CHILLIWACK—The Vernon Vipers didn’t play their game and paid the price for it against the Victoria Grizzlies, bowing 5-4 in overtime.
“I thought we were absolutely terrible today,” said Vipers interim coach-general manager Kevin Kraus. “I don’t know, maybe they were tired. The work ethic wasn’t there. We were just throwing pucks away to throw pucks away. We didn’t make smart passes, we didn’t want to move our feet.”
The Vipers had a 3-1 lead after the first period on goals by Anthony Latina, Liam Coughlin and Trevor Fidler. Then things began to fall apart.
Garrett Foster got the Grizzlies within a goal, then Brett Gruber used the power-play to even the game at three. Forster then put the Grizzlies ahead with a shorthanded tally to make it 4-3.
“I think we let up. We were in the drivers seat for a couple of periods,” said Latina. “When you do that, they have momentum.”
“I think they were just relentless on the forecheck,” he continued. “They were causing us to turn over pucks. They got big bodies and they were throwing them around. We were on our heels a little bit there.”
Latina forced overtime when he crashed the Grizzlies net forcing the puck in.
Nearly four minutes into the extra frame, Mitch Meek potted the winner on a mistake by the Vipers.
“We just let them run all over us,” said Kraus.
Latina, who scored twice and added an assist against the Grizzlies, agreed there performance was a contrast from their victory against the Cowichan Valley Capitals the night before. He said they were high on themselves and it was visible.
The Vipers power-play was a non factor again, going 0-for-7, while the Grizzlies were 2-for-5.
Vipers assistant captain Ken Citron said it was tough to swallow, but looking at the bright side, he’s happy they got three of four points.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” said Citron, adding they needed to chip more pucks in and use their speed. “We need to be a lot better than that. Blowing a three-goal lead is not acceptable at this point. I think everybody wished they had played a little bit better.”
Jarrod Schamerhorn turned aside 30 shots in the loss, while Michael Stilladis made 20 saves for the Grizzlies.
Other scores from the Showcase had Merritt defeat Cowichan Valley 5-3, the Trail Smoke Eaters cruised past the Coquitlam Express 8-3 with the help of Charlie Zuccarini’s five-goal effort. The Prince George Spruce Kings picked up a 6-4 victory against the Nanaimo Clippers and the Chilliwack Chiefs doubled up Powell River 6-3.