DAUPHIN, Man. – The Jones brothers are back together, and the Vernon Vipers are going back to the championship game at the RBC Cup.
Connor Jones, making his first appearance of the tournament, scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period and set up his twin brother Kellen for the insurance marker six minutes later as the Vipers blanked the Brockville Braves 2-0 to advance to Sunday’s final.
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The win means the Vipers will have the opportunity to become the first team to win back-to-back National Junior A Championships since Vernon, known then as the Lakers, claimed national crowns in 1990 and 1991.
Vernon carried the play for much of the opening 40 minutes, outshooting the Braves – including 15-5 in the second period – but Brockville goaltender Justin Gilbert lived up to the Top Goaltender honours he received on Friday night, making a number of spectacular saves to keep the game scoreless after two.
The Vipers continued to apply the pressure to start the third, and were rewarded when Connor, who missed the round robin with an undisclosed injury, took a pass from Kellen, undressed a Brockville defender with an inside-out move and slid the puck through the five-hole of Gilbert to finally break the ice.
Six minutes later the brothers broke in on a two-on-one, and this time it was Connor setting up Kellen, who one-timed a shot off the post and past a surprised Gilbert to double the Vernon lead and all but seal the victory.
Graeme Gordon made 20 saves in the Vernon goal for the shutout, the first of this year’s RBC Cup.
The Vipers will await the result of Saturday’s late semifinal between Dauphin and La Ronge to find out who they will play in Sunday’s championship game (2 p.m. CT, TSN2).
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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