More time shooting pucks in the driveway? A trip to the arcade where everybody scores tons of points? Watch Wayne Gretzky’s How to Score video on VHS?
None of the above could hurt the Vernon Vipers or Quesnel Millionaires, two goal-challenged teams who skated miles, and thanks only to nifty deflections, tied 1-1 in double overtime before 1,500 fans Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
All-star Kirby Halcrow, who made 57 saves in a Game 2 playoff upset over the Vipers last season, recorded 41 stops to earn first star as the Mills swiped a B.C. Hockey League point.
Quadruple overtime may not have been enough to decide a winner as both Halcrow and the Vipers’ Blake Voth were stellar. The Mills have managed a league-low 16 goals in nine games. Vernon is averaging under three goals a game.
“Kirby holds us in every game and unfortunately, for the first little bit here, we’ve had trouble putting the puck in the net,” said Quesnel 20-year-old captain Skyler Smutek, a Seattle product. “We’re hoping that we’re getting all the bad luck out out at the beginning of the season, and hopefully we can start popping a few more goals here.
“Every game we’re getting chances, we’re missing open nets, they’re going off posts. It’s getting pretty frustrating but we just gotta keep battling through it and figure it out here.”
Same goes for the Vipers, who gave up just 18 shots, the 18th being a redirect by Devin Bainess off a point shot by Smutek, with 2:08 left in the third period.
Said defenceman Malcolm Lyles, 20, a Boston College recruit out of Florida who was Vernon’s best player most of the night with some thrilling rushes and rugged play.
“We got a lot of chances and didn’t bury nearly enough of them, obviously. I’d say we outplayed them but we just didn’t capitalize on our chances. He (Halcrow) was in the right place at the right time but a lot of shots gave up some pretty big rebounds so you can’t say he was all the credit for their win (tie).”
Lyles figures the Vipers (5-4-1-2) simply have to keep searching for ways to convert offensively.
“We didn’t bear down enough. It’s pretty tough to score in this league. It takes a lot of work to wanna get in the right position and stay focussed enough to bury it. It’s a little sombre (in the dressing room), but we’ve got a lot of good vets giving leadership so we’ll pick it up on Friday (at Westside Warriors).”
Halcrow made a few dazzlers, stoning David Robinson, John Knisley and Patrick McGillis from ‘gimme range’ for his finest saves.
Lyles, who rocked Rigby Burgart in the third as payback for a punch to the face earlier in the game, had two good wristers from the high slot hit Halcrow’s pads on a powerplay midway through the third.
Voth made a handful of tough saves as the dogmatic Mills came out of nowhere for scoring chances. Justin Hogan struck the crossbar behind Voth on a breakaway with 15 seconds in the 3-on-3 OT.
Halcrow, a 20-year-old from Grande Prairie expected to make Team Canada West for the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Penticton, believes the 3-5-0-1 Mills will bust out of their goal slump in time.
“Every night we play, you just try and do your best job and help the team out as much as you can. The goals will come, I know they’ll be coming. There are a lot of guys on our team that can put the puck in the net. They just need to get some confidence going.”
Halcrow says the Mills can roll all four lines and have a reliable defence. He can’t get enough of Wesbild Centre.
“It’s always nice to play in Vernon. It’s a very nice rink. I seem to always be on top of my game when I play here. I don’t know if it’s just the fans heckling me or what, but it adds to it and just helps you play better, I think.”
The Vipers grabbed the lead at 9:43 of the second period when Darren Nowick fed d-man Brett Corkey a sweet behind-the-back feed to the point. Corkey was originally given the goal, his first in the BCHL, but it was later changed to Knisley, who got a stick on the shot to fool Halcrow.
“It felt good,” beamed Corkey, when asked about his goal. “I didn’t actually see it go in. Apparently, the guys were saying it went off a couple of bodies. I just closed my eyes and shot it. It was a nice saucer pass.”
Corkey, a smooth-skating 18-year-old out of Calgary, made several head-man passes leaving the Viper zone.
“The guys are really great to play with and I’m starting to get comfortable, but there’s still a lot I need to work on, and I know that. Each day, it seems we’re making progress as a team so I’m really looking forward to the way we’re going right now.”
As for Halcrow, Corkey gave the 6-foot-2, 218-pound net detective a little more credit than Lyles did.
“He played well. He played a big game. We were throwing bodies in front. Maybe we should have put a bit more traffic in front of the net, but he did a good job of seeing pucks and getting his rebounds under control. Hat off to him, but we played a good game. The effort was there and he was there to match it.”
Smutek said the Vipers, while younger and greener, are still a tough team to play.
“They definitely have lots of skill. They lost a lot of guys from last year but obviously lots of kids wanna come here. They’re always really skilled, really fast. It’s definitely a pain chasing around those forwards in the dee zone.”
SNAKE BITES: Longtime Viper fan Paul Beugeling won the 50-50 jackpot of $669…Viper vet Bryce Kakokse, who had a strong two-way game, was second star, while McGillis, who has zero goals on the year, was third star with a solid effort. He hit the corner glass on one chance…The Warriors visit Vernon Saturday night…Mark Basara, Max Mowat and Aaron Hadley were Viper scratches…Back-up goalie Bryton Udy broke a finger in practice. His replacement was Jordan Bytelaar of the Junior B Kelowna Chiefs.