The Kensington Vipers now have an opportunity to win the franchise’s third Don Johnson Memorial Cup.
The Vipers, who won Atlantic junior B hockey championships in 2011 and 2013, scored four unanswered goals in the final 10:32 of regulation time en route to a 6-3 victory over New Brunswick’s Moncton Vitos in a semifinal game at the 2019 Don Johnson Memorial Cup on Saturday afternoon.
“I don’t really have the words to describe the resolve of the team this week,” said Vipers head coach Wade Waddell, whose team went 2-2 (won-lost) in the five-team round robin. “I have been at this a long time and I don’t know after (Saturday) if there has ever been a team I’ve been prouder of.
“We’ve won a lot of championships, but I’ve never been as proud behind the bench as I was today. We were down, we weren’t playing our game and up in the dressing room between periods we had a quiet confidence. There was no roaring and yelling, certain guys said certain things and I don’t really have words for today. It was special.”
The Island Junior Hockey League-champion Western Red Wings will oppose the Vipers in the final at Credit Union Centre in Kensington on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Red Wings edged the Sackville Blazers from Nova Scotia 1-0 in overtime in a semifinal game Saturday night.
“We are going to enjoy this for about the next hour or so up in the room and then we are going to flip the switch and be ready for either Sackville or Western (on Sunday),” said Waddell. “We are looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Logan Vandervelden banged home a rebound to tie the game 3-3 at 9:28 of the third period and Garrett Murray’s power-play goal at 12:43 gave the Vipers their first lead of the game.
“CJ (McCardle) made a great play off the wall and fed it up to Ryan (McKenna),” said Kensington defenceman and captain Parker Ronahan, who made a perfect pass from the left-wing corner right on Murray’s stick on the edge of the goal crease. “Garrett had his stick on the ice and luckily enough it went through and he banged it in.”
Dylan Wheatley added an insurance goal at 14:32 and Ronahan added an empty net goal at 18:49.
Vitos strike first
Things did not look promising for the Vipers early as the Vitos, who were playing their third game in just over 24 hours, jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period.
“Our game plan didn’t change (despite the early deficit),” said Ronahan, who was selected a tournament all-star. “We knew we are a good hockey team and I said to the boys, ‘Good teams find ways to win and we found a way to win.”
Kensington rallied to tie the game in the second period, but a late goal by Johnny Chambers sent the Vitos into the second intermission ahead 3-2 in a very chippy game that was not lacking emotion.
Murray, with his first of two goals in the game, and Ryan Richards also scored for the Vipers. Vandervelden (2), Ronahan, CJ McCardle, Jonathan Arsenault and Ryan McKenna added assists.
Patrik Landry and Jeremy LeBlanc also found the back of the net for the Vitos. Brock McEwen, Greg Stoyles, Joseph Theriault and Samuel Bastille were credited with assists.
Winning goaltender Caleb Coyle, who provided some timely saves with the Vipers down a goal that prevented Moncton from extending its lead, stopped 24 of 27 shots. Julian Landry made 37 stops on 42 shots for the Vitos.