- First and foremost, I’m glad to hear that the Vipers Liam Finlay is OK after collapsing at the Vipers bench in the first period. Say what you want about the hit, but the real concern was the well-being of the Viper forward and I’m glad it was just that-a scare. Finlay, after just scoring, collapsed at the bench after coming off the ice. Immediately I thought of the Dallas Stars’ Rich Peverley and the former Red Wing Jiri Fischer. Those two NHL’ers collapsed at the bench in NHL games but both were from heart conditions. “Luckily” it was just a fainting spell for Finlay and I’m told the Vees doctors cleared him of any injury shortly thereafter. Kudos to both Trainers, as the Vipers Nolan Bowker and the Vees Dan McDowell were quick to aid Finlay as soon as he lost consciousness. Both were right on top of the situation and they must be commended for their quick thinking. You want the star players to be in the series, and I hope Finlay is good to go for game three. The former Vees is a talented forward and a great kid off the ice. I’m very happy to hear he’s doing well.
- The hit by Patrick Sexton on Finlay is a lightning rod for game two. It seemed like the Vipers came unraveled after that and it’s hard to blame young players for that, after they see a teammate, a friend go down like that. Sexton stepped up at the blue-line and delivered a heavy hit on the Vipers forward. The trouble started with a soft pass in Finlay’s skates that put him in the spot he was in. The optics don’t look good from a Vernon perspective because of the difference in size between Sexton and Finlay. I thought the principal point of contact was the chest and it didn’t look like a predatory hit. Yes, Sexton’s feet came up off the ice because of the follow through. Finlay’s a slender guy so Sexton’s momentum carried him through the hit and off his feet. I can see why Vernon was upset because again the optics. I personally felt it was an OK hit, one I’ve seen Sexton do numerous times. If that was Sexton stepping up on someone like Liam Coughlin, it’s a hard hit and we don’t think twice of it. I can live with the charging call, as the referee is watching it at full speed and making a split-second decision. Sexton, by my count has never been suspended for one of his open ice hits. Yes, he is a hard-nosed defenseman but one that prides himself on playing within the rules. Now hopefully we can move past it.
- Alright lets talk about the actual game shall we? It was a very feisty game to say the least as tempers were running hot and there were bodies flying and scrums after every whistle; in the first forty-minutes at least. The big key for the Vees was their composure and how they didn’t let the Vipers get under their skin. The Vees didn’t get sucked into the nastiness after the whistle and took out their frustrations where it mattered-on the scoreboard. Great piece of skill by the top-line to set the tone right off the bat, as Demico Hannoun, Tyson Jost and Patrick Newell connected on a beautifully executed three-on-two. The play finished with Jost hammering a one-timer from the right-circle 42-seconds in.
- Yes, Vernon responded, tying the game on a five-on-three power-play but the Vees had a crucial response after that. The Vees were the better team in that first period and justifiably got a go-ahead goal inside the final half-minute. Again the Vees “fourth-line” coming up clutch in the playoffs, as Cam Amantea banged in a rebound for his first of the post-season. Great story there, as Amantea was playing his first game since game four against West Kelowna and scored a huge goal late in a period. Goals inside the first (Jost) and final minute (Amantea) are big momentum boosters.
- The Vees are getting depth scoring but it’s encouraging to see that top-line start to put its finger prints on this series. Hannoun, Jost and Newell combined for three goals and seven points in game two. Jost scored two beauties, Newell had his second straight two-assist game and Hannoun finished with a game high three points. Hannoun was arguably the best player on the ice for the Vees. He gets fired up playing his old squad and Sunday night was no different. When he gets angry, he goes into “beast mode” and last night was a prime example. He was throwing his weight around on the fore-check, chasing down the opposition on the back-check and was dancing with the puck in the offensive end. He was full on Sunday. In his last three games, Hannoun now has seven points and now leads the Vees in playoff scoring with 10 points.
- Pat Newell has quietly gone about a four-game point streak. In each of the first two games of this series, he’s had two assists and has been dangerous in the offensive end. He’s even blocked a few shots back in his own end and has taken the puck away from the opposition forwards; the guy is working hard.
- Speaking of streaks, Connor Chartier has scored in four straight games and has six points over that span. That line of Chartier, Dakota Conroy and Lewis Zerter-Gossage has really emerged as a 1-A option for the Vees. Those three combined for three points last night and have two goals and six points in the series. Zerter-Gossage must have broken a mirror or something, because that guy has no luck around the net. He missed a great chance in the first period, heckuva save by Jarrod Schamerhorn, and then he was denied on wraparound in the second; Chartier scored on that rebound though. But LZG has a four-game point streak going, all assists, but the kid is knocking on the door; maybe game three he bags one.
- Dakota Conroy, third in team scoring, has points in all but one playoff game. That’s why the Vees traded for his rights earlier in the season. He was added to the team for the post-season. He’s a veteran, and sure is acting like it.
- Special teams have been a focal point in this series and because of all that hostility between the two teams. The Vees power-play has stepped up after some struggles in the first round. After two games against Vernon, the power-play is 3-11, which is an efficiency rate of 27 percent; pretty darn good. It’s not that the power-play is scoring but when it is. The Vees only power-play goal came early in the second to make it 3-0 and after that ugly punch on Hunter Miska. That’s how a team exacts its revenge in the playoffs. Not by going after that player and getting a few shots in, but they hit Vernon where it hurts the most-the scoreboard. If Vernon is going to be undisciplined, the Vees power-play better make them pay for their transgressions. So far, they’re getting the job done. Penalty-kill ain’t too shabby either, as the Vees have killed-off all but one of the seven Vernon power-plays in the series. They had that big kill in overtime in game one and after that five-on-three goal last night, they killed-off the remaining three Viper power-plays.