The Spruce Grove Saints used three powerplay goals to ground the Vernon Vipers 5-2 before 1,259 fans Sunday night at the Wesbild Centre.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League champion Saints take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven regional Doyle Cup playoff series, going back to Grant Fuhr Arena for Game 4 Wednesday night. The rest of the series will be held in Spruce Grove.
The series winner advances to the national Royal Bank Cup, April 30-May 8, in Camrose, Alta.
The Saints opened the scoring on the powerplay at 14:45 of the first period when Scott Allen beat Viper goalie Kirby Halcrow with a wrister along the ice from the high slot one minute into a David Robinson penalty. Defencemen Dustin Fostvelt and Corey Cherneyko drew assists after some rapid puck movement.
The Vipers pulled even five minutes later when David Robinson converted a corner feed from Bryce Kakoske which bounced off d-man Jesse Slobodian’s stick right to a wide open Robinson.
Allen, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound winger, literally drove the net and mowed over Halcrow as he drove from the corner and stuffed the puck under Halcrow to put Spruce Grove up 2-1 at 3:41 of the second period.
The Saints clicked twice on an early third-period powerplay after Vernon’s Aaron Hadley was assessed a double minor for high sticking Slobodian in the Spruce Grove corner.
Josh Koper beat Halcrow with a high wrister from the low slot 14 seconds into the powerplay, while Josh Keizer scored 36 seconds later, with all kinds of time from the left side of the wide open net. Chorneyko and Fostvelt drew assists.
The Vipers pulled to within two when Dane Muench, facing backwards, buried a backhander from six feet out at 9:42.
Vernon pressed hard for the equalizer with d-man Malcolm Lyles enjoying the best chance. Roper hit an empty netter with 87 seconds remaining.
The Vipers outshot the Saints 25-18 with Vince Marozzi earning the win.