Sports

Vipers taking week reprieve

Adam Rockwood of the Coquitlam Express watches his shorthanded shot just cross the line behind Vernon goalie Austin Smith and Viper defenceman Riley Guenther for the winning goal in the BCHL Fred Page Cup final series Tuesday night in Coquitlam. - Bob McDonald Photo
Adam Rockwood of the Coquitlam Express watches his shorthanded shot just cross the line behind Vernon goalie Austin Smith and Viper defenceman Riley Guenther for the winning goal in the BCHL Fred Page Cup final series Tuesday night in Coquitlam.
— image credit: Bob McDonald Photo

Head coach/GM Jason Williamson will hide some Easter eggs for his young daughter and visit with in-laws in between checking out the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV.

Captain Ryan Renz will spend Easter with family in the Kootenays, while his teammates will also be home with their loved ones for the holiday.

The Vernon Vipers will digest turkey, ham, chocolate and a crushing loss to the Coquitlam Express in the B.C. Hockey League Fred Page Cup series and then it’s back to the drawing board in preparation for the Royal Bank Cup, May 10-18, at Kal Tire Place. The Vipers open on the Saturday night versus the Eastern representatives.

The Snakes have three weeks to prepare and retool for Canada’s junior hockey title. They held a meeting Wednesday afternoon to determine the plan of attack for their down time.

“It was brief, I decided to give them about a week off. We will start practising again mid-week,” said Williamson.

Said Renz, who will be in Castlegar: “My grandma normally prepares a pretty good meal on Easter, so I’m looking forward to that.”

The Vipers – the first Vernon team to be swept in the finals, in 19 tries – will have a 15-day window to prepare for the RBC Cup following their break. The Vipers have been given a mulligan with an automatic host bid into the RBC Cup.

“We will refine every aspect and make sure our cardio is good to go. We are also bringing in affiliated players for some scrimmages,” said Williamson.

The Vipers plan on keeping an eye on the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup, April 25-May 4, in Dauphin, Man. Williamson might head out for some scouting while Renz is curious to see how Coquitlam fares.

The Western Cup teams were finalized once the Yorkton Terriers swept the Melville Millionaires with a 4-0 win Wednesday night in the Saskatchewan final.

The Spruce Grove Saints won the AJHL Gas Drive Cup Champions by slaying the Drumheller Dragons 2-1 in overtime Tuesday night to sweep the final series and advance to the Westerns.

Spruce Grove topped the Alberta league at 47-10-3, while the Dragons were third in their division, at 35-20-3.

The Winnipeg Blues will represent Manitoba after taking out the Dauphin Kings in five games. Winnipeg was fourth in their division with 31 wins, while the Kings took their division with 40 wins.

The sweep of the Snakes still stings the team days after the Game 4 loss.

“It’s difficult right now; our goal all along was to win the league,” said Williamson.

The Express won 4-3 Tuesday night at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre. Coquitlam captured their first Fred Page Cup since moving from Burnaby in 2010, earning the right to represent the BCHL in Dauphin.

“Three one-goal losses in a row makes it really tough to swallow,” said Williamson.

Coquitlam head coach Barry Wolff noted his crew got a few more bounces in the series. He gave his players the green light to celebrate.

“I’m going to let them enjoy this one. It is something special; a lot of our guys won’t get to experience that again. I’ll give them a few days off to enjoy it before we get back into it. I’m not really going to change anything too much before we head off to Westerns.”

Williamson, a former Viper captain, was part of the Vernon coaching staff for three straight Fred Page Cup victories, over the Powell River Kings, from 2009-11.

Jace Hennig got the night started for the Express in front of 1,500 fans. The lone goal of the first came 3:19 in from Cody Boyd.

“I think we came out a little nervous,” said Renz. “Some guys looked nervous to make a bad play. It took a few good shifts to get going.”

It was the Colton Sparrow and Brendan Persley show Tuesday night as their line – including Brett Mulcahy – tried to single-handedly carry the Vipers to Game 5.

“We felt like we have had a slow series matched up against their top line. We played with desperation and a strong work ethic last night but it just didn’t happen,” said Sparrow, one day after the defeat.

Sparrow tied the game 42 seconds into the second, from Mulcahy and Persley.

Coquitlam’s top players were their top players all series. The Pieper brothers combed for seven goals and three assists. Canon is a year and two days older than Bo.

Canon Pieper  put the Express up 2-1 with his seventh of the playoffs, from brother Bo and Mark Whiteley, 7:15 into the second. Canon Pieper said the Express wanted to avoid going back to Vernon for Game 5.

“We wanted to close it out at home,” said the Minnesota product. “I didn’t imagine it would go like that. It was a very tight series. We came from behind in every game.”

The Express struggled to maintain their composure for the remainder of the second period and Pieper said the team was able to regroup during the second intermission.

“We just talked about simplifying things and getting back to what made us successful,” he said. “I think in doing that it helped everybody relax a little bit.”

The Express struggled to maintain their composure for the remainder of the second period and Pieper said the team was able to regroup during the second intermission.

“We just talked about simplifying things and getting back to what made us successful,” he said. “I think in doing that, it helped everybody relax a little bit.”

Persley scored back-to-back goals, eight-minutes apart in the second half of the second period.

On the first one, Persley cut back to the middle of the ice and roofed it glove side over Gordie Defiel. Persley’s second goal was of the Ryan Smyth  variety. He bared down in front of the net and banged it in. Sparrow assisted on both goals, giving him and Persley three points each.

The Vipers couldn’t close a door this series. They had the lead in the third period each game.

Tuesday night’s third-period margin was short lived as Bo Pieper tied it 1:43 into the third, from Joey Santucci. The Vipers headed to the powerplay with 6:26 to play (Marc Biega off for hooking).

The same league-worst powerplay that saved the day in Game 7 last series in Penticton looked to work its second miracle. On Tuesday, the Viper gods of Connor and Kellen Jones, Lanny Gare and Lennie Rampone, however, couldn’t help out their alumni mates.

D-man Riley Guenther, just returning from injured reserve, lost the puck on his own blueline, on the power play, giving Adam Rockwood a chance to take the lead on a breakaway. Rockwood, the Game 2 hero, punched his team’s ticket to Dauphin with four minutes and change left.

Sparrow appeared to tie it with seconds to play, but the goal was waived off due to a hand pass.

Viper grad Cole Ikkala and the Union College Dutchmen won its first NCAA hockey title Saturday night, scoring three times in a 1:54 span in the first period in a 7-4 victory over Minnesota on Saturday night in Ikkala’s home town of Philadelphia. Ikkala, 23, supplied seven goals and 19 points in four years.

Union, a tiny New York State school of 2,200 students, won its final 12 games and went 16-0-1 in its last 17. Daniel Ciampini scored three goals in the Dutchmen’s 5-4 victory over Boston College Eagles in the semifinals Thursday night. Mat Bodie (Powell River Kings) was the Union captain.

Wrote Ikkala, on Facebook: “I couldn’t have scripted a better ending to my hockey career. Going out on top. Thanks to all the friends, family, and that jungle of fan section that made it to the game. It’s been the best four years of my life playing here.”

Dallas Calvin, a Viper affiliate who could be used in the RBC, supplied 2+2 as the Beaver Valley Nite Hawks stopped the Aldergrove Kodiaks 5-2 in the Cyclone Taylor Cup (provincial Junior B) final Sunday before 730 fans in Nelson.

Beaver Valley opened the Western Keystone Cup Thursday night in Abbotsford with games against the host Pilots and the Saskatoon Quakers.

Vernon’s Cole Sanford scored an empty-netter and set up two goals by linemate Trevor Cox as the host Medicine Hat Tigers grounded the Kootenay Ice 4-1 Wednesday night before 4,000 fans.

The Tigers won the final three games of the WHL Eastern Conference series and will now meet Vernon’s Curtis Lazar and the Edmonton Oil Kings in the finals, starting tonight at Rexall Place.

 

Sanford has eight goals and 19 points in 13 playoff games, while Lazar has 3-8-11 in nine games.

 

 

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