It was a very busy week of hockey for the Vernon Vipers who had 4 games in 7 days. Many will look at the 3 out of a possible 8 points as a sign that the team didn't play well, but the progression and improvement from Tuesday night, to Sunday afternoon was immense, despite only getting one win. It culminated in what I thought was the best performance from the Vipers who played with edge, energy and desire, but once again a bounce or two was the difference.
There were a ton of fireworks in the opening period with three different fights. Starting just 11 seconds into the game when Jared Wilson and Jeff Kennedy squared off. 3 minutes later, Tyler Povelofskie and Jack Berezan dropped the mitts. Then the teams started to settle down and let the talent take over as both teams went back and forth. A bad turnover at the Viper blue line led to the opening goal of the game as Alex Gillies would notch his 24th of the season. Another scrap later in the period between Liam Coughlin and Blake Box would keep the emotion level at a high, but it was the Silverbacks with a 1-0 lead after 1.
I thought the Vipers had a real good second period despite being outshot. The Silverbacks started shooting from everywhere and I thought that was a benefit for Danny Todosychuk would looked like he was battling the puck early. All the shots in the second seemed to refocus the Vernon product and he was very good the rest of the way. The Vipers got the only goal in the period as a nice passing play was finished off by Brett Mulcahy who now has 3 goals in his first 5 games with the Snakes. Teams went back and forth to end the period and both goaltenders made key saves to keep it 1-1 after 2.
Vernon really came out with a high energy level in the third, but would find themselves behind on a crazy series of events which had the puck bounce off the boards, two players and Alex Jewell to find its way into the back of he net. Breaks like that have gone against the Vipers over the past few games, but they were able to re-focus and get the game tied less than 3 minutes later as a two on one was finished off by Liam Coughlin. This game seemed destined for OT, but it only got there thanks to more great goaltending from Todosychuk and Clark.
One shot was the difference in OT as Andrew Farny's point shot was tipped by Alex Gillies to give the Backs their second consecutive 3-2 OT victory.
My 3 Key Thoughts (on the whole week)
1) – Better As The Week Went On – I thought the Vipers best two games of the week were Friday in West K and Sunday in SA. You may think I'm crazy, because the Vipers only got 1 point in those games. In both games, the Vipers played well enough to win. Friday's loss was a direct result of penalty trouble, Sunday they got a point, but the crazy pinball goal out of no where forced the Vipes to play from behind. It was a very bland effort on Tuesday in Merritt, but they regrouped with a good effort in West K, a win over AV at home and a tough OT loss in SA. Assuming they can continue that momentum into this week, it should be a fantastic two games against Penticton and Merritt.
2) – Discipline – For the first time all season, the Vernon Vipers didn't take a single penalty that resulted in a powerplay for the opposition. At times this team has battled penalty trouble and Sunday afternoon they played right on the line of physical without going over the line. I thought the referee did an outstanding job of letting the teams play a physical brand of hockey. It allowed the emotion to come out and it was only a matter of time before the fights were over and both teams played hockey again. The two penalties that resulted in powerplays were stick infractions. It just goes to show that less is sometimes more when it comes to the men in the striped shirts.
3) – Move On To The Points – There were just enough positives to take out of the 4 games in 7 days for the Vipers. However, with two games upcoming against Penticton and Merritt, the Vipers will look to harness those positives and turn them into points. No question the week has been frustrating, but its how you respond that makes a team great. The log jam in the Interior division is more clogged now than a week ago, a four point week will go along way to help the Vipers ensure they have a spot in the playoffs.
Up next for the Vipers is a Friday night matchup against the Penticton Vees at Kal Tire Place. Puck drop between the two rivals will be 6:45 with puck drop at 7.