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Junior hockey: Vipers blank Wild to take 3-1 series lead

The Vernon Vipers celebrate after defeating the Wenatchee Wild in Game 4 of the Interior Conference final on Wednesday night. Global News

The Vernon Vipers are now one win away from advancing to the BCHL championship.

Aidan Porter had a perfect outing between the pipes on Wednesday evening, as Vernon blanked Wenatchee 3-0. The Vipers now lead the Interior Conference final 3-1, with Game 5 set for Friday evening in Wenatchee.

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“I thought the team got off to really good start, which is always really important in a game like this,” Porter said after his 16-save effort.

Porter added “you don’t really get the shutout without great defence, and that’s what we had tonight.”

Matt Kowalski, Connor Marritt and Josh Latta scored for Vernon, which led 1-0 and 2-0 at the period breaks. Kowalski made it 1-0 at 8:10, with Marritt making it 2-0 at 8:24 of the second on the power play. Latta closed out the scoring at 19:52 of the third into an empty net.

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Austin Park stopped 22 shots for Wenatchee, which was outshot 25-16.

The Wild were 0-for-2 on the power play while the Vipers were 1-for-3. The attendance was 2,190.

While Vernon is up 3-1 and only needs one win to eliminate Wenatchee, the Vipers are predicting a tough Game 5. Game time is 7 p.m.

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“They are a heck of a team and they are not going to roll over,” Vipers head coach Mark Ferner said of the defending league champions. “It’s a tough building to win in.”

“We always know the fourth win is the toughest to get, so it’s going to be a battle,” said Porter. “But we are feeling confident and we want to put them away as soon as possible.”

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The series winner will play the Prince George Spruce Kings in the league final. Prince George swept Victoria 4-0 in the Coastal Conference final.

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Last season, Wenatchee beat Prince George 4-1 in the league final.

The last time Vernon played in the league final was 2014, when the Vipers were swept by Coquitlam. But from 2009-11, Vernon won the Fred Page Cup for three consecutive seasons, each time defeating Powell River in the league final.

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