By Gord Montgomery
SPRUCE GROVE – Coming off what was termed a sub-par performance in a 6-5 overtime loss the night before, the Vernon Vipers struck for three straight second period goals, earning a 3-2 win and evening up the Doyle Cup series with the Spruce Grove Saints 1-1.
After giving up the game’s first goal in the second period Saturday, when Scott Allen knocked down a cross-ice clearing pass and whipped a high shot past goalie Graeme Gordon, the Snakes tied it just over two minutes later on a low point shot by Kevin Kraus.
Then the Jones brothers, Connor and Kellen, with an assist from linemate Sahir Gill, went to work.
Just after Liam Darragh failed to whack a rolling puck into the vacant Vernon net, the brothers broke away with a feed from Gill on a 2-on-1, with Kellen putting the finishing touches on the play at 9:02.
At 11:47, the trio combined again as Kellen netted what turned out to eventually be the winner.
“We were better and that has nothing to do with the result,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner. “The group as a whole was just a better team tonight. We were soft last game – lost a lot of puck battles.”
That wasn’t the case in this game as the Vipers cycled the puck well in the offensive zone and ripped over 40 shots on the Spruce Grove goal, the most they’ve given up this year. At the same time the No. 1 Saints tended to be hesitant in their attack and it cost them a number of possible scoring chances resulting in a large number of turnovers.
“They forced us to the outside and there were times where we wanted to shoot it and they were getting sticks on it,” said Saints assistant coach Ryan Marsh.
The Saints pulled within one with 1:50 left when Jordan Draper scored on a one-timer off a feed from Nate Fleming.
With only 1:20 to play, the Saints pulled their netminder, Travis Rolheiser, looking for the equalizer but never managed another shot on goal.
The third game in the best-of-seven series goes Sunday night in Spruce Grove. The remainder of the series will be played in Vernon, starting Wednesday. Game 5 goes Thursday with a sixth game, if required, scheduled for Saturday.