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Mulcahy’s four sparks Vipers
Their top scorer was on crutches. Best defenceman was walking with a slight limp. Four other regulars were in civvies.
In Vegas, this playoff game would have been given a ‘No Line’ with the West Kelowna Warriors in the hurt bag big-time.
And while the odds certainly favoured the Vernon Vipers, they built up a 4-0 lead but had to hang on tight for a 6-4 B.C. Hockey League victory before 1,500 fans Friday night at Kal Tire Place. It was Vernon’s first home playoff game in three seasons.
The Vipers took a 2-1 lead into the best-of-seven, first-round Interior Division series Saturday night at home. The fifth game is Monday night at Royal LePage Place.
The Vipers, who led 4-0 until late in the second period, got four goals from Brett Mulcahy, who pulled the hat trick in Game 2. Mulcahy, 21, buried a shot from just over centre into an empty net with 20 seconds to play.
Playing on a line with Colton Sparrow and Brendan Persley, Mulcahy had solid chances to register more snipes but was denied by West Kelowna goalie Andy Desautels, the Warriors’ co-MVP along with injured d-man Adam Plant (who had five points in Game 1).
“Our line was just moving our feet and working hard, it’s that simple,” said Mulcahy, on pace to break the Vernon franchise record for playoff goals, set by Jason Elders, with 20, in 1991. “Everything that we get is a factor of five guys on the ice.”
Mulcahy, who started his BCHL career with the Warriors, figured they would show some moxy with a skeleton lineup.
“They got a ton of guys who are really good hockey players. Even with those guys out, they’re still dangerous, they’re a threat and you have to come and play a full 60 minutes. We let off the gas for a couple of minutes and they brought it to us. Hopefully, it was an eye opener for some guys and we can fix that next game.”
The Vipers got singles from TJ Dumonceaux and Demico Hannoun.
West Kelowna, missing leading scorer Seb Lloyd, injured in Game 3, and second-leading pointgetter Jason Cotton, hurt in Game 1, got offence from Liam Blackburn (2), Carl Hesler (1+2) and Reid Simmonds, with the Warriors’ opening goal with 1:32 left in the second period.
Blackburn pulled the Warriors within a goal with 3:44 remaining, but the Vipers responded 13 seconds later when Mulcahy beat Andy Desautels with a wrister. The Warriors made it a one-goal game again with Blackburn counting a powerplay snipe with 2:23 left.
“I think we stooped down to their level a bit,” said defenceman Dylan Chanter, who led the Vipers’ punishing play in the greasy areas of the ice. “Their top guys aren’t there so they weren’t playing like they usually do. It’s easy to get lulled into that game so we’ve gotta avoid that and we should be OK.”
Warriors’ veteran David Pope, a Detroit Red Wing draft choice, had two assists, was stoned twice by Austin Smith’s glove, and played a ton of minutes. It was perhaps only fitting that the Red Wings had three scouts – director of amateur scouting Tyler Wright, Jeff Finley and Marty Stein – in attendance on Pope’s finest night at Kal Tire Place all season.
“I think we only played 20 minutes tonight and it’s tough, obviously, in playoffs to win when you only play one period,” said Pope. “That being said, with all those guys out, we showed a lot of will and determination to come back and make it a real close game. Unfortunately, we made a couple of mistakes that led to their last couple of goals, but I think we can definitely take some momentum into the next game.”
The Warriors used affilates Hunter Zandee, a forward, and d-men Cole De Jonge and Mike Winnitoy, to eat up some minutes. The Hesler-Pope-Blackburn line generated loads of chances as West Kelowna outshot Vernon 42-34.
Added Pope: “I definitely think accountability goes up and everybody’s gotta be more responsible and maybe guys who haven’t played as much are gonna get that opportunity. As individuals, we realize that and we have to come prepared to play a full 60 minutes.”
Warriors’ head coach Rylan Ferster, who was hoping to get a few bodies back for Game 4, liked what he saw for 50 minutes.
“I thought we played relatively hard,” said Ferster. “Take away probably the first 10 minutes and we may have a little better fortune. I thought Vernon played well. They’re a big, physical team and they get pucks deep and get on the forecheck.”
The Vipers went to the net for rebounds on their first four goals. Persley was stymied on a shot in tight and Mulcahy buried the rebound just 42 seconds into the game.
Logan Mick was stopped by Desautels and Demico Hannoun was there to knock in the 2-0 goal eight minutes later.
Dumonceaux wired a 25-footer off a rebound with Mick and Hannoun drawing assists, 2:54 into the second period. Persley struck iron three minutes later after a sweet feed by Sparrow, and Mulcahy drilled in the rebound.
SNAKE BITES: Desautels stopped Viper centre Michael McNicholas on a penalty shot at 5:41 of the third period after McNicholas was hooked on a breakaway...Hardest hit of the night came courtesy of Vipers’ D Kenny Citron on Winnitoy near the Vernon bench seven minutes into the third...The Vipers had a healthy scratch – F Matty Saharchuk – for the first time in months. “It’s been a long time. It almost dates to the time I got here so it’s nice to see,” said Chanter...Sparrow had a late breakaway after West Kelowna D Ben Tegtmeyer fell at the blueline on a powerplay, but was unable to get a shot with a bouncing puck...Brad McClure scored at 9:25 of overtime as Penticton Vees shaded the host Merritt Centennials 5-4.