The Vernon Vipers will be without two of their leading scorers for the next two games of their B.C. Hockey League best-of-seven quarterfinal series with the Wenatchee Wild.
Centre Brett Stapley suffered a concussion after taking a hit to the mouth by Wenatchee’s Nathan Iannone in the Wild’s 4-3 win before 1,703 fans Tuesday night at the Town Toyota Centre.
“Stapes is done,” said disgruntled Viper head coach Mark Ferner while reviewing video in the hotel lobby early this afternoon since his room was being cleaned. “He’s a tough kid and he played through it, but he complained of headaches after the game. He vomited so we took him to hospital for observation. There was no call on the play.”
Viper captain Jagger Williamson was assessed a goalie interference penalty in the third period, his third of the season which warrants a two-game suspension. Ferner filed an appeal to no avail.
“The goalie (Austin Park) was outside the blue paint and Jags was waiting for a slap pass and there was just a little contact. The referee right there didn’t make the call; the back referee did.”
The Vipers go into Game 4 tonight with a 2-1 series lead but very short on manpower. F Josh Prokop and D Shane Kelly are on Injured Reserve, while D Jack Judson has one game left in a four-game suspension. C Elan Lev Bar Wise, 17, of the Burnaby Winter Club, is with the Snakes.
“Talk about adversity; we’ve got five guys out. We kind of warned the guys that you don’t know what you’re going to get (from American officials) and we got it; five penalties in the first period which took some energy out of us. The refs put their whistles away in the second period and called one penalty. It’s crazy. Every time we touched them, their whole bench erupted. It’s embarrassing. The refs hear them yelling and they figure it must be a penalty.”
Sam Hesler’s first playoff goal with 57 seconds left in regulation time gave Wenatchee the must-win.
The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak (counting last four games of regular season) for the Vipers. Game 5 will be Friday at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place. A sixth game, if required, would go Saturday night in Wenatchee. Game 7 would be Monday night in Vernon.
Hesler’s goal capped a third-period rally for the Wild, who were down 3-2 after 40 minutes. Iannone tied it at 11:12.
The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on powerplay goals from Cooper Zech, at 11:24, and Sam Morton at 15:15.
Keyvan Mokhtari got the Vipers on the board with his first of the post-season with just 14 seconds left in the period. Defenceman Michael Young tied the game for Vernon at 15:27 of the middle frame, his first of the playoffs, and forward Niko Karamanis gave Vernon a 3-2 lead 56 seconds later with his sixth of the post-season, fourth of this series.
Ty Taylor made 42 saves for Vernon as the Wild outshot the Snakes 46-24.
Zech netted his third of the playoffs at 11:24 of the first period. Set up by Jasper Weatherby and Sam Morton, Zech wired a wrister past the blocker of Taylor from the top of the circle. Four minutes later, on a 5-on-3 power play, Morton swept home a loose puck for his second goal of the postseason and a 2-0 Wild lead.
Vernon carved into the lead before the end of the period, though, as Mokhtari flicked a soft backhander toward the net that squeezed under the leg pad of Park. The first period saw 20 penalty minutes handed out, and all three goals scored on power plays.
Wenatchee outshot Vernon 13-6 in the second stanza and could have been much more if not for numerous shots wide of the net. Yet, it was Vernon who levelled things with Young finishing off a drop pass at 15:27. and less than a minute later, the only penalty of the period yielded a power play rebound tucked in by Karamanis. The Wild trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes.
Wenatchee’s power play went to work early in the third but the Vipers killed it off. Back at even strength, Iannone was hooked and dropped to the ice off a face-off with no call, but the Vipers booted the puck away to Morton, who dished to Iannone for the game-tying goal at 11:12. As the game entered the final minute, and thoughts of playoff overtime began to swirl, Murphy Stratton sent a soft dish ahead into the skating lane of Hesler, who drove the net and fired the shot with enough zip to go off Taylor’s body and still cross the line to give Wenatchee a 4-3 lead with 57 seconds left to play.
The Vipers called their timeout, and got the extra skater on, and had a little extra benefit at the end. Viper forward Jimmy Lambert left his feet to crunch Zech on the end boards in the Wild zone, and Zak Galambos grabbed Lambert in retaliation, and grappled him down. The result: a 6-on-4 power play for Vernon with 10 seconds left. The Vipers were able to work the puck back to the point, but the shot attempt was blocked and Lucas Sowder cleared the zone as time expired. Wenatchee held Vernon to just three shots on goal in the third.
Elsewhere, Carter Jones scored 1:35 into overtime to give the Trail Smoke Eaters a 4-3 win over the Penticton Vees in front of 2,224 fans at the Cominco Arena.
Vees defenceman Jonny Tychonick forced OT with a goal at 19:40 of the third period. Vernon’s Blaine Caton had a goal for Trail, his third of the post-season. It was Penticton’s first loss of the playoffs. The Vees lead the series 2-1.
The Surrey Eagles and Powell River Kings took 3-1 leads in their respective finals over the regular season division champions. Hunter Findlater scored twice as the Kings edged the Victoria Grizzlies 3-2 in the Island Division final series.
Mario Cavaliere made 23 saves as the Eagles blanked the Prince George Spruce Kings 4-0 in the Mainland Division best-of-seven final.