Navigators 3 Vipers 0
After being away from competition for a month it was expected the Red Deer Vipers would need to shake off some rust as they opened the provincial junior B hockey championships against the North Peace Navigators at the Arena Thursday.
It took them a period before they found their skating legs and by then they trailed 2-0, which proved to be too much to overcome in a 3-0 loss before an excellent crowd.
“I found the first period we couldn’t get anything going offensively at all,” said Vipers head coach JD Morrical. “We couldn’t get our normal plays set up. We practised but it’s hard to simulate actual defencemen at this level.
“We did all we could before we knocked the rust off.”
Joseph Sylvain scored for the Navigators on a two-on-one at 10:22 of the first period and Lowen Lambert connected on a five-on-three power play at 15:21. The Navigators held an 18-7 edge in shots in the first period.
“We made one mistake and they scored on a five-on-three so I wasn’t too mad about the first period,” said Morrical.
But the Vipers looked like a different team in the second period as they picked up the pace and forced the play, outshooting North Peace 11-7. In fact without goaltender Riley Medves the Vipers would have been back in the game. Medves, a left-hander, was solid when called upon and made the biggest save of the game with a spectacular glove save off Tye Munro, who walked in all alone in the middle stanza.
“I thought we out chanced them in the second and third periods and once we got the puck in deep, using our dump in sets, and played our game we had lots of chances, but just didn’t bury them.”
Jamie Driedger put the game away with an empty net goal at 18:55 of the third period.
Both goalies were named the players of the game with Cole Sears finishing with 31 saves for Red Deer and Medves stopped 24.
Morrical said they knew very little about the Navigators, except they had one good line.
“We tried to match our checking line against them, but other than that we knew nothing. We watched warmup but really we didn’t even know which hand they shot with, or know how they play. We had to learn on the fly.”
Morrical knows a bit more about the Vipers opponent today as they face the North Edmonton Red Wings at 4 p.m. at the Arena.
“I saw them play three times and they also have one good line,” said Morrical. “But the thing is for us to get back playing our game. The boys do have a positive attitude and we know we need to win the next two games to get into the semifinals.”
The Vipers also face the Killam Wheat Kings Saturday at noon.
The Wheat Kings and Red Wings battled to a 4-4 tie Thursday while in the A pool the Calgary Royals-Gold edged the Wainwright Bisons 4-3 and the Wetaskiwin Icemen downed the Heritage Junior B Hockey League champion Mountainview Colts 8-5.
In other games today the Icemen face the Royals-Gold at 10 a.m., Killam takes on the Navigators at 1 p.m. and Wainwright meets the Colts at 7 p.m. All games are at the Arena.
On Saturday, the Navigators face North Edmonton at 9 a.m. at the Arena while at the Kinex Wainwright and Wetaskiwin meet at 9:30 a.m. and the Colts and Royals-Gold clash at 12:30 p.m.
The semifinals go at 8 p.m. with the bronze medal game at 10:30 a.m. Sunday and the final at 2 p.m. Both games are at the Arena.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can also be seen at www.rdc.ab.ca/athleticsblog.