DAUPHIN, Man. – The winners, and still national Junior A champions, the Vernon Vipers.
Dylan Walchuk, Kellen Jones and Cole Ikkala scored goals in a span of 48 seconds early in the second period, turning a 1-0 Vernon lead into a 4-0 advantage as the Vipers earned their record sixth national title, and second in a row, with an 8-1 rout of the Dauphin Kings on Sunday afternoon.
Vernon added the 2010 crown to titles won in 1990, 1991, 1996, 1999 and 2009, putting it two ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders (1977, 1979, 1981, 1982), who are the only other team to win at least four. It also become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Vernon Lakers in 1990 and 1991.
The first period was all Vipers, as they peppered Kings netminder Joe Caligiuri with 16 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but the only goal they could muster came off the stick of Cory Kane, who snapped a shot past the glove of Caligiuri at 14:28.
The tournament hosts tried valiantly to tie the game early in the second period, but both Steven Shamanski and Shane Luke were turned away point-blank by Vernon goaltender Graeme Gordon, who stood tall when it mattered – allowing only one goal in two playoff-round games.
Walchuk got the three-goal spurt started at 6:28, beating Caligiuri off the left wing on a two-on-one, Jones made it 3-0 at 7:07, batting a puck out of mid-air, and Ikkala pushed the lead to four at 7:16, scoring on another two-on-one, this time off the right wing.
Bryce Lamb ended Gordon’s bid for his second consecutive shutout with a power play goal midway through the middle frame, but Patrick McGillis tapped home a Walchuk rebound before the horn sounded to restore Vernon’s four-goal lead after 40 minutes.
With the result all but decided, the Vipers added three more in the third period – Sahir Gill made it 6-1 before Jones and Garrett Noonan rounded out the scoring with power play goals in the final six-and-a-half minutes.
The Vipers will try to become the first team ever to win three consecutive National Junior A Championships at the 2011 RBC Cup, which will be held next May in Camrose, Alta.
(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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