CAMROSE – The Vernon Vipers were searching for two things Thursday night in Camrose. The first was a perfect 4-0 preliminary record at the Royal Bank Cup; the second was a more consistent effort.
The Snakes delivered on the former with a 5-3 win over the Pembroke Lumber Kings of Ontario, but fell a bit short on the latter as they nearly squandered an early two-goal lead and required a three-goal rally to secure the win at the Edgeworth Centre.
With the five-team round-robin complete, a trio of teams – Pembroke, Wellington Dukes and Portage Terriers – were tied at 1-3. A mathematical tiebreaker formula based on goals for and against determined the Terriers would be the unfortunate team heading home early, leaving the Dukes in fourth place and setting up a Saturday semifinal against the Vipers. As winners of the round-robin, Vernon is choosing to play in the early draw (1 p.m. PT).
The third-place Lumber Kings will tangle with the second-place Camrose Kodiaks (3-1) in the later semi at 5 p.m. (PT).
Pat McGillis, who potted a pair of goals in his RBC debut Wednesday night, buried the first shot of the game on a goalmouth scramble just 52 seconds after the opening faceoff.
Colton Sparrow completed the first-period scoring with a sensational solo effort in the final minute. The Vernon minor hockey product dangled around a Pembroke defender and, as he came crashing to the ice on his back, managed to flick a bouncing backhander that skipped over Francis Dupuis’ right pad.
The Vipers looked like they suffered a bout of narcolepsy to start the second period as they surrendered two goals in just 46 seconds, and a third one just past the three-minute mark.
The first two could have been carbon copies of one another as Lumber King forwards Jonathan Milley and Brandon Gagne took turns netting juicy rebounds left by Kirby Halcrow in the slot.
Will Seeber collected the third goal when he walked in from the left point and unleashed a howitzer. Halcrow (26 saves) got a piece of it with his blocker, but the puck flipped up and over his shoulder, landing in the back of the net.
Vernon head coach Mark Ferner burnt a timeout to settle the team, and they responded less than two minutes later when John Knisley pounced on a loose puck that squirted out from under Dupuis’ protection in the crease.
Dave Robinson, with the eventual winner, restored Vernon’s lead at 14:03 as he fooled Dupuis (23 saves) with a harmless-looking wrister from the outside hashmarks.
Vernon Game MVP Dylan Walchuk salted the game with a screen tip on Marcus Basara’s shot from the right faceoff dot.
For a recap of Thursday’s final round-robin games, check out the sports section in Sunday’s Morning Star.