Vernon’s Connor Marritt is knocked backwards by West Kelowna’s Mike Hardman during second-period action. (John K. White/Morning Star)

Depleted Vernon Vipers run out of gas against West Kelowna

West Kelowna’s Lucas Cullen was the offensive power on the night.

While the scoresheet stated the Vernon Vipers hosted the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night at Kal Tire Place, with seven Vernon regulars out of the lineup, it was an uphill battle from the opening faceoff.

Despite that challenge, the Vipers were in it to the end, pressing for the tying goal into the last minute with an empty net, before falling 2-1.

The Vipers entire top line was out, as were four others, with injury, suspension or invites to play for Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge. Alex Swetlikoff and Jack Judson are set to play Sunday at 6 p.m. against the United States.

West Kelowna’s Lucas Cullen was the offensive power on the night, as he scored two goals and racked up plenty of possession minutes. His first came 3:21 into the second period after he pounced on a loose puck.

Vernon’s Teddy Wooding scored the lone Vernon goal on a play that was pure hustle at 17:26 of the second. He swooped in deep on the penalty kill and posted the wrap-around after Matt Kowalski’s forecheck resulted in the turnover.

RELATED: Two Vernon Vipers selected for World Junior Challenge camps

RELATED: Vernon Vipers lose nailbiter in Prince George

West Kelowna pulled ahead with just over five minutes left in the third on a desperation clear-out by Chase Dubois that Cullen caught up to and buried on a quick shot to the far side.

It was clear early on that West Kelowna’s strategy was to pour relentless pressure on the defenders with aggressive forechecking to force turnovers.

It’s not the flashy part of the game. You don’t often see effective forechecking on the highlights. But, without that push and the resulting turnovers, you wouldn’t see the goals that actually make the highlights.

Vipers forward Josh Latta briefly turned his brain off after the whistle midway through the third when he decided to make a move and a light deke, which resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Lucky for him, West Kelowna retaliated and got a crosschecking penalty to offset the infraction.

It was a fast first period, with West Kelowna having the most A-grade scoring chances. Vernon had issues with defensive zone board battles, which led to many second chances for the Warriors.

The ice seemed to be choppy with few tape-to-tape passes, although the Vipers did manage two stretch passes that could have been dangerous but West Kelowna defenders were able to shut down the plays.

Vipers goaltender Bradley Cooper seemed to struggle with puck visibility as he mishandled two high glove-side catch attempts in the first period, but he settled down after that and made two brilliant saves in the third to keep it a one-goal game.

West Kelowna was less than a second away from opening the scoring in the first, but their apparent goal came just after the buzzer went after the first 20 minutes.

Shots were 9-8 West Kelowna after one and 20-17 after two, with the final tally 34-29 for West Kelowna.

The Warriors improved to 19-14-0-1 and 39 points while the Vipers fell to 11-12-6-3 and 31 points.

The Vipers next play in Trail on Wednesday night, while West Kelowna hosts Coquitlam on Tuesday night.

Follow me on Twitter @johnkwhite

Email me john.white@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Vernon’s Bradley Cooper makes a save and covers up. (John K. White/Morning Star)

West Kelowna head coach Geoff Grimwood lays out a game plan during a break in action in the second period. (John K. White/Morning Star)

Just Posted

Vernon Falcons soar to season-ending bronze

Vernon Minor Hockey female atom division squad loses semifinal nail-biter at Kelowna tourney

Vernon councillor wins award for efforts to end racism

Vernon city councillor Dalvir Nahal received the award for her work to increase awareness of the Sikh culture and history, by breaking down cultural barriers in the Okanagan to fight racism.

Dust advisory in affect for Kelowna

Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic

SilverStar launches Seismic Spring Festival

Vernon mountain full of fun events for 10-days

Dust advisory continues for 5th day in Vernon

Staying indoors and in air-conditioned spaces helps to reduce particulate exposure.

Rain may be on its way for the Okanagan Valley

A mix of sun and cloud, with periods of rain in the forecast

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Kelowna RCMP bust speeding, uninsured driver with $1,357 fine

RCMP keeping watchful eye on roads now that roads are bare

Homeless South Okanagan man allegedly doused in ice water while he slept

Community outraged at treatment of well-known homeless community member

Kelowna coffee maker responds to product recall

Cherry Hill Coffee recovers 90 per cent of voluntary recalled cold brew coffee

Tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

With wildfire season getting closer, the Penticton Fire Dept. offer tips to keep your home safe

Mayor seeks to reduce eyesore of fire damaged 7-Eleven

Business asked to improve appearance of Salmon Arm building’s exterior by our tourist season

Fundraiser for South Okanagan “supermom” who died suddenly

Friends described the 40-year-old Penticton woman as a supermom.

Car torched in Kelowna: $1,000 reward offered for return of stolen massage machine

Odette Baumgartner’s vehicle was stolen and then burned. Now she just wants her machine back

Most Read