Vipers fall in Game 5
David Pope scored twice and rookie 16-year-old goalie Cody Porter made 26 saves as the West Kelowna Warriors grounded the Vernon Vipers 4-1 in B.C. Hockey League playoff action Monday night before 1,025 fans at Royal LePage Place.
The Warriors, who counted five powerplay goals in a Game 1 victory, went 2-for-9 with the man advantage to stave off elimination and force a sixth game in the best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal series. Vernon leads the series 3-2. West Kelowna counted all their goals in the second period after a tight-checking opening frame.
“Going into the series, if we knew we’d be up 3-2 going home, we’d probably take that," said Vipers' head coach Jason Williamson. "They’re a good hockey club, they’ve got pride, they don’t wanna go down without a fight. We just gotta build off what we did in the third period.”
Veteran forward Colton Sparrow said the Vipers weren't holding a pity-party or getting any post-game lectures from the coaching staff.
“After playoff games, not a whole lot is said. It’s a pretty quick turnaround. You get undressed and get ready for tomorrow. You can’t sulk about it too much. Obviously, it stings a bit, but we’ve gotta get ready for tomorrow.”
Kylar Hope and Matt Anholt also supplied snipes for the second-place Warriors, who welcomed back second leading pointgetter and Texan Jason Cotton up the middle and towering Michigan product Ryan Ivey on the back end, from injured reserve. Porter, a Vancouver product who went 8-5-1 in the regular season, stepped in nicely for co-MVP Andy Desautels, hurt in a collision with Vipers' forward Dexter Danc in Saturday night's Viper win.
Dancs was not penalized on the play, but the league reviewed video of the play and issued the high-scoring Dancs a three-game suspension. The Vipers appealed the decision Monday.
Brendan Persley replied for the Vipers at 1:27 of the third period. Vernon did not take a penalty in the third and went 0-for-3 on the powerplay while outshooting West Kelowna 15-4.
Anholt, who converted a sweet behind-the-net pass by Reid Simmonds to put the Warriors up 4-0, said the addition of Cotton and Ivey was huge.
“It did a lot. I was telling those guys at the pre-game skate this morning, ‘Even if you guys can play sparingly, it can raise the momentum and morale in the room a lot' and it obviously did because those guys played great tonight.”
Slick Braden Pears, obtained from the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters, was again a minute-muncher on the West Kelowna defence and had one assist.
“We just brought a better effort tonight. I thought the forwards were rolling a bit more and we got another dee back which is good. We’re getting some players healthier again and it showed on the scoreboard."
On Game 6, Pears said: “It’s a hard building to play in. They’re a big, strong team. I hope we can just ride the high here. They’re definitely a good team, but I think if we get the momentum going again, we have a good chance.”
In other playoff action, the Powell River Kings stopped the Nanaimo Clippers 5-3 to take that series in five games, while the Victoria Grizzles ambushed the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 9-3 to force a Game 6 with the surprising Dawgs up 3-2.
The Langley Rivermen shut out the Surrey Eagles 3-0 to grab a 3-2 series lead, while the Prince George Spruce Kings clipped the Coquitlam Express 3-2 in double overtime. Coquitlam has a 3-2 series lead.
Please see Wednesday's Morning Star for further Viper coverage.