The Vernon Vipers will wake up this morning either anticipating a Saturday semifinal game or contemplating a lost opportunity at the Royal Bank Cup.
The Vipers battled the Central champion Toronto Lakeshore Patriots Thursday night at Kal Tire Place with the loser suffering elimination from the five-team national Junior A hockey tourney. Both teams were 1-2 in preliminary play.
The Western champion Yorkton Terriers edged the Dauphin Kings of Manitoba 2-1 in overtime in a Thursday matinee to grab the third semifinal berth.
The West No. 2 Kings, who also lost to Yorkton in the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup final in Dauphin, topped the round-robin at 3-1. The Kings get to choose their semifinal start time (games go at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday). The final is Sunday at 4:30 p.m., live on TSN.
Derek Falloon scored 2:40 into overtime Thursday, on a feed by Brett Boehm, after a turnover at the blueline.
Brent Wold gave the Kings a 1-0 lead 46 seconds into the middle period. Tyler Giebel equalized midway through the third, from Boehm and Chase Norrish.
Dauphin became the first team through to the semifinals with a 5-2 win over the Vipers Tuesday night, scoring twice in under a minute, late in the second period, before 2,500 fans.
Vernon seemed a step slower and they were not hitting with the same umpf.
“I don’t know why we didn’t come out with the same intensity. Nervousness is one thing you see with that hockey team right now,” said Vipers’ head coach and GM Jason Williamson. “They need to be simple and prepared, they are good players on a good hockey team. We were just sitting on our heels a little bit.”
The Vipers (1-2) had a pair of glorious opportunities in the first on a lengthy two-man advantage. Colton Sparrow (Player of the Game) and Brett Mulcahy just missed connecting on a pair of one-timers.
Kings’ goalie Michael Stiliadis (Player of the Game) has been superb all tournament. Stiliadis had great positioning on the Vipers’ powerplay chances.
“It’s really a credit to those guys in front of me. They are doing a great job which makes my job easier,” said Stiliadis.
Stiliadis actually spent a month with the Vipers when Austin Smith was injured earlier this season. He went 0-2.
“It’s weird how it worked out that I would be back here in the RBC Cup, but it’s nice. I am familiar with this place.”
Said Viper hustling forward T.J. Dumonceaux.“We’ve got to win three more games and we win a national championship. We need to realize the opportunity in front of us and do it for ourselves.”
The Kings rallied after killing Brett Sharples’ penalty. A battle to the right of Smith saw the puck squirt out onto the stick of Brayden Cuthbert.
Jared Morris struck 45 seconds later from Jesse Bernard, beating Smith down low. Smith was replaced by Danny Todosychuk after 20.
“It’s tough, I don’t want to fault Smitty, I tried to inject some life by switching to Danny,” said Williamson.
A dump in from Brett Hope bounced off the end boards, off Todosychuk’s foot and in, 1:50 into the second period.
“It is never an easy situation being the host team, we know what they are going through. There is a lot of pressure involved,” said Kings’ head coach Marlin Murray.
Tyler Garrioch stunned the 2,500 patrons when he scored 16:09 into the second from Hudson Morrison. Morrison won the face-off to the left, where Garrioch quickly chipped it over Todosychuk to make it 4-0.
“We are working hard, but we aren’t working smart all the time. We need to get back to Viper hockey on Thursday,” said Mulcahy.
Sparrow has turned into must-see TV. Fans cling to the edge of their seats when he steps on the ice. He leads the RBC Cup in goals, with five.
The Vipers were on a five-on-three man advantage when Sparrow was the recipient of nice passing from Demico Hannoun and Josh Bryan. Sparrow’s goal came on the powerplay 1:07 into the third.
Shortly after another Vipers’ powerplay ended, captain Ryan Renz showed off his soft hands as he walked in from the point, made a quick move around a d-man, and snapped home his first of the playoffs on a sweet feed from Sparrow.