Vipers take 2-0 series lead

The Vernon Vipers hold a 2-0 lead on the Trail Smoke Eaters in their BCHL Interior series.

The Vernon Vipers couldn’t get any ice time in Trail today due to the B.C. Pee Wee Tier 2 Hockey Championships at Cominco Arena.

Instead, the Snakes went for breakfast, chilled in their hotel rooms and headed out for a team walk.

They bussed to the Kootenays Sunday to prepare for tonight’s Game 3 in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division best-of-seven semifinal series. Vernon won 5-2 before 1,945 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place to take a 2-0 series lead.

“We played OK,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner. “The game was closer than the score indicates since we got an empty-netter.”

It was scoreless until 15:27 of the first period when Niko Karamanis scored to put the Vipers up 1-0.

Brett Stapley converted just 27 seconds into the middle stanza to make it 2-0, while first star Jagger Williamson clicked at 14:35 give Vernon a 3-0 margin.

The Smokies connected on a power play at 17:56 when Luke Santerno sniped his fifth of the playoffs, assisted by Connor Brown Maloski and Carter Cochrane. The goal came just 27 seconds into Steven Jandric’s minor penalty for roughing.

Less than a minute later, Jandric responded with an unassisted tally.

Trying to mount a comeback the Smokies scored at 12:57 of the third when Brown Maloski supplied his seventh of the post-season with assists going to Santerno and Andre Ghantous. Trail pulled goaltender Linden Marshall for an extra attacker and were pressuring the Vipers when Williamson broke away and hit the empty net with 54 seconds remaining.

Karamanis had 1+1 and took second star, while Santerno was third star with 1+1.

“We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to get a win in Vernon but you have to move past it and take care of your home ice,” said Smoke Eater head coach Cam Keith. “It’s the old saying, ‘A series doesn’t start until you lose on home ice,’ so we’re sticking to that model right now, that we take care of our home ice and get back in the series.”

“They’re both question marks for tonight (Monday),” said Keith. “I don’t know how serious, but I guess in playoffs if you’re not playing it’s pretty bad.”

Jandric and Jimmy Lambert of the Vipers and Spencer McLean and Ryan Warner of the Smokies all received misconducts at 12:37 of the third period.’

“Emotions got ramped up a bit, but that’s to be expected,” said Ferner. “It’s playoffs.”

Smokies’ all-star forward Josh Lamframboise collided with Lambert on a Trail powerplay in the second period and didn’t return for the remainder of the game. Kale Howarth, who patrols centre on Trail’s highly productive line with Lambramboise and Santerno, was also injured in Game 2.

“They’re both question marks for tonight (Monday),” said Keith. “I don’t know how serious, but I guess in playoffs if you’re not playing it’s pretty bad.”

Trail’s human spark plug Corbyn Chabot should be back in the lineup tonight with APs Justen Berger and Brandon Costa pencilled in to replace Trail’s growing injury list with Ryan Moon, Howarth and Laframboise out of action.

“It’s a process of momentum, and one game can change it so we’re just focusing on tonight and trying to get the momentum back,” said Keith. “I like the game-plan from Game 2; we created some more offence that way and we just have to have to find ways to get bodies in front so we take his eyes away, more traffic and try to deflate their opportunities.”

The Smoke Eaters look forward to its secret weapon, the home-ice support, which was clutch as Trail disposed of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4-1 in round 1.

“That’s the biggest x-factor is the big crowd and getting the energy going,” said Keith. “The kids feed off that.”

Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Trail. A Game 5, if required, would go Thursday night in Vernon.

In other action, the Penticton Vees grounded the Merritt Centennials 4-1 in front of 2,837 fans Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre to take a 2-0 series lead.

Jamie Armstrong, Duncan Campbell, Taylor Ward and Owen Sillinger scored for Penticton, while Stephan Seeger answered for Merritt.

There were four minor penalties called, all in the third period.

The Chilliwack Chiefs stopped the host Wenatchee Wild 4-1 before 3,712 supporters at the Town Toyota Center to grab a 2-0 series lead.

Jake Smith sparked Chilliwack with 1+2, while Will Calverley and Linden Hora added singles. Slava Demin replied for Wenatchee, who won the regular-season banner. The next three games are scheduled for Chilliwack.

Veteran Cole Pickup pocketed a deuce as the Victoria Grizzlies shut down the visiting Powell River Kings 4-0 before 950 fans at the Q Centre. The series is square at 1-1.