Vipers 6 Wranglers 5 (2OT)
Adversity is just a word to the Red Deer Vipers.
Needing a win to stay alive in their best-of-seven Heritage Junior B Hockey League North Division final against the Blackfalds Wranglers, the Vipers killed off a pair of penalties in the first extra frame and then posted a 6-5 double overtime win on Thursday at the Arena.
Kolton Gillett buried a two-on-one pass from Troy Klaus at 7:22 of the second overtime period, forcing a seventh and deciding game to be played tonight at Blackfalds. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
“I was quite impressed with our team tonight. They came out, they knew they were against the ropes and they did everything they possibly could,” said Red Deer coach Brian Renaud. “That was just a lot of heart. Our guys deserved it.”
The Vipers trailed 2-1 midway through the first period, then clicked for three goals in just under a three-minute span to take a 4-2 lead into the intermission. Braden Corbett tallied even strength and on the power play, and Maverick Blair and Gillett also connected for the hosts.
Red Deer led 5-2 when Justin Moir buried a power-play rebound 3:15 into the second stanza, but the visitors stormed back with three unanswered goals before the period ended. Scott Maetche blew a sharp-angle shot past Red Deer netminder Jason Pohl, and Chance Abbott and Bryce Veuger scored following turnovers at the Vipers blueline.
“Things don’t always go your way and sometimes you have mental lapses out there, but it’s all about being mentally tough and knowing what it takes to pull it out,” said Renaud.
“It was a good comeback, but we shouldn’t have been down that much,” said Wranglers coach Brian Lenz. “We had the whole momentum in the first period, then we took a bad penalty and they got a goal. We let down and all of a sudden they got two more on us and then another goal (in the second period) on another power play.
“It’s tough to come back on these guys when you’re three down. We killed a lot of energy trying to get back.”
The teams battled through a scoreless third period and 10-minute overtime before Gillett sealed the deal.
Layne Swier replaced Tanner Schalin in the Blackfalds goal after one period and was outstanding the rest of the way, finishing with 37 saves. Vipers starter Pohl was replaced by Travis Weber at the start of the third period and the pair combined to stop 39 shots.
“It was really nice to beat them tonight,” said Red Deer captain JD Morrical. “I’ve been playing against that team for four years now and we haven’t beat them in this series yet. It’s going to be a fun game tomorrow in Blackfalds.”
Both Morrical and Renaud were optimistic when discussing Red Deer’s odds of winning Game 7.
“I think we’re going to take it. We have to work hard and do the same things we did tonight,” said the Vipers coach. “Everything has to come together just like it did tonight.”
Added Morrical: “I like our chances. We just won this game and they (Wranglers) are probably deflated a bit. They didn’t play as many lines as we did in overtime. They only went with two lines and we were rolling three, so hopefully we’ll have a little more energy tomorrow night.”
Lenz wasn’t convinced that playing the deciding game at home will be an advantage.
“You never want to take it to Game 7 because anything can happen,” he said.
Veuger and Jared Williams notched the Wranglers’ first-period goals.