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Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Doyle Cup three-peat for Vernon’s hockey snakes

When all was said and done there really wasn't a whole lot of difference between the two clubs battling for the Doyle Cup championship this year, other than one team scored one more goal and won one more game than the other.
As happened last year, the Vernon Vipers downed the Spruce Grove Saints four games to three in the Pacific Region final, enabling the six-time RBC Cup champs to again vie for the Jr. A national championship and again deny the Saints their first crack at that title.
Following the first game of the series, Vipers head coach Mark Ferner predicted it would go seven games. He also noted his team knew it would have to win at least two games in the Grove.
Following two losses at home in the first three games, the Vipers actually had to win three of four in Alberta and that's exactly what they did.
They began their title defence by winning Game 4 by a 3-1 score and then put the Saints on the ropes with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 5.
The Saints rebounded in a must-win situation with a 2-0 victory setting up an exciting end to this series.
In the final, Vernon jumped to a 2-0 first period lead but saw the Saints rebound to tie it at 2-2 on goals by Scott Allen and Josh Keizer, on a short-handed breakaway effort.
The Vipers refused to wilt under a ferocious Saints assault and got the series' winner from captain David Robinson late in the third period, after the Saints Jesse Slobodian had clanged a shot off the goal post moments earlier.
An empty-net marker salted away the 4-2 game win, the 4-3 series win and another trip the RBC Cup for the Snakes in Camrose.
"I'm extremely proud of this group," Ferner said of a group of young men, who like the Saints, weren't expected to reach this point of the year.
"Not a lot of people gave us a chance against the No. 2 team in the country in Powell River," whom the Vipers disposed of in straight games in the B.C. final, "or coming into this building against the No. 1 team and having to win three games. I'm extremely pleased.
"Hats off to Spruce Grove," he continued. "They didn't give an inch."
Across the rink, Grove coach Jason Mckee said he couldn't have asked for any more from his players.
"They surprised a lot of people at how far they came this year. It's never easy to come this far and miss out by one goal. It's tough for them but there's a lot of character in that room. There are kids in that room that have been to three (AJHL) finals and two Doyle Cups and done the organization, and themselves, proud."
Mckee admitted there wasn't much difference between the two teams – the Vipers scored 17 goals the Saints 16.
"It was two very good teams. It came down to one goal. All the games were close. There wasn't a lot to choose between the two teams. They were two very good teams."
In closing, Ferner wouldn't admit to his junior club becoming a dynasty a this level but the look on his face indicated he was pleased with the question.
"That's for you guys to talk about," he ended, noting his team can return an astounding 16 players next year in what could well be another year for another run at Canada's national Jr. A crown.
Of course, the Saints, among many others, would like to change that outcome in the 2011-12 hockey season.

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