The Vernon Vipers were in their third different jersey in three games as they looked to move one step closer to the Royal Bank Cup semifinals.
Instead, the Dauphin Kings became the first team through to the semifinals at the national Junior A hockey championships with a 5-2 win over the Vernon Vipers Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers took control Monday night against Yorkton when they scored three times in 41 seconds. Tuesday night, the Kings took control with two goals in under a minute.
The Vipers didn’t have the same, ‘take no prisoners’ mentality. They seemed a step slower and they didn’t hit people with the same umpf.
“I don’t know why we didn’t come out with the same intensity. Nervousness is one thing you see with that hockey team right now,” said Vipers’ head coach and GM Jason Williamson. “They need to be simple and prepared, they are good players on a good hockey team. We were just sitting on our heels a little bit.”
The Vipers (1-2) had a pair of glorious opportunities in the first on a lengthy two-man advantage. Colton Sparrow (Player of the Game) and Brett Mulcahy just missed connecting on a pair of one-timers.
The Kings (3-0) goalie Michael Stiliadis (Player of the Game) has been impermeable all tournament. Stiliadis had great positioning on the Vipers’ powerplay chances.
“It’s really a credit to those guys in front of me. They are doing a great job which makes my job easier,” said Stiliadis.
Stiliadis has a sparkling 1.91 goals against average and a 0.944 save percentage at the RBC Cup.
The Kings rallied after killing Brett Sharples’ penalty. A battle to the right of Vipers’ goalie Austin Smith saw the puck squirt out onto the stick of Brayden Cuthbert. Dillon McCombie picked up the assist 15:13 in the first.
Jared Morris struck 45 seconds later from Jesse Bernard, beating Smith down low.
This wasn’t Smith’s finest hour as he allowed two goals on five shots. He got the hook for local boy, Danny Todosychuk, in the second.
“It’s tough, I don’t want to fault Smitty, I tried to inject some life by switching to Danny,” said Williamson.
A dump in from Brett Hope bounced off the end boards, off Todosychuk’s foot and in. Not the start Todosychuk had envisioned.
“It is never an easy situation being the host team, we know what they are going through. There is a lot of pressure involved,” said Kings’ head coach Marlin Murray
Tyler Garrioch stunned the 2,500 patrons when he scored 16:09 in the second from Hudson Morrison. Morrison won the face-off to the left, where Garrioch quickly chipped it over Todosychuk. Dauphin were in front by a mile; 4-0 after two periods.
“We are working hard, but we aren’t working smart all the time. We need to get back to Viper hockey on Thursday,” said Mulcahy.
Williamson has double-shifted Mulcahy and Sparrow to try the most production with Brendan Persley still sidelined with an injury.
Sparrow has turned into must-see TV. Fans cling to the edge of their seats when he steps on the ice. He leads the RBC Cup in goals, with five, and never takes a shift off. He was named Playoff MVP at the Vipers recent awards banquet and has backed it up in the RBC.
The Vipers were on a five-on-three man advantage when Sparrow was the recipient of nice passing from Demico Hannoun and Josh Bryan. Sparrow’s goal came on the powerplay 1:07 into the third.
Shortly after another Vipers’ powerplay ended, captain Ryan Renz showed off his soft hands as he walked in from the point, made a quick move around a d-man, and snapped home his first of the playoffs on a sweet feed from Sparrow.
The Kings snuffed out any chances of a comeback when Brent Wold responded with a goal from Justin Valentino.
The Vipers still control their own fate. The top four teams advance to the semifinals.
“We got to win three more games and we win a national championship. We need to realize the opportunity in front of us and do it for ourselves,” said hard-hitting Vipers’ forward T.J. Dumonceaux.
The Kings take on the Yorkton Terriers (0-2) Thursday afternoon.
The Vipers face the Dudley Hewitt Cup championToronto Lakeshore Patriots (1-2) Thursday night.