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Vipers tie up series at home
It wasn’t an elimination game, but it sure felt like it.
The Penticton Vees, with a 2-1 series lead, entered Kal Tire Place Tuesday night looking to head home comfortably ahead of the Vernon Vipers in the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
The Vipers melted away back-to-back third period leads against the Vees in two previous games. Not this time as the Vipers won 5-2 to level out the best-of-seven series.
“It is a game we wanted real bad especially after losing last night being up 3-1,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson.
“We knew we had to be on tonight,” said Vipers’ captain Ryan Renz. “You can’t go down 3-1 in a series to a team like that.”
Game 5 took place Thursday night in Penticton with Game 6 returning to Kal Tire Place tonight. A Game 7 if nesessary, goes Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Vipers bombarded Vees’ netminder Olivier Mantha. They were shooting from all angles, deflecting most of them, making life tough for Mantha. The Vipers outshot the Vees 12-2 in the opening 10 minutes.
Vernon nearly matched their Game 3 shot total (19) in the first period.
Brendan Persley struck first for the Vipers. Vernon cycled through a change in the offensive zone when Persley hopped over the bench, took an errant pass and stepped into a snap shot from the top of the left circle. The goal came at the 7:59 mark from Josh Bryan and Brett Mulcahy.
The Vipers’ aggressive play may have cost them as Mason Blacklock took a tripping penalty while on the forecheck, opening the door for Penticton.
The Vees answered on the powerplay as Nicholas Pierog tied it 1-1, from Brett Beauvais and Jarod Hilderman.
Vees’ captain Brad McClure has been a lightning rod for productivity the entire series.
The second period opened up with McClure getting the puck wide open in the left circle and unloading a howitzer on Vipers’ goalie Austin Smith. Smith was ready for it, swallowing the puck without allowing a rebound.
McLure leads the BCHL playoffs in points with 16, including nine goals. He averages two points a game. Heading into Game 4 of the Interior Conference final, he had three goals and three assists. For the first time in the series, the Vipers held the Stratford, Ont. product off the stat sheet.
“We made sure we always had a body on him, not giving him any time or space,” said Renz.
“Josh (Bryan) and Riley (Guenther) did a great job shutting him down,” said Williamson.
Riley Alferd gave the Vees their first and only lead of the night before 1,775 fans.
A shot from Matt Serratore kicked out perfectly to a wide open Alferd positioned in the slot, making it 2-1 Vees.
Dylan Chanter delivered the biggest hit of the night. Serratore got caught with his head down in the neutral zone. Chanter stepped up and obliterated him. That crushing blow energized a mellow Viper crowd.
Shortly after, Guenther teed up a slapshot from the point that whistled its way to the back of the net. Bryan and Blacklock assisted at the 16:43 of the second.
“We got to play hard on the puck for 60 minutes,” said Vees’ coach Fred Harbinson. “Both teams have learned in this series that if you take a few minutes off it can change drastic momentum of game.”
Before the period expired, the Vipers took take the lead once and for all. A gorgeous Sedin-like slap-pass from Chanter to Michael McNicholas put the Vipers up 3-2.
During the second intermission, an uncomfortable feeling crept across the crowd. The Vipers were taking the Vees into the third period with a lead, something they have been unable to hold the past two games.
The Vipers didn’t venture into defensive mode, rather maintaining the same aggressive game-plan. They had several one-time chances and odd-man rushes, but Mantha kept the Vees in it.
Mantha had no chance when Colton Sparrow added some Geico insurance late in the third.
Sparrow grinded along the end boards and the corner, before walking in front of the net and sliding one between the legs of Mantha. Persley added an assist on the play giving Vernon a 4-2 lead with just under five minutes remaining.
Persley added an empty-netter for his third point of the game sending Kal Tire Place into pandemonium.
SKATE BITES: Marc Biega had 2+1 as the Coquitlam Express iced the Langley Rivermen 5-3 to take a 3-1 series lead...Kurt Keats and Matt Scarth each scored twice as the Powell River Kings ambushed the Victoria Grizzlies 8-3, levelling that series 2-2...In the KIJHL, Viper affiliate Dallas Calvin and ex-Viper Ryan Edwards each earned 1+1 as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks toppled the Creston Valley Thundercats 6-3 Wednesday night. The T-Cats took the series opener 5-4 Tuesday.