Vipers slide into playoffs with two more wins to end regular season

By Brady Sim (@Simsauce)
February 12, 2018 - 10:13am

The Red Deer Vipers head into the HJHL post-season on the high of a 12-game winning streak after claiming their last pair of regular season games this weekend.

Red Deer was in Three Hills (1-35-0) Friday night for a date with the Thrashers. The game remained scoreless for much of the first period until the 18:01 when Bailey Lawson struck for Red Deer to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

The Vipers did the rest of their scoring in the second period as the club got tallies from Brody Kalinowski, Kayson Gallant and Declan Johnston. The Vipers ended up winning the contest 4-0.

Thrashers overage netminder Klay Munro turned aside 51 of Red Deer’s 55 shots on goal. Cole Sears recorded a 15 save shutout for the Vipers, his third of the year.

The Vipers returned home Saturday night to do battle with their arch-rivals, the Blackfalds Wranglers (22-12-2) in the final game of the regular season.

The game was a testy affair from the beginning – exactly what you’d expect from a Wranglers-Vipers tilt. Midway through the opening period, rookie forward Kayson Gallant put a rebound past former Viper and Red Deer native Rylan Bardick to open the scoring. Less than a minute later Aidan Wilson streaked in on a breakaway and put Red Deer up 2-0 after the first period.

The close game continued in the second period. Just after a Wrangler power play had expired, Ryan Chambers got his second breakaway of the period; this time making good firing it past Viper goaltender Branden Bilodeau and cutting the Red Deer lead 2-1 at 11:37.

The Wranglers wouldn’t come closer than that however as just over 60 seconds later Viper forward Declan Johnston scored on a beautiful 2-on-1 pass from Sylvan Lake native Jacksyn Goodall to restore the two goal lead at 12:39.

The Vipers turned the heat way up in the third period, outshooting Blackfalds 11-3 and scoring three goals in the process. Mack Differenz scored at even strength and added a power play marker. Aidan Wilson also scored his second of the night on a man advantage as Red Deer won the game 6-1.

Brandon Bilodeau made 21 saves in the Viper crease.

The Vipers will now play wait-and-see as the HJHL first round best-of-three’s play out. The Vipers will likely play the winner of the series between the Mountainview Colts and Stettler Lightning in a best-of-five. If the Ponoka Stampeders can upset the Wranglers in their first round match-up, the Vipers will play the Stamps. The Airdrie Thunder will also enjoy a first round bye.

In the South Division, The Coaldale Copperheads and Okotoks Bisons will have byes. The defending south champion Cochrane Generals will play the Medicine Hat Cubs and the High River Flyers take on the Strathmore Wheatland Kings.

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