Vipers goaltender Max Palaga is the last line of defence against Grizzlies’ forward Stephen Konroyd. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Vernon Vipers drop home opener to Victoria Grizzlies

The Grizzlies played a strong puck possession game and goaltending en route to a 5-1 victory

Already two weeks into the BCHL regular season the Vipers finally played their first game at Kal Tire Place Friday night, but the visiting Victoria Grizzlies were able to put a damper on the home team’s welcome-back party with a 5-1 win thanks to a strong possession game and a stellar performance from their goaltender.

The Vipers looked like the better team in the first five minutes, which saw captain Connor Marritt fire a beautiful wrister into the top corner from the left hashmarks for his second goal of the season.

Victoria’s response was swift as Darwin Lakoduk scored two minutes later, poking a rebound past goaltender Max Palaga. The teams exchanged chances throughout the period, but the Grizzlies started to take command in the the final two minutes after a centering pass from Bryce Anderson found Brendan Bowie’s stick, which he snapped off the goal post and in.

Just 23 seconds later after a Vipers mistake led to an odd-man rush, and Marty Westhaver scored to make it 3-1 after the first period.

READ MORE: Vernon Vipers add to den for home opener

The second frame was a scoreless affair on both sides. An early powerplay generated some momentum for the home team, but Grizzlies goalie Joe Howe was able to hold off the pressure. Later on in the frame the Grizzlies got their own powerplay chances, but some solid Vipers penalty killing kept the deficit at two going into the third.

The Vipers came out with some jump to start the final period, narrowly missing on two grade-A chances in the first two minutes. But Howe stood tall (as he did all night, making 41 saves) and the skaters in front of him were able to take the buzz out of the building with a goal from Stephen Konroyd on a nice wraparound. Bryce Anderson would cap off a the game for the Grizzlies with a goal around the 13 minute mark of the period.

The Vipers now hold a 2-2 record to start the season after splitting their two games in Wenatchee last weekend. They’ll host Powell River tonight at 6 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.

READ MORE: UBC Okanagan golf team starts season with historic win

Brendan Shykora
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