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Vipers Play Well, But Fall In OT

In Langley on Saturday the Rivermen got the break they needed to shade the Vernon Vipers 2-1.
At 4.29 of overtime, Austin Azurdia’s shot went well wide of Austin Smith’s net but Matt Ustaski happened to be in the right place at the right time to take the puck off the backboards and backhand it high over Smith’s shoulder.
The highlight reel goal decided the contest between two teams that were keen to end their respective losing streaks. Both teams played hard for the full 64 and a half minutes. Overall, the Vipers had an edge in play, leading in scoring chances (20-14) and in shots on goal (33-27).
The Rivermen struck first. At 9:27 of the opening frame, Aaron Dolby’s 55-foot slap shot eluded Austin Smith. The shot totals favoured the hosts, 9-3, although the shots official seemed reluctant to count Viper shots. Also, the Rivermen were adept at blocking shots in front of their goalie, James Barr.
Then the Vipers took over in the second period and continued that dominance for most of the third as well. Their shot total and number of chances doubled the Langley totals for that 40-minute stretch.
However, they were unable to solve Barr until 17:43 of the third. Ryan Renz capitalized on a combined offensive faceoff win by Jedd Soleway and Mitch VanTeeling as he sidestepped a defender at the Langley blue line and wired a wrist shot to the top corner.
Meanwhile, Austin Smith had to be sharp on a handful of Langley chances. He made two fine saves on Austin Azurdia to prevent a two-goal Langley lead in the third period.
Langleyhad the better chances in overtime, although both teams played tight defence.
Vernon’s Jason Williamson praised his team’s effort: “They kept going hard and they maintained discipline even though they were getting frustrated at not being able to get the puck past Langley’s goalie.”
Williamson also gave credit to referee Mark Pearce in the aftermath of a Thomas Nitsche hit to the head of Pierce Eviston. Marc Hetnik jumped to Eviston’s defence as he pummeled Nitsche. Pearce huddled with his linesman before issuing a minor for a hit to the head and a roughing minor to Nitsche and a double roughing minor to Hetnik.
“The ref took a breather and came up with a reasonable solution,” said Williamson. “What he did was pretty sensible.”
The Vipers now return to face Salmon Arm and Chilliwack at the Wesbild Centre next weekend.