A loud and energized crowd is sometimes worth a goal for the home team come playoff time.
The Vernon Vipers are banking on some youthful enthusiasm when they open the B.C. Hockey League post-season.
The Vipers are giving free tickets to all children and students during round two of the playoffs, thanks to sponsorship from Hytec, Kiss FM and The Morning Star.
“Hytec and Kohler are thrilled to continue on with our partnership with the Vernon Vipers in finding ways to give back to the community,” said Michael Sanfilippo, Hytec business manager.
“We saw this as an excellent opportunity to partner with Kiss FM and The Morning Star to continue to make an impact and get the kids out to see some great playoff hockey. Go Vipers.”
There is no purchase necessary. However, each child or student will require a game ticket to be admitted.
The Vipers are stoked to be part of this campaign with the three companies.
“Now let’s fill the building,” said Todd Miller, Vipers executive vice-president.
The Vipers have secured a first-round bye. They are scheduled to begin the playoffs Friday, March 17 and March 18 at Kal Tire Place (both 7 p.m. starts).
Tickets for the playoffs will go on sale at the Vipers office Feb. 27 at 10 a.m.
Season-ticket holders will have until noon on game day to pick up their seats or they will be released for general sale. Adult tickets for round two will be $16, while seniors will be $14.
Meanwhile, the Vipers will be down a defenceman when they finish the regular season with a home and home series against the Trail Smoke Eaters starting Friday in the Kootenays.
“We just found out Cooper Watson has mono,” said Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner. “He was at practice yesterday (Monday) but couldn’t finish. We’re going to shut him down for a while.”
The towering Watson, 20, missed both games last weekend after feeling sick to his stomach. He had blood work done Saturday.
F Hunter Zandee (knee) has been back skating and should be ready for the playoffs. The 20-year-old was injured Jan. 25 in a 3-3 double overtime tie with the Vees in Penticton.
Captain Riley Brandt scored twice as the Vipers bounced the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-1 before 2,089 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Brandt, named first star, converted powerplay tallies two minutes apart late in the first period. The Trail product has nine snipes on the season. Jagger Williamson and d-man Chris Jandric drew helpers on both goals.
Luke Gingras registered his fourth of the year with one second left in the opening 20, while D Connor Clouston netted his second early in the third. Alex Macdonald replied for the Dawgs 4:09 into the second stanza.
“We were fortunate to have the lead, but I didn’t think we played that well,”said Ferner. “I thought our effort was much better the night before and we lost (4-2 to Victoria Grizzlies).”
Ex-Viper F Keith Anderson took on D Shane Kelly in a non-eventful scrap with 2:24 left in the game.
Alberni Valley, who will miss the playoffs, outshot Vernon 36-30. Darion Hanson improved to 14-14-4 with a 1.84 GAA. Carson Schamerhorn, a Kelowna product, dipped to 4-12.
The Wenatchee Wild ran over the Langley Rivermen 6-1 Saturday and took the BCHL title, becoming the first American team to do so since the Bellingham Blazers (1975 and ‘79). Wenatchee is 43-9-4-0.
The Interior Division final four spots won’t be decided until this weekend with the Smokies and West Kelowna Warriors tied for third with 56 points, four ahead of the Merritt Centennials, who are a deuce in front of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Salmon Arm surprised the first-place Vees 5-1 Saturday before 4,225 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre and iced Merritt 1-0 Sunday. Californian Trevin Kozlowski was in net for both wins.
Vernon’s Brett Jewell supplied an empty netter as the Cents doubled the Smokies 4-2 Saturday. Jewell has 13 goals.
D James Miller connected at 3:34 of overtime as the Vees shaded the Grizzlies 2-1 Sunday.
F Zach Risteau of the Cents has committed to the St. Lawrence University Saints for the 2018-19 season.
The 18-year-old Minnesota native leads Merritt with 48 points (25 G) in 48 games. Risteau has 13 multiple-point games this season.
Viper grads Kellen and Connor Jones assisted on former Smoke Eater/Vee Travis St. Denis’ ninth of the year as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers toppled the visiting Hershey Bears 5-1 in American League play Sunday afternoon before 3,456 fans at the Webster Bank Arena.
Connor has five goals and 17 points, while Kellen has 3-8-11. The twins are 26 and in their first year with Bridgeport, the top affiliate of the New York Islasnders. Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves for the Sound Tigers, third in the Atlantic Division at 33-16-1.