Go to the net and good things happen.
It’s basic strategy and it worked wonders for the Wenatchee Wild in a 2-1 win over the Vernon Vipers before 1,723 B.C. Hockey League fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Captain AJ Vanderbeck jammed in a loose puck during a mass scrum with 28 seconds remaining as the Wild defeated the Vipers for the third time in five meetings.
“We just wanted to get shots on net all game and our coach (Bliss Littler) really stressed stopping at the net and rebounds will be there,” said Vanderbeck, a 20-year-old Colorado product. “It squeaked through and I tapped it in.”
Winger Lucas Sowder unleashed a shot from the left flank on Vernon goalie Ty Taylor to start the play. The Vipers were badly outnumbered as Sowder gained the zone.
“There was a lot of energy out there,” said Vanderbeck, who has 13 snipes on the season. “We knew they would come hard and there’s not a lot of love there. You always get a good game against them, especially on the road.”
The Wild outshot the Vipers 30-22 and went 1-for-9 on the powerplay. Vernon was 0-for-6. There was very little five-on-five action between the two teams known for track meet styles.
“It’s unfortunate, I thought it was going to be a real, real flowy game but the refs obviously wanted to step in and earn their pay tonight,” said Vipers head coach Mark Ferner.
Jimmy Lambert opened the offence midway through the first period with a sweet backhand-forehand move in front of Wenatchee goalie Austin Park. Niko Karamanis and Brett Stapley drew assists.
Lambert and Stapley almost clicked again while killing a Sol Seibel minor penalty. Viper captain Jagger Williamson and Jesse Lansdell provided two or three marvellous kills on the night as well. Williamson missed two breakaway attempts.
Taylor recorded a stellar pad save off Sam Hesler in the slot with 23 seconds left in the opening period of a game delayed 20 minutes due to a broken pane of glass in the Wild zone.
Sam Morton equalized 58 seconds into a Williamson tripping penalty on a freaky floater from the ringette line at 3:47 of the middle stanza. D-an Zak Galambos earned the helper on Morton’s 13th of the year.
Click below to see the Vipers in action
Wenatchee moved within four points of the Interior Division-leading Vipers, who dipped to 8-3-2-0 at home.
Ferner loved his team’s first period but thought things went sideways from then on.
“We had some opportunities. We had a few breakaways and scored on one. We didn’t manage the puck well enough and we made poor decisions not managing what the score is and not identifying how much time’s left on the clock. We always talk about what the difference is going to be and we give up a 4-on-1, 4-on-2 in the last shift of the game.”
Right winger Josh Prokop says the Vipers will learn from the loss and strive to better when they host the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night and the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday.
“It’s always a tough loss on the last shift of the game, but we’ve got to keep working on things and adjust the process,” said Prokop, who just committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes for the season after next. “There is always a lot of adrenaline and intensity when we play them. They’re a good team and we’re a good team; it’s always fun.”
Prokop, 17, had his Western League rights traded from the Swift Current Broncos to the Calgary Hitmen last weekend. He was taken in Round 5 by the Broncos in the 2015 Bantam Draft. His brother, Luke, a towering d-man, was a first-round choice of the Hitmen in the 2017 draft.
Josh, an Edmonton native, visited Michigan, UConn, Denver, Michigan State, Quinnipiac and Ohio State before choosing the Buckeyes for his NCAA career.
“I went over things with my advisor and my family and weighed the pros and cons,” said Prokop, who has a dozen goals as a Viper rookie. “Every player wants something different. I made a bucket list and checked that off. I just want the opportunity to play right away and develop as an offensive player which I’ve been all my life. It’s a Big 10 school so you have the all the resources you want and it’s a great sports culture.”
Prokop’s parents took him to a couple of Denver Pioneers games when he was 14 and he was impressed with the college atmosphere.
Viper d-man Jack Judson was taken to hospital after taking a clean hit. He broke his collarbone and will be sidelined for four to six weeks. The 17-year-old freshman from White Rock will miss the Team Canada West training camp in Calgary starting Saturday. Stapley and Taylor were also invited and will play Friday night before flying to Calgary Saturday. The World Under 17 Hockey Challenge goes Dec. 10-14, in Truro, N.S.
The Vipers and the City of Vernon will honour former Junior A superstar Wayne Dye and the 1956 Allan Cup champion Vernon Canadians by raising banners at Friday night’s game.
The Penticton Vees pushed to within three points of the Vipers by shutting down the West Kelowna Warriors 3-0 in front of 3,004 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Adam Scheel recorded 33 saves for the shutout, while the Vees got goals from Ryan Sandelin, Massimo Rizzo and Dakota Boutin.