Brett Mulcahy scored four times as the Vernon Vipers held off the West Kelowna Warriors 6-4 in B.C. Hockey League playoff action before 1,500 fans Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers lead the best-of-seven, first-round Interior Division series 2-1 with Game 4 Saturday night in Vernon. The fifth game is Monday night at Royal LePage Place.
The Vipers got singles from TJ Dumonceaux and Demico Hannoun. West Kelowna, without top defenceman Adam Plant and leading scorer Seb Lloyd, both injured in Game 3, got offence from Liam Blackburn (2), Carl Hesler (1+2) and Reid Simmonds, with their opening goal with 1:32 left in the second period to make it 4-1.
Mulcahy, who pulled the hat trick in Game 2, buried a shot from just over centre into an empty net with 20 seconds to play. The 21-year-old Kelowna product knew the Warriors would show some grit despite having six regulars on injured reserve.
“They got a ton of guys who are really good hockey players,” he said. “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.”
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 wrester. The Warriors made it a one-goal game again with Blackburn counting a powerplay snipe with 2:23 left.
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.
“I think we only played 20 minutes tonight and it’s tough, obviously, in playoffs to win when you only play one period,” said the big Edmonton product. “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.”
Desautels stopped Viper centre Michael McNicholas on a penalty shot at 5:41 of the third period after McNicholas was hooked on a breakaway.
Please see Sunday’s Morning Star for further Viper coverage.