The last few games before the Christmas break can be tricky. Players tend to let their minds wander to the upcoming days off and well deserved time with family. If that was the case, the Vernon Vipers did a fantastic job this weekend of hiding those thoughts as they swept the weekend and head into the break with four more points in the bank thanks to 4-2 and 5-2 wins.
In the first game against Merrit, the Vipers came out flying on the first shift of the game and it appeared that the one hour delay didn’t affect them. The Cents however, got the lead in the first two minutes as a miscommunication at the side of the Viper goal had the puck squirt out into the slot where Henry Cleghorn knocked in his 15th of the year to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead. The Vipers responded well and tested Jake Berger a number of times, but the Cents had chances of their own as Mathieu Gosselin rang one off the goalpost on a partial break. The Cents would add to their lead on a powerplay late in the period as Colten Gerlib sniped his 2nd of the year to make it 2-0 after 1.
The Vipers carried the majority of the second period, but it took a while before they really reaped the benefits. It took until the final 4 minutes of the period before Michael Young was set up on the powerplay for his 5th of the year. Just two minutes later, Jagger Williamson tied the game up setting up a great third.
The Vipers are generally a strong team in third periods and it was no different on Friday night. The Vipers minimized Merritts opportunities and were able to counter attack off neutral zone turnovers. Keyvan Mokhtari would leave a pass at the top of the right circle and Sam Anzai let loose a lazer over the shoulder of Jake Berger to give the Vipers their first lead of the night. Jagger Williamson finished off a great night as he deposited a rebound home to give the Vipers a two goal lead which they were able to hold on to for the final buzzer.
The final challenge before the break was the Trail Smoke Eaters. Josh Prokop lit the lamp three times for the third time this season taking over the team lead in goals with 18, while Jagger Williamson pitched in a pair off assists to send the Snakes into the break with a 5-2 win over Trail.
The Vipers struck first after a number of good shifts to start the game as Jagger Williamson set up Prokop for his first of the night to make it 1-0. Trail had a handful of chances, but it wasn’t until a late powerplay where Vernon product, Blaine Caton, tipped home a loose puck in the final minute to even it up after 20.
Just like the night before, the Vipers had a solid second period and generated a lot of quality chances, but ran into some great goaltending by Adam Marcoux. Trail struggled to get much to the Viper goal, with their only real scoring chance coming off a 2 on 1 that was stopped by Anthony Yamnitsky. With just three seconds left on the clock, a puck found its way through the legs of the goalie before Prokop tapped home his 2nd of the night to give Vernon a 2-1 lead heading to the dressing room.
In the third, the Smokies had a great shift in the offensive zone as they worked the wall. A puck would squirt out to Ryan Murphy and he snapped it five hole on Yamnitsky to tie the game up at 2. A Viper powerplay would get them the lead right back as the Vipers entered the zone with a ton of speed and after some nifty passing, Jesse Lansdell finished off the play for his 9th of the year making it 3-2. Just 80 seconds later, the Vipers put the dagger in the Smokies as Niko Karamanis banked a puck in off the goalie from below the red line to make it 4-2. Josh Prokop would add another after a couple of big saves by Yamnitsky to make the final 5-2.
The Vipers and their entire staff would like to wish all the fans, friends and family a happy holiday. The Snakes are back in action December 29th in Salmon Arm.