Vipers snake bitten at RBC
The Vernon Vipers' quest for a seventh national Junior A hockey championship was derailed Saturday afternoon.
The Yorkton Terriers advanced to the Royal Bank Cup final with a 6-3 win over the Vipers before 2,700 fans at Kal Tire Place.
“Not much you can say at this time, it’s disheartening to have our season end like this,” said Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson.
Vipers’ goaltender Austin Smith had been a rock leading up to the RBC Cup. Something got to him this tournament as Smith came unglued with a 4.23 goals against average.
“I think it was all the wear and tear catching up to him. He played every single minute in playoffs; he has been dealing with a few injuries, it happens,” said Vipers’ goaltender Danny Todosychuk.
Smith allowed four goals on eight shots and was relieved by Todosychuk halfway through the second period.
Former Viper Chad Brownlee, a country recording artist, sung the anthem and the had the crowd pulsating.
Both teams came out of the gates jacked up; elimination hockey at its finest.
Batman and Robin wish they were as productive as Brett Mulcahy and Colton Sparrow. They almost connected for a goal in the opening seconds that would have convulsed the crowd.
Once again, the Vipers were in early penalty trouble. Tyler Povelofskie was in the box for roughing when captain Ryan Renz got called for a questionable hit to the head on ex-Viper Riley Hunt, giving the Terriers an extended powerplay.
With 20 seconds remaining in Renz’s penalty, Yorkton defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky opened the scoring from Devon McMullen and Tyson Enzie at 9:05 in the first.
Lishchynsky had the entire net to shoot at, ripping it high-blocker.
The Terriers struck again a minute later as Daylan Gatzke threw a harmless shot on net, from Tayler Thompson.
“Our game wasn’t what we wanted at times, but we played hard and had some bounces go our way,” said Terriers’ head coach Trent Cassan.
With Lishchynsky in the box for slashing, Mulcahy tipped a Jared Wilson blast. Michael McNicholas got the second assist, 15:47 into the first.
Mulcahy was overcome by excitement and let out a beastly roar that Mufasa would have been proud of.
After a sluggish start to the tournament, the line of McNicholas, Dexter Dancs and Demico Hannoun woke up the past two games.
McNicholas got his second goal of the tournament on the powerplay, from Dancs and Mason Blacklock, 1:36 into the second. McNicholas was named Player of the Game.
Vernon came close to taking the lead minutes later, but Terriers' goaltender Kale Thomson snatched up a puck that was twerking on the goal line.
The Vipers had just killed Liam Coughlin’s roughing penalty when they got scored on again.
It was Sparrow’s hand pass in the Terriers’ zone that brought the play back into the Vipers’ zone. The ensuing faceoff saw Dylan Johnson tip Chase Norrish’s point shot over the shoulder of Smith, as the Terriers regained the lead.
Chase’s twin brother, Brady, was named Player of the Game for his hard work.
Chase was at it again two minutes later as he fluttered one over a screened Smith to give the Terriers a 4-2 lead, chasing Smith.
The goaltending switch ignited the Snakes as Dancs scored 12:58 into the second from Hannoun and Riley Guenther.
The soft hands were on display as McNicholas and Hannoun patiently moved around defenders before they found an open Dancs,
The Vipers' best opportunity in the third came on a 5-on-3 powerplay.
“To be honest, it was fun. It’s why we play the game, down one to in the playoffs, in front of a packed house. It just didn’t happen,” said Dancs. “They beat us.”
Josh Bryan was teeing up shots from the point, Sparrow was grinding down low and McNicholas was finding the open man, but It just wouldn’t fall for the Vipers.
Thomson, who got replaced in Yorkton's 6-4 preliminary loss to Vernon, was always in perfect position, making 34 saves.
The Terriers added a pair of empty-net goals, from Daylan Gatzke and Tayler Thompson, with two minutes remaining.
The Yorkton Terriers will take on the winner of the Dauphin Kings-Carleton Place Canadians game, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
The Terriers haven’t been in the RBC Cup final since 2006, when they ran into Kyle Turris and the Burnaby Express.
They just missed out on the RBC Cup last year, losing in the final qualifying game.