Vernon Vipers
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Mitch Van Teeling of the Vernon Vipers tries to tie up Sam Mellor of the Penticton Vees in B.C. Hockey League action Saturday night at Wesbild Centre. Penticton won 3-1 to salvage a home-and-home split.
Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star

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Vees collect split with 3-1 win

Graeme Corbett

Morning Star Staff

Plenty of chirping, a decent scrap, emotions red-lining and a playoff vibe – the second leg of a home-and-home set between the Vernon Vipers and Penticton Vees had it all Saturday night.

After dropping the opening B.C. Hockey League tilt the night before, the Vees rebounded with a workmanlike effort to secure a split with a 3-1 win in front of 2,000 fans at Wesbild Centre.

The result puts Penticton (17-7-0-2) back into a two-way tie for first overall with the Chilliwack Chiefs (17-6-1-1). Vernon is fifth in the Interior at 9-10-0-6.

“Both games were playoff-style hockey games,” said Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson. “You’ve got to give Vernon credit – they came into our building and found a way to win. I give our guys credit for finding a way to win in another tough place in the BCHL.”

With Viper newcomer Liam Board serving a hooking minor, the Vees’ Sam Mellor (7th goal) fired the winner on a late first-period powerplay.

“It was just a knuckle puck from the point and it found a way in,” said Mellor, named first star. “I was pretty pumped about it.

“We thought we deserved the win (Friday). We thought we outplayed them a little, so it was good to come back here and rebound.”

Mellor left the NCAA Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves after one season to return to Junior A. He has since recommitted to the Western Michigan Broncos.

The former Trail Smoke Eater credited Penticton’s line of Cody Depourcq, Travis Blanleil and Cam Amantea for hounding Vernon’s No. 1 unit – Pearce Eviston, Adam Tambellini and Logan Mick – all weekend.

Eviston must have noticed their presence too, as he gave Depourcq a face full of mitt right in front on the Penticton bench behind the play.

“You go at it a few times with them and the emotions are pretty high there,” said the 20-year-old Vancouver product.

“You start to despise the guys on the other team when you play two games in a row.”

Depourcq’s unit generated the Vees’ first goal as Amantea (3rd) used a slick top-shelf finish over Austin Smith’s glove after Tambellini (18th) had given Vernon the lead on the Vipers’ first and only man advantage of the game.

Penticton defender Sean Flanagan showed great hands and patience to find Amantea in the slot.

Tambellini’s goal came midway through the first period when his quick release from the top of the right circle deflected off a shin pad to beat Chad Katunar (28 saves).

Katunar had denied Tambellini on a backhand from in close in the opening minute.

“We got a couple big saves early in the game and it was a good push back after we gave up that powerplay goal,” said Harbinson.

“We talked about putting the puck in areas we could get to it first and we did a better job on our forecheck tonight than (Friday). We were pretty efficient tonight.”

The Vees sealed the win with Brad McClure’s 15th of the season. The Stratford, Ont. native took a drop pass from Mellor and beat Smith (29 saves) blocker side with four minutes to play.


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“We had a few breakdowns on the third goal,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Dave Robinson. “A few guys were trying to leave the zone (after the faceoff).”

Robinson liked the Vipers’ overall effort but said they needed to do more to stifle Penticton’s talent.

“We have to take the game to them because they’re so skilled,” he said. “They’ve got team speed and they’ll take advantage of you if you’re sitting back.

“Even though we lost tonight, I think it’s a confidence booster. First-place team and we go in there and take two points from them. It’s definitely something to build off.”

Brendan Persley and James De Haas dropped the mitts in a spirited bout late in the second frame. Persley opened with a couple of hard rights to the button, but De Hass came right back with a flurry of his own to earn a draw.

Vernon opens another home-and-home with the West Kelowna Warriors (10-7-1-6) Friday night at Royal LePage Place. Rylan Ferster’s squad visits Wesbild Saturday.

SNAKE BITES: The Vipers are 6-3-0-1 in their last 10 games. The Warriors are 2-5-1-2...Just four points separate sixth place (Trail, 23) and third (West Kelowna, 27)...Vernon’s powerplay has steadily risen in recent weeks and is now 10th in the league at 18.75 per cent. Penticton’s is third-last at 17.09 per cent...Former Viper Steven Weinstein, now with the NCAA Bentley Falcons, is Player of the Week in the Atlantic Hockey Association. Weinstein had a goal and three assists as Bentley split a pair of games against Mercyhurst. The Los Angeles native had all three helpers in Saturday’s 5-1 Falcons win. He now leads all NCAA  d-men with 14 points.



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