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Series preview – Vernon vs. Wenatchee

#2 Vernon Vipers vs. #3 Wenatchee Wild
Game one: Friday, March 16 – 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place in Vernon

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Season Series

The two teams split the regular-season series with three regulation wins apiece and each team picking up a win in the other team’s building.

Last Time They Played

The Vipers won the most recent meeting 4-3 at home on Feb. 26 to clinch second place in the Interior Division and guarantee themselves home-ice advantage for the first two round of the playoffs. Wenatchee went up 2-0 early on goals by AJ Vanderbeck and Zak Galambos, but Vernon replied with goals from Niko Karamanis and Jimmy Lambert to tie the game before the end of the first period. Karamanis scored again in the second and defenceman Michael Ufberg scored the eventual game-winner early in the third to give Vernon the win.

First-Round Performers

Vernon Vipers:

F Derek Brown (4-4-8)
The 20-year-old from Edmonton, Alta. led the team with eight points in the Vipers four first-round games, helping Vernon to a sweep of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Brown had multi-point games in three of the four contests, including a two-goal performance in game three.

F Jordan Sandhu (1-6-7)
The Richmond native leads the Vipers in assists with six in four games, including a three-assist performance in game one against the Silverbacks. Like Brown, Sandhu recorded multiple points in three of the four first-round contests.

G Ty Taylor (4-0/1.97 GAA/.927 SV%)
Taylor held Salmon Arm to two goals or less in three of the four first-round games, including a shutout in the deciding game-four overtime win. The 2018 BCHL Top Goaltender Award winner is tied for the fifth-best save percentage in the playoffs and has the sixth-best goals-against average.

Wenatchee Wild

F Jasper Weatherby (6-4-10)
The league-MVP and regular-season scoring champion has continued his strong season into the playoffs as he’s tied for the scoring lead with 10 points in four games and his six goals are second-most in the league. Weatherby put up multiple points in all four games in his team’s first-round sweep of the Merritt Centennials, including back-to-back three-point nights in games one and two.

D Cooper Zech (2-7-9)
The regular season’s Top Defenceman Award winner leads all blueliners in playoff points and is tied for third overall in post-season scoring with nine points in four games. Zech’s playoff highlight so far was a two goal, one assist performance in a game three win over the Centennials.

F Sam Morton (0-8-8)
Morton leads the league in playoff assists with eight in four games. The 18-year-old has had multi-assist games in three of the four first-round games, including a four-assist night in a game-two win over Merritt.

From the Broadcast Booth

Vernon play-by-play broadcaster Graham Turnbull on the importance of home-ice advantage in this series:

“I said from the beginning…if the Vipers were going to go up against the Wenatchee Wild, I thought they needed home-ice advantage. Not necessarily because they can’t win away from Kal Tire Place, but you like your odds better when you’re playing at home. Town Toyota Center is a very difficult building to play in. They play extremely well there. It’s loud, it’s sort of in your face. I don’t want to say it’s intimidating, but I can understand why a few teams have not had success. The only thing the Vipers can sort of hold on to is that they have won in that building this season, which isn’t something very many teams have done.”

Turnbull on how the sudden passing of long-time Vipers owner Duncan Wray in January has motivated the team:

“It’s absolutely paramount. They went through ebbs and flows in January shortly after it happened…but they only have one loss since Jan. 31 and they’ve been playing some of their best hockey at key times. They look like a team that’s motivated…I have a very strong belief that it is because of playing for the owner Duncan Wray and trying to continue his legacy by winning a national championship and making it the seventh for the franchise.”

Wenatchee Wild play-by-play broadcaster Arch Ecker on the importance of starting strong in the series:

“Winning at least one of the first two games is crucial, whether you’re at home or on the road. No one wants to be down 2-0 in a series, no matter where the games are played. Both teams play well at home and both teams have shown themselves to be capable on the road. I expect the Wild to approach the games as they’ve done all season, one game at a time. This will be a fantastic series between two very good hockey teams.”