(This article was originally published on May. 27, 2020)
The 2009-10 season was a memorable year for the Vernon Vipers organization and its fans. The Vipers were coming off a championship season in 2009 that saw the team win its fifth national title. Heading into the 2010 playoffs, Vernon was looking for its sixth junior A championship. This is a look back at the playoff run, all the way to the unprecedented sixth RBC Cup.
The Vipers had a bye into the second round as they were the top team in the division. They had a league-leading 105 points and a 60 win season. They were lead in scoring by Connor Jones with 81 points and in net by the dynamic goaltending duo of Graeme Gordon and Blake Voth. Voth had a league-best 1.79 goals-against-average and a league-best .929 save percentage.
The Vipers opened their playoffs with a second-round quarterfinal matchup versus the Quesnel Millionaires.
Quesnel came in as the fifth-best team in the Interior Division with a 22-32-0-6 record in the regular season. The Mills played the fourth seed Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the first round of the playoffs and upset them in six games.
The Vipers and Millionaires opened the series in Vernon, with the Vipers winning 6-2 and taking a 1-0 series lead. Quesnel tied up the series in game two, winning 4-2. The series shifted to Quesnel for games three and four.
Vernon took a 2-1 series lead by doubling the Millionaires 8-4 in the third game. Game four saw the back and forth continue with Quesnel winning 3-1. Game five was back in Vernon and the Vipers won 4-0. Going into game six, Quesnel looked to get back on the scoresheet and avoid elimination on home ice. They lost 5-0 and Vernon won the series 4-2. Vernon’s next matchup was against the Penticton Vees.
The matchup between Pentiction and Vernon was between the top two teams in the league. Nothing separated the Vipers and Vees going in as they both won three games apiece in the season series.
Penticton played the sixth-ranked Merritt Centennials in the first round of the playoffs. It was an easy series for the Vees as they swept the Centennials 4-0. Pentiction only allowed five goals over those four games. The Vees’ second-round opponent was the Westside Warriors and Pentiction won that series 4-2.
The semifinal series began in Vernon with the Vipers taking a 1-0 series lead by virtue of a 6-0 win. Game two also went to Vernon with a 3-2 overtime win and a 2-0 series lead.
Vernon took a commanding 3-1 series lead after both teams traded shutouts in games three and four respectively. Penticton needed to win game five or the Vees season was over. It took triple overtime, but Penticton stayed alive with a 3-2 win. However, Vernon won game six to eliminate the Vees and send the Vipers to the Fred Page Cup.
Vernon was into the Fred Page Cup final series versus the Powell River Kings. The Kings were the second seed in the Coastal Conference heading into the playoffs. They beat the Cowichan Valley Capitals 4-1 in the opening round and then made quick work of the Langley Chiefs by sweeping them in the second round.
This set up a matchup with the number one seed Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the Coastal Conference championship. It was a hard-fought series, with the Kings coming out on top in seven games to send Powell River to the Fred Page Cup final.
The final series was back and forth through the first four games, and both the Vipers and Kings had a hard time finding an edge. Heading into game five, the series was even at two games apiece. Vernon won game five to set up the first elimination game of the series, but Powell River took game six. The Vipers were victorious in game seven on home ice and were off to the Doyle Cup BC-Alberta championship series.
The Doyle Cup is a seven game series between the BCHL champions and the Alberta Junior Hockey League champions to determine who would advance from the Pacific region to the RBC Cup, which was in Dauphin, Manitoba that year. Vernon played the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints for the Doyle Cup.
The series was back and forth in Spruce Grove with Vernon taking a 2-1 series lead and two of the games needing overtime to determine a winner. They played the remaining four games in Vernon, where the Vipers built a 3-1 series lead before the Saints stormed back to tie it 3-3.
Game seven was needed to determine who would be going to the RBC Cup. In the end, Vernon scored four goals in the first period en route to a 7-3 win over Spruce Grove to win the Doyle Cup and punch the Vipers ticket to the RBC Cup.
Vernon went to Dauphin as one of the favourites to win the national championship. Vernon’s first preliminary game was against the host Kings, who most people thought would be the two teams in the final game. Vernon had a lead throughout the game and Dauphin kept clawing back. The Kings sent the game to overtime and won 6-5.
Vernon’s next round-robin game was against the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League the Vipers were victorious 4-2. They next played the Oakville Blades and posted a 5-3 win to improve to 2-0-1 in the tournament. Vernon’s final round-robin game was a 4-2 victory against the Brockville Braves.
Vernon finished the round-robin with a 3-1 record which was good enough to put the Vipers right into the semifinals, just one win from playing for the RBC title. The Snakes played the same Brockville team in the semis they had beaten in the round-robin. The score was tied 0-0 for the majority of the game before Connor Jones notched a goal to make it 1-0. He later assisted on the goal that sent Vernon to the RBC Cup Final game and a rematch against the host Kings.
The championship game took place in a packed arena in Dauphin as the Kings were looking to become the seventh host team to win the RBC Cup since the five-team format began in 1990. The Vipers were trying to repeat as champions for the first time since 1991 and win a record sixth national title.
The game was really no contest as Vernon had a 1-0 lead in the second before scoring three goals in 48 seconds to take a commanding 4-0 lead. The Vipers didn’t stop there and the final score was 8-1. It gave the Snakes their sixth national title in franchise history and solidified the franchise as one of the greatest in Canada.
What happened next
A year after the Vipers won, they were back in the 2011 RBC Cup tournament and looking to become the first team ever to win three titles in a row. Vernon played the Pembroke Lumber Kings in the final and lost 2-0.
In 2014, Vernon was back in the RBC Cup tournament, this time as the hosts. They made it to a semifinal game and lost to the Yorkton Terriers.
They’ve also made two trips to the BCHL final series during the last ten years. In 2014, the Vipers played the Coquitlam Express and lost in four games. It was the same story last year when they played the Prince George Spruce Kings and lost four straight.