The month of October has been a good one for the Red Deer Vipers, who find themselves in the middle of a five game win streak after last weekend’s games.
“We got the four points we were looking for,” said Vipers’ Head Coach J.D. Morrical of the past weekend’s wins, which included a 4-3 shootout victory over the visiting Stettler Lightning on Saturday in Red Deer and a 7-3 road triumph over the Blackfalds Wranglers the following afternoon.
“I’ve been really happy with the way we’ve been progressing this year. We had a really tough start. Our schedule at the start of the year was really tough. We played the top four teams in our first five games,” Morrical said, adding this weekend was especially important for the Vipers because of the rivalries they have with Blackfalds and Stettler.
“They’re our two biggest rivals, you know our in division games. I would say Stettler is probably the hardest working team in the league and that’s always stung us a bit if we don’t come to play.”
And sting them the Lightning almost did as a late power play goal by the Lighting forced the game into overtime and eventually a shootout, where the Vipers’ shooters prevailed.
“Even though we won it in a shootout, it was still good to see the win,” Morrical said.
At the time of writing the Vipers (7-4-0) are sitting in third place in the Heritage Junior Hockey League North Division, just four points behind the second place Mountainview Colts (9-1-0) and six behind the first place Airdrie Thunder (9-2-2).
“We’ve got two games this weekend as well to kind of catch up, so hopefully we can have some success this weekend,” Morrical said.
The Vipers will host the Strathmore Wheatland Kings (4-5-3) at the Collicutt Centre in Red Deer on Saturday night at 8 p.m. before travelling to Medicine Hat for a date with the Cubs (1-7-3) the following afternoon.
“We’ve played both teams already this year. We’ve been able to win both. Basically it’s just the same thing, the only thing that we’ve had trouble with this year is just our starts. We felt we’ve had really bad first periods pretty much every game and it’s almost like we need to get a bit of a kick in the pants just to get going,” said Morrical, adding that overall the team has been pretty solid this season especially on the back end.
“Our goaltending this year is the big difference for me. Our goaltending was good last year, but this year our goaltending is exceptional with (Branden) Bilodeau and Cole Sears.”
The goalie tandem has been shutdown for the Vipers so far this season, with Bilodeau posting an impressive 1.84 goals against average and a 0.947 save percentage over his six games while Sears has put up a 2.52 GAA and a save percentage of 0.909 through his five.
“The only problem that we’ve been finding is we’re almost relying on them a little too much.”
Still, Morrical said he’s confident in his crew as they pursue their goal of making a return to provincials this season after hosting the tournament last year.
“I’ve really liked how the guys have been coming together so far. It’s been really impressive to see.”