saturday. At 13:02 of the third period Tegeler knotted the score at 2-2 when he drove down the left wing and powered a shot past Steel.
The Centennials had taken a 2-1 lead with goals by John Saunders in the second period and Jeff Wight midway through the third. Tegeler's 2-2 goal came just 24 seconds after Wight's marker.
Back in the first period, during a major penalty assessed to Payton Schafer for kneeing Mike Roberts, Mitch McAllister had opened the scoring at 4:42 with a shot that hit Steel from the side and deflected in. Persley and Bryce Eviston assisted on the Vipers' first power play goal in eight games.
At that point, McAllister had scored four of the Viper's last six goals and had assisted on the other two, over a span of three games.
The McAllister/Persley/Roberts line has been productive for the Vipers during the season-concluding win streak. Unfortunately, Mike Roberts suffered a painful charley horse when he was kneed by Payton Schaefer early in the game.
Losing Roberts compounded the shortage of Viper forwards because only nine dressed for the game, as they have for the last four contests. As a result, and as an attempt to give Michael Statchuk a chance to count his first BCHL goal, Jason Williamson moved Statchuk to a forward position.
Statchuk looked very comfortable up front but although he generated some chances in the second and third, the puck didn't bounce his way.
The three graduating 20-year-olds, Brett Corkey, Marc Hetnik, and Andrew Tegeler, finished their Junior careers on a high note. Corkey, who elected to stay with the Vipers at the trading deadline, said that he was "happy to win these last four games for the fans who've stuck with us through thick and thin. The big crowds here this weekend meant a lot to us."
Coach Jason Williamson gets the last word. "Too little, too late, I know, but I'm really proud of how the guys have pulled together, with a whole line of forwards in sick bay. Next May at the RBC Cup, we plan to do what we did tonight – win the last game of the year!"
* With a 6-2-0-2 burst in their last 10 games, the Vipers pulled into a tie with Trail for fifth place in the Interior Division.
* The Vipers have 18 players eligible to return next year. Factor in the league requirement to include four rookies each season along with the players coming from Nanaimo and Surrey in return for Tambellini and Hadley, and the Viper brain trust will have difficult decisions to make over the summer.
* Attendance was strong on the weekend, with 2011 coming through the turnstiles on Friday and 1873 on Saturday.
* Now that their hockey season is complete, the Viper players have time to devote to their academics. Brett Corkey, Marc Hetnik, and Andrew Tegeler are each taking three university classes.