Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

Vipers open playoffs with victory

The Red Deer Vipers were angry with themselves but took it out on the Ponoka Stampeders. Three nights after falling 3-1 to the visiting Stamps — a defeat that cost Red Deer top spot in the Northern Division of the Heritage Junior Hockey League and in fact knocked them all the way down to third place — the Vipers pumped Ponoka 7-0 Tuesday at the Arena.

The Red Deer Vipers were angry with themselves but took it out on the Ponoka Stampeders.

Three nights after falling 3-1 to the visiting Stamps — a defeat that cost Red Deer top spot in the Northern Division of the Heritage Junior Hockey League and in fact knocked them all the way down to third place — the Vipers pumped Ponoka 7-0 Tuesday at the Arena.

Red Deer grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three divisional quarter-final and can close out the series tonight at Ponoka.

“We took a night off. They outplayed us in that game and kudos to them,” said Red Deer head coach JD Morrical, in reference to Saturday’s final regular-season contest loss that also cost his club a first-round playoff bye.

‘The boys were pretty mad with their effort in that game. They realized they did it to themselves. They knew what they had to do tonight and it turned out well.”

The Vipers led 3-0 after one period and then sniped two goals in the first six minutes of the middle frame to chase Stamps’ starting netminder Carter Gendreau, who was excellent in Saturday’s contest with a 36-save performance.

Gendreau made 17 saves before yanked and his replacement, Zeke Leuck, stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced the rest of the way, surrendering third-period power-play goals to Matt Krusky and Jon Finnigan. Colton Weseen, Declan Johnston and Finnigan each scored twice for the hosts.

Red Deer netminder Cole Sears turned aside 24 shots to earn the shutout.

While the Vipers would have preferred to sit out the first post-season round, Morrical found positives in the fact his club will have to play at least two additional games and won’t have home-ice advantage in the second round.

“That was a really good thing for us because we needed to play a different way,” he said. “Ponoka plays a different style and we needed to adjust.

“This was a good win for us. Ponoka has a good team and probably would have won a few more games this year if they had a few more bodies.”

Regardless, the Vipers were more than ready to exact some revenge Tuesday.

“They were ready to go,” said Morrical. “We had a full lineup again. We have a couple of defencemen suspended but one will be back tomorrow.”

A third game in the series, if necessary, will go Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Arena.

• The Blackfalds Wranglers got an overtime goal from Andrew McLennan Tuesday and defeated the visiting Three Hills Thrashers 4-3 in the first game of the other divisional quarter-final.

Brock Boguski, Robin Carlson and Curtis Rangen also scored for the Wranglers. Damien Chopek, Rylan Plante-Crough and Tyler Newsham replied for the Thrashers.

The second game is set for Friday at Three Hills.