Vernon’s bruising play is paying off.
The Vipers got another strong start in game four and played well enough to hang on for a 4-1 victory.
And while the Warriors showed a ton of character and again outplayed the Vipers in the third, there simply wasn’t enough depth on the WK bench.
The Vipers took a lead 22 seconds into game three and outplayed the Warriors for the first 35 minutes of the game. In game four, the Snakes surged early once again and cranked the post about half a minute in.
The Warriors this time withstood the pressure and killed off an early penalty, but fell behind eight minutes in when Colton Sparrow knocked in a rebound. The team to score first has won every game this series (in fact, there still haven’t been any lead changes through four games).
The Warriors began to find some stability, but fell behind 2-0 right at the end of the period (6.7 seconds left) when Mac Ferner got caught pinching at the VV line and Brett Mulcahy fed Sparrow for a 2-on-1 tally.
It may have been Vernon retracting into more of a defensive shell or it may have been the Warriors improving and forcing the issue (or both). But things slowly began to look better for the Warriors on the ice, despite a timeclock that gradually ebbed away.
The Snakes also picked up a key insurance marker when Liam Coughlin finished off some wonderful passing on a Vernon powerplay midway through the second.
Once again facing a sea of adversity, the Warriors brought another outstanding third period to the table and made a game of it. There were some great chances and some strong saves from Austin Smith. Kylar Hope got the Warriors on the board with a nice backhander for his first BCHL playoff goal with four minutes left. Seconds later, West Kelowna forced another one to the goal mouth, only to see Smith fish the puck right off the goal line.
And as it turned out, that was as close as the Warriors would come. David Pope struck iron, and there was some terrific desperation shown from both teams. However, with Cody Porter on the bench, TJ Dumonceaux hit the empty net to clinch Vernon’s massive home victory.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it’s certainly a big elephant in the room and also a key part of the game story.
I’ve written something about the Dexter Dancs collision with Andy Desautels a bunch of times. I can’t seem to word this correctly. I’m also waiting to see what the league does here.
But here’s the thing; Playing tough is one thing. I like hard-nosed puck. I always have. And when I watched this collision live, I felt like it was just a strong power-forward move from Dancs. However, watching it again on the video, I don’t think this is simply ‘incidental contact’ nor is it a ‘hockey play.’ Dancs backs into Desautels without any attempt to do otherwise. And here’s what’s truly exasperating. BCHL Executive Director Trevor Alto sent out this memo, just yesterday:
“After the first 2 games of each series we feel it is important to re-emphasize 3 points of play. The officials will be reminded of the 3 points below and made aware that they have the support of the league office to assess penalties for violations.
1. Emphasis to be placed on protecting the goaltenders
- Officials will be notified that they have the full support of the league office and given the direction to protect the goaltenders. Furthermore they will be reminded that they do have the discretion to assess a major penalty for Goaltender Interference to any player who makes intentional contact with the goaltender. A Major penalty for Goaltender Interference comes with it an Automatic suspension.
2. Dangerous and Violent Checks
- We have seen an uptick in violent checks recently. The officials will be instructed to put emphasis on assessing a checking from behind penalty over a boarding call in certain circumstances where both these penalties come into question. A reminder of strict standards on Blows to the Head and high hits will be made. Both teams have players in accumulation problems in this area and should advise their teams accordingly.
3. Stick work / Roughing after the Whistle
- This has not developed into a major issue as of yet however game 2 did see an increase in stick work and extracurricular activity after whistles. Teams are to remind their players to play clean and between the whistles or risk being assessed a penalty putting the other team on the powerplay
Moving into game 3 and 4 we expect nothing but fast, clean, yet physical BCHL Hockey. I trust both coaches with the job of relaying this notice to your players.”
I try my best to be professional in this job and as fair as possible to all parties. I hope that’s my reputation in this league. But for this email to go out on Friday, and then for this to happen on Saturday with no result, seems truly egregious.
But c’est la vie for this club, and the Warriors will now be playing the rest of the series with a 16 year-old in net, half a bench of affiliates, and not even enough man power to seek retribution or justice on the ice.
Given the heart this team has shown, however, I still have a hard time writing off West Kelowna.
Game five goes Monday at RLP.
Click here to listen to my post-game interview with Cody Porter.
As well, I spoke with former Warrior Marcus Basara earlier in the day. Catch up with the University of Alaska, Fairbanks sniper here.