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Vipers Shut Out Smokies 5-0

On paper this matchup should`ve been a lock.  The Trail Smoke Eaters came in under manned with only 14 players.  There were three defensemen in their three forward lines and they were coming into a place that has only seen the Vipers miss out on points just 5 times.  For a part of this game however, it was close and far from a lock.  The Vipers did what they needed to do to get the win and seemed to get stronger as the game went on and the confidence built.  It wasn`t all happy times as Danny Todosychuk would leave the game early in the first with an apparent lower body injury, but Austin Smith came in and was stellar in relief.
 
The first period was back and forth as both teams traded chances.  There were plenty of shots in the opening few minutes with nothing doing on the scoreboard.  The game picked up in intensity as Brandon Volpe was knocked into Danny Todosychuk, ending the netminders night.  The big question was did Brandon Volpe do enough to try get out of the way after being directed in.  In the end it didn`t matter as Todosychuk would leave and Volpe would be challenged by Brendan Persley.  They would drop the gloves, but neither team really generated much momentum.  Austin Smith would come on and make 8 more saves in the period.  The Vipers clearly weren`t happy with their start and would look to play with more energy in the second.
 
The Vipers killed off an abbreviated powerplay which allowed them to try get more momentum.  The Vipers would start to put the pressure on by forechecking, bodychecking and getting point shots through.  That proved successful as Liam Coughlin would open the scoring a rebound off a point shot.  Three minutes later, the anemic Viper powerplay would get a chance to go to work and it was a stretch pass and a nice finish from Demico Hannoun that sparked the Vipers to a 2-0 lead.  While shorthanded again for a few minutes including a crucial 5 on 3, the Viper PK shined thwarting most opportunities and when Trail finally had a grade A chance, Smith was there with two phenomenal saves.  The second would end 2-0 and the Vipers could see the Smokies start to tire.
 
The speed, the physicality and the solid defense started to wear down the Smokies, who to their credit, never gave up.  The floodgates opened after Logan Mick scored his 6th of the season.  Less than two minutes later Dancs would get a lucky bounce off a Smokie defender and McNicholas iced it with a nice goal to end that game 5-0.
 
My 3 Key Thoughts
 
1) – Special Teams – Sure it wasn`t the prototypical powerplay goal, but the man advantage stretched out the Smokie D to their advantage and Hannoun had a slick finish to open up Nikkel and go five hole.  Obviously it had to feel good for the PP to contribute, while the PK was stellar again killing off all 7 powerplays stretching their success rate to 12 of 12 dating back to Saturday in Merritt.
 
2) – Running Goalies – On three different occasions a goaltender was run over.  Todosychuk the first time which led to his short night, Smith getting run shortly after that and Dustin Nikkel getting hit by Coughlin.  This starts raising the question, how do you protect the goalies, yet allow hard nose plays like driving to the net.  Its not an easy one to answer.  I thought Volpe could`ve done a better job of avoiding a collision despite being pushed into the goal.  I thought Coughlins play was hard nosed, but if you give him a penalty (which he got) then Volpes has to be an infraction too.  Its a fine line and unfortunately it cost the Vipers a goalie.  No word on the severity of the injury, if any, but protecting the goaltenders has to be an importance and its up to the on ice officials to police it.
 
3) – Hats Off To The Smoke – For a team that iced a lineup that had 6 players missing from it, this team played as hard as they could, as long as they could.  Eventually the numbers game caught up to them and the Vipers took the game over, but for the first twenty minutes, it was hard to say who the better team was and for at least 40 minutes, they made sure life was tough on the Vipers.  The injury bug has bitten this team severely and I respect the effort all the players made tonight.
 
The Vernon Vipers are back on the ice Saturday night in West Kelowna for a division battle.  You can hear all the action on 107.5 KissFM starting at 6:45 from Royal LePage Place.