Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Vipers all donned Wray name bars on the back of their jerseys as they stood on the blueline for a 20-minute tribute to owner Duncan Wray Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Once team executive vice-president Todd Miller read a touching reflection from the Viper bench and a video presentation was showed, the teams slapped their sticks on the ice in appreciation of Wray, whose family was in attendance.
From then on, the night pretty much belonged to Cowichan Valley Capitals goalie Michael Corson, who tried his damnedest to stop the Vipers from honouring their beloved late owner with a victory.
Corson, an 18-year-old goalie from Chicago who just joined the Caps, delivered 50 saves and didn’t allow a goal until Josh Prokop converted on a gorgeous powerplay snipe at 9:52 of the third period. Prokop, who buried a feed from Jesse Lansdell from the far side, became the first 20-goal man with the Snakes.
Lansdell added an empty-netter, from d-man Michael Ufberg and Williamson, with 38 seconds remaining, his 11th of the season.
Corson, who swiped two points in Prince George Friday night with a 38-save showing, robbed a handful of Vipers while also making his 6-foot-4 frame look big as the Vipers often hit him square in the logo. Corson earned first star ahead of Vernon goalie Ty Taylor and Prokop.
Corson said he was locked in and following the puck through the traffic as the Vipers carried the majority of play. He even got some help from affiliate d-man Alex Benger, who blocked a Josh Latta shot from ‘gimme range’ with his chest in the second period.
Roadrunner Jimmy Lambert put on a penalty killing seminar midway through the middle stanza. He took a long, high stretch pass from blueliner Cam Trott and skated in alone on Corson, only to completely miss the net. Seconds later, Lambert enjoyed a partial breakaway but shot right at Corson’s stomach.
Corson said the pre-game tribute didn’t both the Caps’ preparation at all.
“We gotta pay our respects. Obviously, he was a big part of making this organization and helping the whole league too. It definitely didn’t affect us in any way.”
Corson also recorded a stellar save off d-man Chris Jandric on a second-period powerplay and scooped up a soft shot by Prokop from in tight.
“I played water polo in high school for four years and I was a goalie. I guess it’s in my blood; I love getting hit with things,” laughed Corson.
The Caps, whose hit parade leader was third-line centre Brendan Cherwalk, didn’t get a serious Grade A scoring chance until Nick Wilson drove the net hard and knocked Taylor down, earning a penalty, with 5:33 left in the second. Azzaro Tinley was robbed by Taylor in front after a turnover with 40 seconds to play in the same session.
Taylor’s best save of the night came with 8:27 left when he flashed leather on a wrister from the ringette line by towering Tate Coughlin.
Best hit of the night was a monster clean check by the sidewall in the Cowichan zone by Viper forward Keyvan Mokhtari on Ethan Scardina.
Williamson said the Vipers, who lost 5-0 in Merritt Friday night, topped off a special night by winning before 2,240 fans. He gave the Caps props for pushing them to the limit.
The Vernon minor hockey product and several teammates looked up to Wray as a father-figure among other things.
“It is like we have lost a relative,” said Williamson. “Especially for me, being here for four years, we kind of built a relationship. It’s losing our leader, kind of losing our alpha. Every time he came to the rink, everyone greeted him and said hi. Obviously, he was a great man we lost way too early. Tonight’s game was definitely for him. For the rest of the year, we’re gonna try and bring him something he’s always wanted and that’s another one (national title).”
Vernon improved to 28-10-1-4 atop the Interior Division, while Cowichan dipped to 8-29-3-2 in the Island Division basement.
Newcomer Derek Brown wore No. 9 in his debut with the Vipers, who traded for the high-scoring Arizona State commit last week. D Shane Kelly sat out Game 1 of a six-game suspension for leaving the bench to join an altercation in Merritt.
In other play, the Penticton Vees shelled the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-2, the Wenatchee Wild iced the West Kelowna Warriors 6-0, the Trail Smoke Eaters shaded the Cents 5-4 and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs bounced the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-4.
The Vipers visit West Kelowna Tuesday night and face the Spruce Kings Friday night in Prince George.