Take on the league champions for trip to the provincial finals in Prince George?
No problem for the North Zone Kings, who won the Tier 1 Okanagan championship by sweeping the regular-season pennant-winning Thompson Blazers of Kamloops 5-3 and 1-0 to earn the Valley berth to the B.C. championships in Prince George.
In Game 1, the Kings fell behind, 3-1, leading to a goaltending change of Kristi Vassberg replacing starter Mandi Feist in an effort to motivate the team.
The tactic worked as the Kings scored four answered goals.
Jace Weir, assisted Matthew Johnston and Austin Roest, got the Kings’ first goal on a powerplay as his screen shot from the point found its way into the net. Roest started the four-goal comeback with a wicked bar-down shot over the Blazers goalie’s right shoulder with 4:12 left in the second.
It was the turning point in the game as the Kings scored two more goals in a span of three minutes.
Nolan Thomas, from Austin Teare and Cosmos Wilson, at 17:08, and Weir, from Roest, at 18:50 in the second gave the Kings the lead heading into the final frame.
Jared Feist, from Deagan McMillan, rounded out the scoring at 17:14 of the third. Vassberg made a clutch save on a Blazer breakaway to keep her team ahead by two.
Vassberg continued her strong play in Game 2, blanking the Blazers including a stop on a hard-charging Liam Gayfer on a breakaway that saw him trip over Vassberg’s pads, and crash heavily into the boards, resulting in an apparent broken collarbone.
With overtime on the horizon, Weir got the only goal the Kings would need, scoring at 10:02 of the third, assisted by Teare. North Zone outshot the Blazers 32-15, with Brendan Smith huge in goal for the Kamloops squad.
BANTAM TIER 3
Vernon Geotech Drilling Vipers entered the playoffs as the last-place team in the Okanagan league, and left the tournament in fourth place, giving all the top teams a run for their money in the process.
The Vipers opened up their weekend playing the Winfield Bruins on Friday afternoon and took a 4-2 loss, the closest gap they had against the Bruins all year. Logan Killingbeck and Scott Hoffman scored the goals with assists from Brady Kuziw, Gunnar Nyberg and Jonathan Finlayson. Hoffman was an AP player who joined the team for the playoff stretch along with Bradley Scabar and Chase Hobenshield.
The Vipers played the top-ranked Kelowna Rockets Saturday morning, and stayed close on their heels all game. Kelowna closed it up late in the third period, winning 9-5. Goals came from Nyberg (3), Hoffman and Scabar with assists coming from Ben Gillick, Marek Toews, Killingbeck and Trey Schober.
Saturday night the team trekked up to Logan Lake to play the home team and their bitter rivals, the Merritt Centennials. It proved to be a barn burner with the drillers coming out victorious by a score of 8-5. Hoffman and Killingbeck each scored three goals while singles went to Connor Cecchini and Schober. Goals came from Scott Hoffman (3), Logan Killingback (3), Connor Cecchini (1) and Trey Schober (1). Hoffman, Killingbeck and Johnathan Reynolds all grabbed two assists each with Kuziw and Nyberg snatching up an assist each.
It was a progressive year for the Tier 3 team that saw a lot of new faces to rep hockey. The team grew, learned a lot over the course of the year and it showed this weekend in Merritt, playing some of their best hockey.
PEE WEE TIER 3
The Collard Financial Vipers had a great weekend during playoffs in Salmon Arm, finishing third in a very competitive division.
The Vipers opened up the weekend on Friday at the Shaw Center beating the host Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-1. Vernon goalie Brayden Rypkema made 34 saves. Captain Mark Johnson opened up the scoring with two goals, assisted by Cole Gartner and the second goal by Kohen Pounder. Oliver Murray, Lyndon Carleton and Sam Levesque each had singles. Maddy Fick picked up an assist.
The Vipers then lost 5-3 to the eventual playoff champions Kelowna T4 Rockets. Levesque led the Snakes with two goals and a single came from Johnson. Helpers went to Lyndon Carleton, Hudson Restiaux and Kai Malenzia. The Rockets had 2 powerplay goals which made all the difference. Kohen Molde was strong in net for the Vipers.
In the Saturday matinee, the Vipers spanked the Kamloops Blazers 8-1 with the Vernon powerplay going 3-9. Maleniza opened up the scoring 15 seconds into the game assisted by Johnson and Pounder. Dylan Salling had the first powerplay marker, assisted by Hannah Robertson and Maleniza. Kamloops penalty troubles continued and Vernon capitalized with Levesque scoring on the PP, assisted by Murray. Remaining goals coming from Salling, Johnson, and Jace Collard and two from Logan Andrew. Pounder had three assists.
This win put the Vipers in for a berth in the semifinals Sunday morning.
The Vipers played with so much heart and teamwork, but came up short in the semi-final vs Kelowna T3 Rockets losing 7-4. Hudson Restiaux opened up the Vipers scoring with a PP marker, assisted by Cole Gartner, after Kelowna was assessed a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. On that same PP, Levesque pocketed one assisted by Carleton and Fick. Right before the ice clean, Johnson scored a beauty, an unassisted bar-down goal to spark his team. Pounder scored Vernon’s final goal before Kelowna responded with three unanswered goals. Kohen Molde made 25 saves in goal for the Vipers.
“We were able to play both goalies and three lines that played 60 minutes of intense positional team work,” said Vernon coach Braden Robertson. “Coach Garth Gartner and Coach Chad Pounder and myselft taught the kids all season to believe in the program, believe in your teammates and believe in yourself, and I think we did that.”
The Vipers would like to thank their sponsors Collard Financial, Imagine Pools and Waterscapes, Rellish Transport, The Tile Guy and MPL Drilling for their support.
ATOM DEVELOPMENT A
Vernon H&L Glass Vipers went to Kamloops and beat the hometown Blazers 8-5 Saturday.
Ollie Reid led the Snakes’ offence with five goals and two helpers. Jack Saxton scored twice, Mathis Paull added a single and Luc VanderVelde, Max Reed and Axel Houle had two assists each.
Calder Barry earned the win in net.
“We’ve come a long way this year as a team and that was a big win for the kids,” said Vernon coach Ryan Reid. “Kamloops plays a physical style of hockey. I was happy with our kids’ discipline and it paid off for us when we capitalized on the powerplay. Calder also did a great job for us in net. He kept his cool when the game was tight.”
ATOM DEVELOPMENT C
Vernon Valley Wood Remanufacturing Vipers went 2-2 at a weekend tournament in Summerland, which included a first win over the hometown Jets this season.
The victory was in Game 2, a 4-2 decision that saw Ryan Frick pocket the game-winner in the second period. Jace Nemirsky, Hudson Podollan and Aaron Teichroeb had the other goals to support Ethan Whitney in the net.
The Jets would get revenge in the final game of the tournament for both teams, winning 4-2. Nemirsky and Tylen Lewis had the Vernon goals, Podollan assisted on both and Whitney was in net.
The Vipers opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silvertips with Teichroeb scoring the unassisted winner midway through the third period. Nemirsky and Cohen Hogberg also scored in the final frame. Whitney and Cohen Bailey split the goaltending duties.
The Kelowna Rockets scored four second-period goals to beat Vernon 7-5. Podollan had four of the five Vipers goals while Shanahan Gare scored the other. Bailey was in net.
HOUSE SUPER LEAGUE FINALS
Lumby Stars edged Salmon Arm Blackburn Excavating 5-4 in the North Okanagan Super League midget division championship at Kal Tire Place. Both teams advance to the Okanagan championships at the Pat Duke Memorial Arena.
The Stars jumped out to a 4-0 lead on goals from Linden Catt, Tage Kineshanko, Noah Clarke and Kaleb Pachal, only to see Salmon Arm scored three unanswered to pull to within one. Landen Harison made it 5-3 Stars with 7:43 to play. Mathhew Bushell got this third straight goal at 15:28 to pull the Shuswap squad to within one, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Salmon Arm Average Bears beat the Lumby Stars 2-1 in overtime to claim the bantam division pennant. Both teams go to the Okanagan championships in Merritt.
Salmon Arm Askew’s Foods allowed the Vernon Butcher Boys Venom to score on the game’s first shot, then didn’t allow another goal as they rolled to a 4-1 win in the battle of grocery stores. Salmon Arm advances to the Valley championships in Clearwater.