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GAME THREE: Will Lavigne nets overtime winner, ‘Backs take it 3-2

Vernon, BC – The Interior Conference Semifinals shifted gears over to Vernon for game three as the two teams were coming off the weekend split in Salmon Arm. Countless ‘Backs fans made the short trip up Highway 97 to watch and made their presence known from start to finish at the energetic Kal Tire Place. Game three is a pivotal game in terms of deciding a potential winner of the series as they would just need two more wins out of a possible four games to close out the seris and move on to the Conference Finals in a few short weeks. Both teams were hoping to get a full sixty-minute effort as both sides had shown glimpses of brilliance through the first two games.

Matthew Tovell (5-0-1, 1.95 GAA, .930 S%, 0 S0) got the start for the Silverbacks, while ethan David (5-1-0, 1.94 GAA, .929 S%, 2 SO) got the start for the Vipers.

It was once again a similar start in the opening frame between the two squads as it was a fast paced first period of play. The Silverbacks penalty kill unit had to come into action quickly in the game as Nic Leggett went to the box for a two minute tripping call. The post-seasons second ranked penalty kill continued their success on their opening chance as they kept Vernon to no shots on their powerplay chance. As they period progressed, the physicality continued to rampen up as they continued to become more familiar with each others playing styles. It looked as if the period would go without a goal until the late stages when the Silverbacks got a friendly bounce. Isaac Lambert (3) picked up the puck off a ricochet before he took the puck alone on a breakaway and lifted one by David to open the scoring. The trend of opening the scoring continued for the ‘Backs as they have the opening goal in every post-season game to this point. There was some penalty trouble at the end of the period as Lynden Hanvold and Walker Erickson went to the box for roughing after the whistle. Hayden Stavroff took a high stick from Connor Elliot which resulted in a double-minor which would give the ‘Backs a lengthly powerplay to start the middle frame. Shots in the period were deadlocked at 6-6.

Salmon Arm kicked off the middle frame with three minutes and fifteen seconds of powerplay time in which they hoped to add to their impressive powerplay numbers that have been seen in the playoffs. Hayden Stavroff (4) went for a skate after getting the bump back pass from Tristan Allen and took matters into his own hands as he worked his way into the Vipers end before wrapping one around the net of David and tucking one by the near side post to extend the ‘Backs lead to two goals. The tight-checking close game continued in the middle frame as neither team seemed to be able to gain lengthly amounts of offensive zone time. The ‘Backs had two more powerplay opportunities in the period as Jonathan Horn and Ayden Third each sat for two minutes, but the Silverbacks were unable to add to their lead. Shots in the period were once again deadlocked at 6-6.

It was a similar storyline to which we had seen in the first two games of the best-of-seven series; the Silverbacks took a multi-goal lead into the final period looking to steer home a victory. The first half of the period was a perfect road period for the ‘Backs as they kept Vipers to only four shots in the first nine minutes of the period. Just after the midway point of the period was when the momentum started to shift for the Vipers as Luke Ashton (1) was able to get one through the five-hole of Tovell to pull the Vipers within one goal. They continued to apply the pressure in period looking for a late equalizer and to force an extra period. The third was free of any penalites which went against the flow of the first two. Late in the period, it was Hank Cleaves (3) tying the game up as he batted home a rebound with just 70 seconds to go in regulation. It would be the second time of the series that extra time was needed. Shots in the final frame were 13-8 in favour of Vernon.

The first overtime period was one for the books as both teams worked their chances and had different sequences of momentum looking for an overtime winner. It was the goalies stealing the show in overtime as both Matthew Tovell and Ethan David made heroic saves to keep the game going. Both sides also had a chance to win the game in overtime on a man-advantage but the penalty killing units both were successful. Shots in the first overtime were 10-7 in favour of Vernon.

Vernon once again had a chance to win it in overtime on the powerplay, but it was a resilient effort on the penalty kill to keep the Vipers at bay. Midway through the fifth period, it was Will Lavigne (1) taking a shot from the blueline that fluttered by Ethan David to give the Silverbacks the game three victory.

Next up for the Silverbacks will be game four of the best-of-seven series. Puck drop will once again by at 7:00PM tomorrow night from Kal Tire Place.

Photo by LISA MAZUREK – Recap Courtesy of TONY TROZZO