BIG SAVE - Tye Munro of the Red Deer Vipers tried to put the puck past Kade Taplin of the Airdrie Thunder during Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Red Deer Arena last weekend. The Vipers toppled the league-leading Thunder 4-3 in overtime.

Red Deer Vipers start season on solid ground

  • Dec. 9, 2015 3:14 p.m.

The Red Deer Vipers are off to a pretty strong start to the 2015/16 Heritage Junior Hockey League season.

Currently sitting in third place in the six-team Northern Division, the Vipers have been one of the teams to beat this season in the HJHL.

“When we come with a good effort we’re very good defensively. Our forwards and defensemen. I think we have the best defense core in the league by far,” said Head Coach JD Marrical.

The Vipers right now hold a 13-5-3 record for 29 points, just five points behind the second place Mountainview Colts (17-4) and the division leading Airdrie Thunder (17-6-1).

Red Deer has been quietly chasing the HJHL’s two most explosive clubs in the Northern Division standings, keeping pace with them but never being able to break into the race for first place themselves.

But the Vipers have refused to quit, and on Saturday evening they took a big first step towards catching the two powerhouses, toppling the Airdrie Thunder 5-4 in overtime at the Red Deer Arena.

“We’ve been playing the top teams tough but we’ve always been kinda losing by one instead of winning by one. That’s the team we’re chasing to get to the top spot so it’s nice to get the two points instead of just the one tonight,” Marrical said.

The Vipers came hard out of the gates, scoring just three minutes into the game when Nick Glackin received a pass from Tyson Maton in the slot and fired it past Thunder goalie Kade Taplin to give his team an early lead.

Taplin came into Saturday’s game leading the league in nearly every goaltending category, including an impressive 2.35 Goals Against Average. The 20-year-old has also been named the HJHL’s goalie of the month for two consecutive months.

So, naturally, the rest of the first period was a goaltender’s duel.

Both sides peppered the opposing goaltender with pucks, Red Deer putting 12 shots towards Airdrie’s net in the first 20 while the visitors returned the favour by firing 11 on Vipers’ netminder Rylan Bardick.

The time on the clock continued to tick down without incident until the last 55 seconds of the period when Bardick went down with an apparent injury to his leg. He didn’t return to the game, but Marrical said it was just a minor injury.

“He’s going to be ok. It was just kind of a really bad cramp,” he said, adding that Bardick wanted to return to the game but the coaching staff decided to let him rest, leaving backup Matt Patchett to close out the game.

Marrical also confirmed that Bardick will start the Vipers’ next game in Ponoka on Wednesday night.

The second period was a lot more eventful than the first.

It was also quite a bit rougher, as just four minutes in Mark Kunitz of the Thunder took a Vipers’ player hard into the boards from behind, prompting a swift response from Vipers’ enforcer Tyson Maton.

When the dust finally settled on the play, Kunitz was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for boarding while Maton cooled his skates with a two minute stint in the box for roughing.

Just 40 seconds later, Dustin Spearing beat Taplin to put his team up by two. Spearman added another marker at the nine minute mark to make it 3-0 Vipers halfway through the second. It’s worth noting that both goals were assisted by Kale Lapointe, who had three assists on the evening.

The 20-year-old had seven points in just two games this weekend to earn himself the HJHL player of the week title.

But Airdrie wasn’t done yet.

They came roaring back from Red Deer’s third goal, scoring two goals just 54 seconds apart to cut Red Deer’s lead to one.

Then, at the 18:14 mark, Tyler Perkins scored his first of two goals on the night to tie it all up at one.

“It’s kind of been our struggle all year. When we get up in a game — we get up by three or even sometimes four — and they’re kind of satisfied, they don’t keep going,” said Marrical, adding the team has been getting better at holding the lead.

“We’re starting to finally learn our lesson, like we don’t let the team take the lead again; we hold them to a tie.”

The teams added a goal a piece in the third to send it into OT.

The extra period didn’t last long, though, as Matt Krusky ended it just 53 seconds in to solidify the victory for his club.

With the win, the Vipers move one point closer to jumping the Thunder and with two games left against both Mountainview and Airdrie, anything is possible.

“We just keep coming with a good effort every single night and we’ve gotta win those games. If we can win those games I think we can jump ‘em.”

Next up for the Vipers will be a road game in Ponoka on Wednesday evening to take on the Stampeders before they’re back home on Saturday to play host to the Stettler Lightning.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

Just Posted

Alberta Election called for April 16th

Upcoming election will be about who is fit to be Premier, says Notley

Red Deer athletes qualify for Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru

The official Pan American Games will be held from July 26th to Aug. 11th

Local youngsters lend a helping hand to the Red Deer Hospital

First Steps and Beyond School students donate to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Red Deer RCMP arrest man during break and enter in progress

RCMP found two males in the parking garage attempting to steal a vehicle

Red Deer RCMP announce new Officer in Charge

Grobmeier has 26 years of service with the RCMP where he has moved through the ranks across Canada

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Here are five political leaders campaigning in Alberta’s spring election

Rachel Notley, Jason Kenney, Stephen Mandel, David Khan, and Derek Fildebrandt

UPDATE Leduc RCMP say sexual assault claim was false

UPDATE Leduc RCMP say investigation revealed sexual assault never took place

Fought to unite Alberta conservatives: Former MP Kenney ready to run for premier

Kenney, 50, was born in Oakville, Ont., raised in Saskatchewan, and spent his adult years in Alberta

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wants chance to ‘finish that job’

Notley, 54, is the daughter of the late Grant Notley, who led the NDP from 1968 to 1984

PHOTOS: Massive fire at Wetaskiwin’s Rigger’s Hotel

Multiple fire departments involved, building badly damaged

Alberta government announces further easing of oil production restrictions

The government said it will continue to monitor the market and its response to the increases

Most Read