“The Vernon Vipers don’t rebuild. They just reload.”

Those words, said way back at the beginning of the 2010-2011 BCHL season, proved to be more than a little prophetic this past weekend as the two-time defending RBC champions qualified to attend the national Junior A championships for the third year in a row.

The Vipers, who will try to win an unprecedented third national title in as many years, earned the right to play for yet another Royal Bank Cup by beating the Spruce Grove Saints 4-2 in game seven of the Doyle Cup championship series between the B.C. and Alberta champions. It is the second year in a row that the Snakes have knocked off the Saints on the road to the RBC.

The ‘winner-take-all’ game seven showdown between the Vipers and Saints was an epic from start to finish. Tied 2-2 going into the third, it was left to team captain and hometown hero David Robinson to pounce on an errant rebound and bury the eventual game winner at 13:53 of the third period. Adam Thompson added an empty-netter with 20 seconds left to play in regulation to close out a rollercoaster of a series that saw six of the seven games decided by two goals or less.

This year’s Royal Bank Cup is slated for Camrose, Alberta from April 30 – May 8. In addition to the Vipers (who will represent B.C. and Alberta), other teams slated to compete for the national Junior A title are the host Kodiaks, the Pembroke Lumber Kings (Quebec), the Wellington Dukes (Ontario), and the Portage Terriers (Manitoba-Saskatchewan).

The Vipers’ road to the RBC this season has not been an easy one. The Snakes stumbled out of the gate last September in a big way, and found themselves in only fourth place come Thanksgiving.

Vernon losses in the early going included a 5-4 overtime defeat to the visiting Merritt Centennials and a pair of defeats to the basement-dwelling Prince George Spruce Kings.

Coach Mark Ferner’s squad managed to slither and slide their way to the top of the Interior standings by the end of February, but faltered for a while in the play-offs following a first round bye.

It took Vernon six games each time to dispose of both Westside and Salmon Arm (after falling behind two games to none versus the Silverbacks), before they finally hit their stride in the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup championship series.

The Vipers defied all the odds-makers, and disposed of the league’s regular season champions, the Powell River Kings, in four straight games.

Vernon’s victory over Spruce Grove was equally surprising. The Saints were the number one ranked Junior A team in Canada for most of the season, the owners of an impressive 50-6-0-4 regular-season record, and losers of just two games in regulation time on home ice all season.

The Vipers head to the RBC already winners of more national titles (six) than any other Junior A team in Canadian history, the only team to have won back-to-back titles twice, and the first team to even have a chance to win three times in succession.