Tonight – Vernon Vipers (21-18-7-3) at Wenatchee Wild (27-18-2-3)
7:05 p.m. at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee
Presented by the BCIHL
This will be the sixth and final meeting of the season between the two Interior Division rivals. The Wild lead the season series 3-2. Wenatchee beat Vernon 5-3 on the opening night of the season, but Vernon replied with a 2-0 win later on in September. The teams didn’t meet again until Dec. 1 when the Wild took a 5-4 decision. Most recently they met in a back-to-back before the Christmas break with the Vipers taking the first game 3-0 and Wenatchee winning the second 5-2.
Vipers forward Lane Zablocki is riding a four-game point streak with seven points over that stretch. Jagger Williamson also has points in four straight, contributing four assists in those games. Vernon’s leading scorer is third-year forward and recent Alabama-Huntsville commit Josh Latta who has 37 points in 45 games. He also leads the team in goals with 19. Vipers goalie Aiden Porter is tied for the league lead in shutouts with four, owns the fifth-best goals-against average at 2.54 and the ninth-highest save percentage at .911.
Wenatchee captain Lucas Sowder has points in four straight, tallying six assists in that span. He is the team’s second-leading scorer this season with 42 points (11 goals, 31 assists) in 38 games. Wenatchee’s leading scorer is Matt Gosiewski who has 48 points in 48 games. He also leads the team in goals with 27, which ties him for fourth-most in the BCHL. On the back-end, Brandon Koch is tied for eighth in league scoring among defencemen with 33 points (six goals, 27 assists) in 50 games, followed closely by teammate Chad Sasaki who has 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in the same amount of games.
What’s at Stake
The Wild are coming off a 4-2 loss last night to the Penticton Vees and have lost five of their last six games heading into tonight. They currently sit in third place in the Interior Division and are three points back of the second-place Merritt Centennials who have two games in hand. They’re also six points up on the fourth-place West Kelowna Warriors.
The Vipers beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-3 last night and have won seven of their last nine games. They are currently in fifth place in the Interior Division, one point back of the West Kelowna Warriors for fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They’re also only one point clear of the sixth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks who have a game in hand. If Vernon can beat Wenatchee tonight in regulation, they would only be five points back of the Wild for third place.
From the Broadcast Booth
Vernon Vipers play-by-play broadcaster Graham Turnbull on tonight’s matchup:
“These teams are both well-coached and well-prepared. They have systems in place and both sides can consistently execute them. Both teams have a lot of offence, but also have the ability to shut down the opposition. They are just two really good teams who leave it all out on the ice.”
Turnbull on the importance of the Vipers climbing the standings to get home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs:
“Anytime you get an opportunity to open a playoff series at home, you’ll do anything you can to try and get that. The Vipers record has been good both home and away, but home ice is such an important aspect and being a hot team down the stretch is crucial to this team.”
Turnbull on the difficulties of playing on the road in Wenatchee:
“Momentum seems to come out of nowhere for the Wild in their building and the environment plays a large role in that. It’s loud, the fans are extremely engaged and it motivates the Wild, not to mention the matchup game with last change.”
Wenatchee Wild play-by-play broadcaster Arch Ecker on the tight season series between the two teams:
“The Vipers are a well-coached, structured team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. Their place in the standings is misleading because of the overtime and shootout losses. They’re a quality club and that makes for a great matchup.”
Ecker on the emergence of Wenatchee’s leading scorer Matt Gosiewski:
“What I like most about his game is, when he plays with passion, his game jumps to another level. He’s got a tremendous shot, above average hands and the strength to win puck battles.”
Ecker on the possibility of the Wild catching the Merritt Centennials for second place in the division before the end of the regular season:
“One step at a time. The Wild don’t see Merritt anymore this regular season, so all they can do is take care of their business and let the cards fall where they fall. Wenatchee has been playing shorthanded with a fistful of injuries and getting those players healthy and ready to go is probably their primary concern.”
ABOUT THE BCIHL
The British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League was created with the purpose of offering a venue for competitive, high-calibre hockey that’s close to home for players beyond their junior careers. The league was launched in 2006 and now includes five member teams: Selkirk College, Simon Fraser University, Trinity Western University, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. This season, 25 graduates with over 2750 games of BCHL experience are pursuing their academic and athletic goals in the BCIHL. To learn more about the BCIHL and playing opportunities for BCHL grads, visit BCIHL.ca.