Viper captain Ryan Renz trips up Eric Benoit of the Vees in front of Vernon goalie Austin Smith in B.C. Hockey League playoff action Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Vipers validate playoff series hype

The Vernon Vipers-Penticton Vees B.C. Hockey League playoff series has already lived up to its expectations.

Tyler Lowey

Morning Star Staff

Things that never lived up to their hype: the Hangover 2, green ketchup and this season’s Canucks.

The Vernon Vipers-Penticton Vees B.C. Hockey League playoff series has already lived up to its expectations.

The highly anticipated battle between the Interior Division rivals has already delivered after Game 1. Vernon won a wild one 4-3 Friday night before 2,075 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

This marks the first time the two clubs have duked it out in the playoffs since 2010.

Penticton definitely played the better game for 50 minutes.  The Vipers struck early in the second scoring three goals in under five minutes.

“It wasn’t our best game by any means but in the playoffs you’ll take them any way you can get them,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson.

The Vees started the series with a bang. Just 30 seconds in, Ben Dalpe came streaking down the middle of the ice on an odd-man rush and burned Vipers goalie Austin Smith up high. It was Dalpe’s first of the playoffs.

Smith seemed to have a late reaction time to the shot as the puck may have glanced off his own defencemen’s stick.

The Vees were flying after that. They were darting through the neutral zone with ease.

“I thought we came out tentative tonight,” said Williamson. “Obviously we didn’t get the start we wanted.”

There seemed to be confusion or lack of detail during the Vipers’ line changes. Several times they were caught scrambling back into position and they took a pair of too many men penalties.

The Vipers made it to the intermission trailing by one while being outshot 8-3.

“During the intermission we talked about being more physical and having a more aggressive forecheck,” said Vipers captain Ryan Renz.

The Vipers came out of the intermission like a hurricane. They tied it up before the ice had a chance to dry.

Defencemen Dylan Chanter unloaded a bomb from the point. 26 seconds in, from Riley Guenther and Colton Sparrow.

Just as they were announcing the first goal, the Vipers were at it again. Mason Blacklock and Renz cycled down low when they found  Liam Coughlin who sniped his third of the post-season.

The Vipers’ plan to apply more pressure on the forecheck paid off when Michael McNicholas blocked an attempted clearing shot and had all day in front of the net. McNicholas patiently waited for Vees’ netminder Olivier Mantha to go down before burying the Vipers’ third goal in under five minutes.

The building was silent, cow bells and all.

The third Vipers goal was curtains for Mantha. The Vees’ have been successfully operating with a two goalie tandem throughout the regular season and playoffs. Hunter Miska has had identical numbers to Mantha.

Penticton came out of the broadcast time-out onto a powerplay and look revitalized.

Smith was under barrage once again. The Vees  worked the puck down low and found guys open in the slot. They came flying down the wing with tremendous speed testing Smith up high, but he stood his ground.

Smith was the first star with 27 saves.

Vees captain Brad McClure lived up to his Captain Clutch nickname by bringing the Vees within one to start the third with his seventh of the playoffs.

“I thought we were going to build off that momentum,” said McClure.

The Vipers did a great job countering the Vees all night long. Shortly after McClure’s goal, Sparrow showed flashes of Paul Karyia from the 2002 Olympics.

With a loose stick crawling around his ankles, Sparrow was able to waltz around two defenders and Miska leaving himself a yawning cage. It was 4-2 Vipers with 15:40 to go. The Vees would not go away easily.

The Vipers looked to put the game away but a wide shot on a 2-on-1 rush gave the Vees a 2-on-1 of their own.

Once again Smith was there to bail the snakes out with a big-time blocker save, his best of the night.

The game got cranked up to 11 decibels in the final minutes. The Vees got within one with less than four minutes remaining.

Max Coatta got his first of the playoffs on a fanned one-timer in front of the net. It turned the SOEC into a madhouse for the remaining minutes.

The Vees definitely had their chances late, just missing on a cross-crease pass that would have been a lay-up for the tie.

Game 2 went Sunday night at the SOEC. Games 3 and 4 will go at Kal Tire Place at 7 p.m.

In other playoff action, the Victoria Grizzlies iced the Powell River Kings 4-1 and the Coquitlam Express grounded the Langley Riverman 4-2.











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