Patrick McGillis is used to being the last man standing.
Over the last three seasons, he has been to the Telus Cup Midget AAA Championships (he helped the Notre Dame Greyhounds hoist the cup in 2009), and back-to-back appearances in Royal Bank Cup finals. In short, the Calgary product has always made it to the big game.
Now, with the Vernon Vipers one point away from being excluded from the B.C. Hockey League playoffs, the Vernon Viper captain finds himself in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s definitely something new for me,” said McGillis, who has missed half of his 20-year-old season to injury.
“The last three years I’ve gone all the way to pretty much the last game. It’s a different situation, but I’m still playing every game as hard as I would, no matter what point of the season it is.”
A weekend split left the 28-26-1-2 Vipers trailing the 30-22-1-3 Chilliwack Chiefs for the fourth and final Interior Conference postseason berth. The teams met Tuesday night at Prospera Centre, and with three regular-season games remaining, all the Chiefs need is a tie, or a Vernon loss, to clinch.
Until that happens (and even if that happens), McGillis says the Vipers will keep battling.
“Mathematically, we’re not eliminated so it’s not over until it’s over,” he said. “We’re going to play for every point we can.”
Vernon ends the 2011-12 campaign with a weekend home-and-home series against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks (16-33-0-8), starting Friday at Wesbild.
After a disappointing 3-1 loss to the host Westside Warriors Saturday night, Vernon head coach Jason Williamson leaned on his veterans Sunday, and they responded in a 7-3 crushing of the Prince George Spruce Kings at Wesbild Centre.
The line of Colton Cyr (3+1), Ben Gamache (1+4) and McGillis (3A) combined for a dozen points, recording first, second and third star respectively.
“We didn’t wave the flag the night before, so we had a goal that every shift we stepped on the ice we made an impact,” said McGillis. “It kind of set the tone for the rest of the team and it was just one of those games where everything was going right for us.”
Cyr clicked on a pair of passes by Ben Gamache from behind the net to peg Vernon to an early 2-0 lead. Gamache, with his eighth of the season, on the powerplay, and singles by Aaron Hadley (16th goal) and Cyr, with his hat trick marker for his 16th of the season, made it 5-0 after just 20 minutes.
Jedd Soleway (13th) and Mike Zalewski, with his team-leading 36th goal, kept Vernon rolling in the second period.
Jarryd Ten Vaan Holt (30th), who started the season as a Viper, but never played a game with them, got the Sprucies (32-20-2-4) on the board with a shorthanded goal 7:46 into the second period. Gerry Fitzgerald (17th), later in the second, and Tyson Witala (8th), with the lone third-period tally, completed the scoring.
Zalewski recorded Vernon’s lone goal against Westside (21-28-2-7), taking a nice feed from Darren Nowick and beating Dwayne Rodrigue on a shorthanded 2-on-1 early in the first period.
The Warriors responded with singles by Connor Morrison (24th), Dru Dempsey (8th) and Brett McKinnon (7th).
Former Viper Marcus Basara picked up an assist, and is second on the Warriors with 15 goals and 25 helpers for 40 points.
“Guys were nervous knowing how huge that game was, it reflected in the first and second period,” said McGillis. “We came out a little flat and just a few mental lapses cost us. It was just a frustrating night for everyone.”
SNAKE BITES: The Vipers’ Turner Lawson and Riley Hunt, who had two assists Sunday, are both out with concussions and were expected to miss Tuesday’s game in Chilliwack. Colton Sparrow also missed the game serving the second of a two-game suspension for hitting Westside forward Devon Hascarl from behind Saturday night…The Penticton Vees extended their league-record win streak to 40 games with a 5-1 win over the Chiefs Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre…Prince George brushed back the host Trail Smoke Eaters 4-3 in overtime Saturday night at Cominco Arena.