Defencemen Shane Kelly and Jack Judson went for a light skate with captain Jagger Williamson this afternoon at Kal Tire Place.
That’s as good as the news gets for the Vernon Vipers, who host the Wenatchee Wild Friday night with their B.C. Hockey League best-of-seven quarterfinal playoff series square at 2-2.
The Vipers, playing without concussed centre Brett Stapley and suspended centre Williamson, fell 7-1 to the Wild before 1,853 fans at the Town Toyota Center. Game 6 is Saturday in Wenatchee.
Kelly hopes to come off Injured Reserve for the fifth game and Judson has served his four-game suspension for a head hit in the Salmon Arm series. Williamson was assessed a two-game suspension for a goalie interference penalty in Game 3, his third of the season. Vernon lost NHL-rated sniper Josh Prokop to season-ending injury six weeks ago.
“I didn’t even know that was a rule,” said Williamson. “I was going back door, coming in pretty hot and their goalie (Austin Park) likes to come out of his crease. I ran into him and hugged him so he wouldn’t fall, and said ‘Sorry.’ It’s totally unfortunate.”
Without Stapley, their second-leading pointgetter, and Williamson, their fourth-highest scorer, the Vipers mustered just 20 shots, including four in the second stanza.
Williamson said head coach Mark Ferner urged his players to “hate your opponent”, something which should come easy since Williamson said the Wild sent out their top unit on a late power play.
“We’ve overcome adversity before and our guys are fired up. This is the biggest game of the year by far.”
Josh Morton and Sam Arnold each scored twice for Wenatchee, who chased Vipers starting goalie Ty Taylor after 40 minutes with a 4-1 cushion. The Wild scored three in the third on former teammate Anthony Yamnitsky. Josh Latta connected for Vernon.
Stapley suffered a concussion and lost a tooth after taking a hit to the mouth by Wenatchee’s Nathan Iannone in the Wild’s 4-3 win before 1,703 fans Tuesday night.
“Stapes is done,” said Ferner. “He’s a tough kid and he played through it, but he complained of headaches after the game. He vomited so we took him to hospital for observation. There was no call on the play.”
Ferner filed an appeal on Williamson’s punishment to no avail.
“The goalie was outside the blue paint and Jags was waiting for a slap pass and there was just a little contact. The referee right there didn’t make the call; the back referee did.”
C Elan Lev Bar Wise, 17, of the Burnaby Winter Club, is with the Snakes.
“Talk about adversity; we’ve got five guys out. We kind of warned the guys that you don’t know what you’re going to get (from American officials) and we got it; five penalties in the first period which took some energy out of us. The refs put their whistles away in the second period and called one penalty. It’s crazy. Every time we touched them, their whole bench erupted. It’s embarrassing. The refs hear them yelling and they figure it must be a penalty.”
Sam Hesler’s first playoff goal with 57 seconds left in regulation time gave Wenatchee the must-win. The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak (counting last four games of regular season) for the Vipers.
At Cominco Arena, Seth Barton snapped a 3-3 tie at 14:05 of the third period with his first playoff goal for the Trail Smoke Eaters in a 6-3 win over the Penticton Vees. That series is 2-2.
Tyler Ghirardosi added insurance at 17:16 and Ross Armour scored into an empty net at 19:22. After falling behind 1-0, Trail rattled off three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Goals 22 second apart early in the third from Jonny Tychonick and Lukas Sillinger tied things for the Vees.