Sports

Vipers move on after loss

Viper captain Ryan Renz embraces former teammate Riley Hunt, of the Yorkton Terriers after Yorkton’s 6-3 Royal Bank Cup semifinal win Saturday afternoon at Kal Tire Place - Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star
Viper captain Ryan Renz embraces former teammate Riley Hunt, of the Yorkton Terriers after Yorkton’s 6-3 Royal Bank Cup semifinal win Saturday afternoon at Kal Tire Place
— image credit: Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star

The Vernon Vipers will clean out their lockers, say their goodbyes and move on with their lives today, four days after their hockey season ended in the Royal Bank Cup.

The Vipers will also keep digesting a 6-3 loss to the Yorkton Terriers in Saturday’s semifinals of the national Junior A tournament.

“It is gonna take some time,” said Viper head coach/GM Jason Williamson, Tuesday morning. “I did my best to put our best team on the ice and when you don’t win, it sucks.”

Williamson was rather numb as he took in Sunday’s final at Kal Tire Place.

“I went to the finals. I didn’t really follow it that closely because it was tough to watch. It looked like a tight game. It was great to see the crowd attendance. Vernon should be proud of the turnout for the tournament.”

The Vipers lose half their team through graduation and NCAA scholarships, and they owe two players off their regular roster to the Surrey Eagles in the trade for Brett Mulcahy.

“We are still in the process of figuring out what to send back,” said Williamson, who heads to Las Vegas as a guest coach at a Junior camp, June 17-21.

The Terriers derailed the Vipers’ quest for a seventh national title, getting two late empty-net goals.

“Not much you can say at this time, it’s disheartening to have our season end like this,” said  Williamson, moments after the loss.

Vipers’ goalie Austin Smith had been a rock leading up to the RBC Cup, but struggled with a 4.23  goals against average in the tournament. He allowed four goals on eight shots Saturday before being replaced by Danny Todosychuk.

“I think it was all the wear and tear catching up to him. He played every single minute in the playoffs and he has been dealing with a few injuries; it happens,” said Todosychuk.

Former Viper Chad Brownlee, a country recording artist, sung the anthem and had the 2,700 fans pulsating. Both teams came out of the gates jacked up; elimination hockey at its finest.

Batman and Robin wish they were as productive as Mulcahy and Colton Sparrow, who almost connected for a goal in the opening seconds.

Once again, the Vipers got into early penalty trouble. Tyler Povelofskie was in the box for roughing when captain Ryan Renz was called for a questionable hit to the head of ex-Viper Riley Hunt, giving the Terriers an extended powerplay.

With 20 seconds remaining in Renz’s penalty, Yorkton defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky opened the scoring, from Devon McMullen and Tyson Enzie, at 9:05. Lishchynsky had the entire net to shoot at, ripping it high blocker.

The Terriers struck again a minute later when Daylan Gatzke fooled Smith with a harmless shot from the point. Tayler Thompson drew the assist.

“Our game wasn’t what we wanted at times, but we played hard and had some bounces go our way,” said Terriers’ head coach Trent Cassan.

With 20 seconds remaining in Renz’s penalty, Yorkton defenceman Tanner Lishchynsky opened the scoring, from Devon McMullen and Tyson Enzie, at 9:05. Lishchynsky had the entire net to shoot at, ripping it high blocker.

The Terriers struck again a minute later when Daylan Gatzke fooled Smith with a harmless shot from the point. Tayler Thompson drew the assist.

“Our game wasn’t what we wanted at times, but we played hard and had some bounces go our way,” said Terriers’ head coach Trent Cassan.

Mulcahy lost in the RBC semifinal last year with the Surrey Eagles. With Lishchynsky in the box for slashing, Mulcahy tipped in a Jared Wilson blast. Michael McNicholas got the second assist, 15:47 into the first.

Mulcahy was overcome by excitement and let out a beastly roar that Mufasa, from The Lion King, would have applauded.

After a sluggish start to the tournament, the line of McNicholas, Dexter Dancs and Demico Hannoun picked up the pace over the last two games. McNicholas got his second goal of the tournament on the powerplay from Dancs and Mason Blacklock, 1:36 into the second, to tie it 2-2. McNicholas was named player of the game.

Vernon came close to taking the lead minutes later, but Terriers’ goaltender Kale Thomson snatched up a puck that was flirting with the goal line.

The Vipers killed Liam Coughlin’s roughing penalty when they got scored on again. It was Sparrow’s hand pass in the Terriers’ zone that brought the play back into the Vipers’ end.

The ensuing faceoff saw Dylan Johnson tip Chase Norrish’s point shot over the shoulder of Smith, as the Terriers regained the lead.

Chase’s twin brother, Brady, was named player of the game. Chase was at it again two minutes later as he  fluttered one over a screened Smith to give the Terriers a 4-2 lead, chasing Smith.

The goaltending switch ignited the Snakes, as Dancs scored 12:58 into the second, from Hannoun and d-man Riley Guenther.

The soft hands were on display as McNicholas and Hannoun patiently moved around defenders before they found an open Dancs,

The Vipers’ best opportunity in the third came on a late 5-on-3 powerplay.

“To be honest, it was fun. It’s why we play the game, down one in the playoffs, in front of a packed house. It just didn’t happen,” said Dancs. “They beat us.”

D-man Josh Bryan was teeing up shots from the point, Sparrow was grinding down low and McNicholas was finding the open man, but the puck just wouldn’t fall for the Vipers.

Thomson was always in perfect position, making 34 saves. Gatzke and Thompson added empty-netters, 25 seconds apart, in the dying minutes.

 

 

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