Morning Star Staff
Another year, another Vernon Vipers-Penticton Vees B.C. Hockey League Interior Division final playoff series.
The Vipers reached the championship by brushing back the Merritt Centennials 6-5 Saturday night for the only sweep in the first round.
The regular-season winning Vees dispatched the visiting West Kelowna Warriors 7-0 Monday night to take their series in five games. Two tilts went to overtime.
“No one ever expected a sweep: we didn’t,” said Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner. “We knew Merritt’s a good team and respected them. It was two really evenly-matched teams and it could have gone the other way too.”
Vernon won all four games by one goal, taking one contest in overtime.
The Interior final opens Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre (SOEC) due to The Very Best of Celtic Thunder concert there Friday. Game 2 goes Sunday night at the SOEC.
The Snakes host the third and fourth games Tuesday and Wednesday at Kal Tire Place.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Vees’ goalie Hunter Miska, of the series win. “It’s just another stepping stone towards the RBC Cup. That was one huge step. The boys played unbelievable this whole series. They were close games and tonight we knew this was the opportunity to win the series. Everybody brought their A game.”
Thomas Aldworth, on the powerplay, and Blaine Caton gave the Vipers an early 2-0 lead before 900 fans at the Nicola Valley Arena.
Cole Arcuri replied for the Cents midway through the first before captain Riley Guenther of the Vipers and Shane Poulsen of Merritt, on the powerplay, swapped tallies two minutes apart to close out the period.
Diego Cuglietta levelled the score on a powerplay at 10:37 of the second before TJ Dumonceaux put the Vipers in front five minutes later.
Liam Finlay made it 5-3 Vernon nine minutes into the third period before Gavin Gould answered for the Cents almost eight minutes later. Riley Brandt added insurance for the Vipers with 1:35 to play with Cents’ captain Sam Johnson scoring with two seconds remaining and goalie Jonah Imoo on the bench.
The Vipers took Sunday and Monday off, returning to practice Tuesday afternoon.
SNAKE BITES: Guenther and F Liam Coughlin each earned two assists in support of Jarrod Schamerhorn …Vernon d-man Luke Shiplo has a sinus infection and not a concussion, as first thought. He could play Saturday.