Pretty much all the Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees are playing with multiple bruises, aches and pains in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division final series.
Jagger Williamson may be carrying the most carnage. Trainer (Skip) Tyrol Deeg used Elmer’s Glue and the finest duct tape in town to get the Viper winger ready for Game 4 Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Williamson persevered through major pain and scored twice as Vernon pitched a 3-0 shutout over the Vees before 2,325 fans, the loudest bunch heard this season. He fed Jesse Lansdell just inside the Snakes’ blueline for a 150-foot empty-netter with 52 seconds remaining.
Darion Hanson recorded 32 saves, his toughest five or six coming in the third period, for his second shutout of the post-season.
Game 5 goes Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre with the sixth game Saturday night in Vernon. Seventh heaven would be Sunday night in Penticton.
Williamson missed the series opener with a fever and left Game 2 after being checked from behind into the end boards by Penticton defenceman Gabe Bast in the second period. The gritty alternate captain went to the dressing room for repairs and then tried one shift before watching the rest of the tilt from the bench.
“I’m pretty sore, pretty banged up,” smiled Williamson. “I’m definitely going to take tomorrow as a rest day and try and get better. I’m just trying to battle the pain but that’s part of the playoffs. You just keep going and just stay in the lineup and I think I did a pretty good job tonight.”
Williamson buried a juicy rebound 9:23 after the national anthem when captain Riley Brandt’s long shot ricocheted off Vee goalie Mat Robson’s pad.
A third-year forward with a scholarship to Michigan Tech Huskies in his backpocket, Williamson added insurance 2:44 later by deflecting a point shot by Michael Ufberg.
The defensive gem of the night came from Viper buzzsaw Hunter Zandee, who ran a track meet to stymie Owen Sillinger’s chance at a wide open net after Zandee turned the puck over just inside the Vernon blueline with six minutes left in the middle stanza.
The normally library-quiet Viper fans rained boos t0wards the referees after a no-call when Taylor Ward mugged Williamson on a penalty kill shortly after the Zandee play.
Penticton leading sniper Grant Cruikshank struck iron with 70 seconds left and Robson on the bench for a sixth attacker.
‘That was a very important win for us,” said Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner. “It’s all about leadership. We’ve got a great group and we talked about the urgency we needed tonight. We have a great level of respect for that team over there. They play a lot of the same systems as we do.”
Ferner gave major props to the defensive pairing of twin towers Connor Clouston and Cooper Watson.
The Vipers kept the roadrunner Vees to the outside for the first 40 minutes, giving up a handful of Grade A scoring chances in the third period. Hanson stoned Griffin Mendel on a 3-on-1 midway through the period,while Sillinger just missed in tight off a gorgeous move and feed by d-man James Miller just before the ice clean timeout.
“They got a quick start with two goals and held on to the lead pretty well,” said Vees’ veteran captain Nick Jones. “They played hard all game, got some pucks in deep behind our dee and they’re a physical, gritty team. They had the crowd behind them and they played well. It’s going to be a war for this best-of-three.”
The Chilliwack Chiefs ambushed the host Victoria Grizzlies 6-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the other semifinal series.