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Vipers down to final seven
Jason Williamson has crunched the numbers and his formula favours the Vernon Vipers in the wacky B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference playoff chase.
After falling 5-2 to the first overall Langley Rivermen Saturday night at Kal Tire Place, the Vipers are third in the conference at 25-16-4-6, three points ahead of the Merritt Centennials and four in front of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
“We gotta go at least 4-3,” said Williamson, head coach/GM. “There are 14 points on the table and if we get eight, we’re in. Those are the joys of the Interior Conference.”
Vernon can start their playoff surge tonight when they visit the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters, who are no slam-dunk.
“Anybody can beat anybody and our guys have to be focussed as soon as they get off the bus. Look at Chilliwack beating Salmon Arm (7-4 Saturday at the Shaw Centre). It all comes down to work ethic.”
Merritt, on paper, appears to have the toughest schedule down the stretch. The Cents make the Sunshine Coast/Vancouver Island trek for three games this weekend, have home-and-home series with Salmon Arm and West Kelowna and finish the regular season versus Vernon. Merritt, who has one game in hand on Vernon and Salmon Arm, was in West Kelowna Tuesday night.
Salmon Arm visits Surrey and Coquitlam this weekend and have a home-and-home with the first-place Penticton Vees and one game with Vernon.
The Vipers, after tonight, make another trip to Trail and visit Penticton (Friday night) and Merritt while hosting the SilverBacks, Warriors (Saturday night) and Vees.
Meanwhile, they got to Vernon late after their bus broke down near their home rink, but the Langley Rivermen didn’t miss a beat in stopping the Vipers before 1,762 fans.
The game was delayed almost an hour as the Rivermen rushed to get dressed and take a proper warmup.
The Rivermen have points in 12 straight games, and haven’t lost in regulation since 2013. Will Cook (12th) and UMass-Lowell bound Evan Anderson (1st in eight games after being injured all season) supplied powerplay goals 85 seconds apart midway through the first period with Vernon’s Liam Coughlin serving a double minor for high sticking.
The Vipers responded four minutes later when Brett Mulcahy netted his 28th of the year, on a powerplay. Michael McNicholas and Coughlin drew assists.
Langley, who took over sole possession of first overall, at 32-12-2-5, went in front 3-1 on Kevin Kilitsoff’s eighth of the season late in the second. The Vipers had a goal by Mulcahy waved off with officials ruling that Coughlin had interfered with goalie Brock Crossthwaite.
Coughlin fired his 17th, from McNicholas and Josh Bryan, on an early second-period powerplay.
Zach Urban made it 4-2 Rivermen with his fourth of the season, four minutes into the third. Marcus Vela added an empty-netter with 82 seconds to play.
The Vipers, who had Austin Smith in net, outshot Langley 34-25. Mulcahy struck the crossbar and Dexter Dancs was stoned by Crossthwaite as the Vipers pressed hard in the final minutes. Forward Logan Mick (flu) missed Saturday’s game and is doubtful for tonight.
The Centennials were 4-2 winners over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday night.
Vees’ net detective Hunter Miska, of Minnesota, has committed to the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Miska is the 17th player on the Penticton roster to secure an National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I scholarship and joins teammate Jarod Hilderman as future Bulldogs.
“Hunter has been a huge part of our success; his confident attitude, tireless work ethic and overall athleticism has made him one of the elite goalies in the BCHL,” said Vees’ coach Fred Harbinson.