Vipers ready for Warriors in playoffs

They held a 4-2 edge with one game tied during the regular season. The Vipers, however, realize those stats hit the trash come playoffs.

Morning Star Staff

They held a 4-2 edge with one game tied during the regular B.C. Hockey League season.

The Vernon Vipers, however, realize those stats hit the trash once the post-season dance begins.

Vernon opened the best-of-seven first-round series with the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday night at Royal LePage Place. Game 2 goes there tonight with the third and fourth tilts Friday and Saturday at Kal Tire Place.

“It’s playoff hockey so you have to be prepared for anything,” said Viper head coach Jason Williamson. “The tempo’s gonna ramp up and so is the intensity.”

The Vipers finished the regular season by falling 5-1 to the fourth-place Merritt Centennials Saturday night, three nights after blowing a 5-0 lead and losing 6-5 to the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters.

“We’d like to have finished better, but you have to have short memories,” said Williamson. “We had a good run and once we clinched a playoff spot, we may have let down and had a mental lapse.”

He knows the second-place Warriors are gifted up front and expects the big Viper defence to wear the West Kelowna forwards down with phsyical play. Vernon will key on Warrior co-MVP and top d-man Adam Plant (5-29-34).

The Vipers will be without towering d-man Jared Wilson for two games. He was suspended for a blow-to-the-head on Diego Cuglietta in Merritt. Michael Statchuk will move to the back end.

The first and only goal for the Warriors was to make the playoffs and head coach Rylan Ferster, a former Vernon Laker, is stoked about reaching the post-season

“We’re excited to get it going,” Ferster told West Kelowna public address announcer Wayne Moore on the Warriors’ website. “Obviously we are going to play a great team but we knew we were going to be doing that whether we were playing Merritt or whether we were playing Vernon.”

The third-place Snakes won once in three meetings at Royal LePage Place while the Warriors lost two in Vernon in regulation time and once in overtime. Vernon is 2-8 in their last 10 trips to West Kelowna, while the Warriors have won once in their last 14 visits to Kal Tire Place.

Despite finishing second in the BCHL in goals scored, the Warriors were outscored by the Vipers 25-20 in their head-to-head meetings. Ferster doesn’t expect injured d-men Ryan Ivey and Taki Pantziris back for the start of the series.

The Vipers are a physical team and Ferster expects a physical series from his northern rival.

“We certainly know who we’re playing.  We’re playing a team that is big and physical. They are built for this, they are built for a championship and they’re hosting a championship.  I’m sure they will be chomping at the bit to get going on Tuesday night.”

SNAKE BITES: Brett Mulcahy put the Vipers up midway through the first period in Merritt…Starter Austin Smith allowed a goal by Cuglietta four minutes later and finished the period before falling ill. Danny Todoyschuk made 25 saves in relief…Viper grads Kellen and Connor Jones had big weekends as the Quinnipiac Bobcats ambushed St. Lawrence Saints 8-0 and tied Clarkson Golden Knights in NCAA hockey. Kellen (18-21-39) scored twice and Connor (13-21-34) earned two helpers versus the Saints. Connor netted the equalizer Saturday night. Quinnipiac is third in the ECAC at 12-6-4…Former Vernon minor F Brady Brassart has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild starting next season. Brassart has 75 points, including 10 powerplay goals, six game winners, a plus-17 rating and 90 penalty minutes in 62 games with the WHL Calgary Hitmen. Brassart worked the Vernon hockey school last summer and regularly trains under Rhonda Catt.