SERIES: Vernon grabbed a 1-0 series lead with their 3-1 game one win over the Kings. Dylan Walchuk and Bryce Kakoske gave the Snakes a 2-0 first period lead and Dan Schuler and Michael Zalewski traded goals in the final two periods.
Kirby Halcrow faced only 21 shots in picking up his eigth playoff win, while Mike Garteig was tagged with his sixth loss in the King net.
Special teams were a non-factor as both teams were 0-2 on the power-play.
The Vipers got the all important first win by taking game one in Powell River. Vernon's game wasn't sexy by any means but it was well executed in squeezing the Kings attack throughout the night. The Snakes didn't give the Kings much time or space through the neutral zone or in the Vernon end of the ice. When the Kings managed to step around a forecheck there was another Viper stick there to knock the puck away.
As wrote about last night, the Vernon defense did an effective job of fighting off the Kings forecheck and getting away from traffic and getting pucks quickly out of their zone. Also ,the back end disrupted the Kings cycle game in the corners and won some key puck battles along the boards.
The first goal in the playoffs has been key for the Vipers as they are 9-0 when they score first. Last night, after surviving a five minute opening burst by the Kings, Walchuk's ninth of the playoffs gave theVipers the first goal and seemed to settle them in as well. The key for the Kings is scoring first on the Snakes and getting the large crowd involved early. The numbers don't lie, Vernon is 0-4 when scored on first.
The Kings will need to take confidence away from the Vipers any way they can, as Vernon is riding a five game winning streak dating back to game three versus Salmon Arm.
The Kings will need more contributions from their veteran players going forward in this series. Powell River took notice of the Vipers leaders making an impact in game one and the Kings will need to duplicate that performance for game two.
The driving force up front throughout the season has been Kings Captain Matt Garbowsky. The quiet sniper does have 10 points in 13 playoff games, but he has only two goals this postseason. He has scored one in his last seven games, and that was into an empty net. The 20 year-old has been in a classic slump in the past two rounds. Simply put...he has been snake bitten in recent weeks. The team feeds off of him and as he goes, so too do the Kings. Garbowsky is overdue for a breakout performance.
Also the Kings will have to find a way to break through the Vipers defensive shell. Powell River struggled to get quality rushes into the Vipers end. One way to correct that problem will be to use their trade mark speed and stretch the play wide coming through the neutral zone. We saw glimpses of it in the late stages of the second and moments in the third period. Getting back to an up tempo attack will produce scoring chances for Powell River. They were able to force turnovers when their first forechecker made body contact.
WHO'S HOT: No one is feeling it more than Dylan Walchuk. The Viper forward now has five goals in his last six periods, dating back to game six versus Salmon Arm. In that game Walchuk broke out for four goals in a 5-4 win. With his assist last night, Patrick McGillis has four helpers in two games, three came in game six against the Apes.
Dan Schuler's marker last night gives the 18 year-old three in two games and eight in the post season. Schuler had a pair of goals in game six against Surrey. Niddery's assist gives him points in back-to-back games.
STAT PACK: Dating back to the last two Fred Page Cup's, the Kings are 3-4 on home ice versus the Vipers.
PUCK DROP: Pre-game show starts at 7:15pm on 95-7 Sun FM. Join Andy Welsh, Dean Merrick and myself for all the action. Don't forget we will be broadcasting the post-game show from the Wolf Den in the Cedar room located in the upper lobby immediately following the game.