Half the shots, four times the goals.
A few nights after watching Quesnel Millionaires’ netminder Kirby Halcrow steal the show with a 55-save performance in Game 2 of the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference semifinal Wednesday night, the Vernon Vipers went back to basics for Game 3 Friday night at the Vault in Quesnel.
Getting bodies in front of the Mills’ keeper was priority No. 1 for the Vipers, who doubled Quesnel 8-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 went Saturday night in Quesnel, with Game 5 returning to Wesbild Centre Monday night. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 would go Tuesday in Quesnel and Wednesday in Vernon.
“We had to come out with a good start and we did,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner. “Things happen so quick in that rink. We just kept getting pucks to the net and did a good job of going to the net.”
Connor Jones fired the first of four unanswered Viper goals as he took a touch pass from twin brother Kellen on a controlled breakout, then beat a Quesnel defender wide and tucked the puck around Halcrow at 4:14 of the first period.
Sahir Gill, with the first of two goals, beat Halcrow with a low blast from just inside the blueline later in the period.
Halcrow, a Grande Prairie product, was pulled late in the third period after allowing seven goals on 25 shots. Luke Siemens gave up one goal on two shots in relief.
Viper rookie Blake Voth, who got the start over Graeme Gordon, who looked average in Game 2, recorded 33 saves for his first-ever BCHL post-season win.
Goals 20 seconds apart by Adam Thompson, on the powerplay, and Kellen (first star), on a turnover in Quesnel’s zone, had Vernon in full control midway through the second.
“We had a great start, kept it simple, got pucks to the net,” said Kellen. “For us to win, we just have to play the same way, no matter what rink we’re in.”
After Kellen’s goal, Quesnel head coach Glen Watson earned a team penalty and was ejected by referee Kris Hartley.
Rylan Stanyer and Eliot Raibl, who played half a season with the Snakes in 2007-08, answered with second-period goals for the Mills. The Vipers’ Cole Ikkala, assisted by Braden Pimm and Mike Collins, made it 5-2 after 40 minutes.
It was a chippy game, with plenty of action between the whistles. The two teams combined for 53 penalty minutes.
The Mills’ Justin Hogan earned a major for goaltender interference when he steamrolled Voth in the third period. Viper d-man Dan Nycholat, sticking up for his keeper, picked up a double minor for roughing.
Ferner took exception to Quesnel’s antics after the whistle.
“I guess that’s how they feel they have to play to give themselves a chance,” he said. “We know their players. Do they think they can turn a switch and be a tough hockey team all of a sudden?”
Goals by Connor (second star), Jonathan Milhouse, scoring for the first time in weeks, and Gill completed the Vipers’ attack. Taylor Holst (third star) and Clayton Chessa capped the Mills’ offence.