The Vernon Vipers fired 57 questions at netminder Kirby Halcrow Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre. The 18-year-old net detective solved all but two, posting a sensational .965 save percentage as the Quesnel Millionaires doubled the Vernon Vipers 4-2 in Game 2 of their best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference semifinal.
Tied at one apiece, the series now heads north to Quesnel for Games 3 and 4, Friday and Saturday night respectively at the Vault.
Backstopped by the hulking Halcrow, a Grande Prairie product, the Mills were able to capitalize on their chances, often catching the Vipers flatfooted in their own end. After the Snakes’ David Robinson got credit for an own-goal by Quesnel’s Taylor Egan at 4:05 of the first period, the Mills answered back less than a minute later when Darick Ste-Marie banged home a juicy rebound off Trever Hertz’s shot from 10 feet inside the blueline.
Quesnel sucked the life out of the 1,600 fans when Tyler French capped off a slick three-way passing play, going upstairs on netminder Graeme Gordon (18 saves) late in the first period. Rookies Clayton Chessa and Spencer Garboski drew assists while the Vipers looked like spectators.
Despite being outshot 22-6 in the second period, the Mills held Vernon scoreless while earning a two-goal cushion as
Justin Hogan wheeled behind the net and connected with Taylor Holst, who cruised unmolested through the slot for an easy one-timer.
“We definitely came out with some heart. Better than (Tuesday night),” said Holst, sporting a teal blue dye job. “We battled, we blocked shots and I think that’s why we won.
“He’s (Halcrow) been playing phenomenal, but we’ve been blocking a lot of shots and capitalizing on our opportunities.”
Vipers’ captain Kevin Kraus summed the game up with one word: “Frustrating.”
“They play a frustrating game and that’s what they’re going to try to do to us. It worked for them tonight and it got to us. We started to get a little too fancy, a little too cute and got away from our game of hard hitting and hard hockey.”
Branden Redschlag, playing in just his second game with the Mills as a call-up, sealed the win with a point shot through traffic that beat Gordon five-hole.
Robbie Short, with his third goal in two playoff games, pulled Vernon within two, but Quesnel repelled any further attacks, even when the Vipers were on a late powerplay with Gordon pulled for two extra skaters.
Referee Grant Tyson awarded the Vipers six powerplays, while giving the Mills none.
Check out Friday’s sports section in The Morning Star for more in depth coverage of the Vipers-Mills series.