Vipers get hard-earned win over Banff Academy Bears
The Red Deer Vipers pulled on their hard hats Monday and bounced back from a disappointing Heritage Junior Hockey League loss one week earlier with a 3-1 victory over the Banff Academy Bears at the Arena.
“We have a good team and when they pull together and work as a team it’s a fun group to watch,” said second-year Vipers head coach Stephan Pattison, who watched his club fall 8-4 to the visiting Three Hills Thrashers the previous Monday.
“It’s fun on the bench and it’s fun in the room. The biggest thing we need to keep learning is that we can’t take nights off because the league is so tight this year that any team can win on any night.
“We have to come prepared to play and it’s a fun league this year because of that. We have some growing pains that happens with every team, but I’m very proud of all our guys.”
The Vipers’ roster features returning forwards Cole deGraaf, the team scoring leader with 27 points — including 12 goals — Kolton Gillett, Chris Robertson, Nick Glackin and captain Justin Corbett, who hold down the top five spots on the club’s scoring ledger.
The Red Deer blueline is anchored by the likes of veterans Jonathan Finnigan and Justin Moltzahn, while key newcomers include forwards Connor Einhorn and Kale Lapointe, defenceman Eric Moltzahn and goaltenders Klay Munro and Anthony Hamill.
“We have two young guys in goal. We don’t have a starter. One kid plays one game, the other guy goes the next game,” said Pattison. “It’s been great, they’ve both bought in and their work ethic in practice is really good. They’re keen and they want to learn.
“I know our guys get behind them. They don’t really doubt our goalies.”
Pattison likes the depth of his roster and is confident better days are ahead as a new leadership group continues to evolve.
“They’re learning along with everyone else,” said Pattison. “Last year we had a couple of 21-year-olds who were very good at what they did. In a lot of ways I would say this is a similar team to last year. I think we maybe have a bit more talent that last year and when we work for 60 minutes we have four lines we can roll.
“Most night I just go with all four lines. There are certain situations where some guys might not get the ice time, but for the most part we have a four-line team. It’s fun to coach that because you can trust any guy on the ice.”
The visiting Bears struck first Monday when Bodie Davidson, from the side of the net, jammed the puck past Munro 8:10 into the contest.
The Vipers responded before the period was over, as Troy Klaus beat Banff netminder Aaron MacKay through the five-hole from 30 feet out.
From there, Vipers forward Ryan Thomson connected at 8:04 of the second period — working off the wall, driving to the net and beating MacKay high to blocker side — and Justin Moltzahn added insurance with an early third-period power-play marker, catching the far side of the net with a slapshot from just inside the blueline.
Munro turned aside 26 shots for his fifth win of the season. McKay finished with 34 saves at the other end.
The Vipers, who improved to 11-7-0-1 and sit fourth in the seven-team North Division, host the second-place Blackfalds Wranglers Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Arena. The contest is billed as Alumni Night.