Viper fans go bonkers after Niko Karamanis scores overtime winner Wednesday night at the Shaw Centre (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Vipers ready to go Wild

Vernon meets Wenatchee in Round 2 of BCHL playoffs

And on the 50th shot, the Vernon Vipers advanced.

Niko Karamanis scored on a powerplay, at 3:23 of overtime, on the team’s 50th shot on goalie Kyle Dumba to give the Vipers a 1-0 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks before 686 fans at the Shaw Centre Wednesday night. Karamanis walked out from the left wing corner and slid a shot five-hole on Dumba for his second of the playoffs.

Vernon swept the best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Division quarterfinal and will face the Wenatchee Wild in Round 2 starting Friday, March 16 at Kal Tire Place. The Wild dispatched the Merritt Centennials 4-1 Wednesday to take that series 4-0.

Vernon and Wenatchee split the regular-season series with each team posting three home-ice wins. The Vipers outscored the Wild 17-12.

“We had six entertaining games with Wenatchee so it should be a fun series for the fans,” said Viper head coach Mark Ferner. “They’re a hell of a team, the highest-scoring team in the league. If you let them go, they will roll.”

The Vipers and Wild are negotiating the series schedule, but Game 2 will likely be here Saturday, March 17 with Games 3 and 4 in Washington State on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

The regular-season champion Penticton Vees shaded the Coquitlam Express 2-1 to win in four games. The Vees meet the Trail Smoke Eaters in Round 2. The Smokies stuffed the West Kelowna Warriors 6-3 Tuesday night to capture their series in straight games.

It was a seriously tense match in the Shuswap that bled into overtime after 60 minutes of regulation play. Fans of both teams were on the edge of their seats by the end, gasping at every dramatic play and show of finesse.

The first period ended with 14 shots on goal for Vernon and nine for Salmon Arm. Both teams made a few strong plays during the first, poking for holes in the opponents’ defence. Vernon made a few attempts to land snipes from inside the zone and Salmon Arm’s Rhett Kingston just barely missed out on a breakaway attempt.

Things started getting a little more fired-up in the second, a penalty-heavy period that saw aggressive play from both teams. If the first period was about calmly probing the opponent for weakness, the second was about trying to smash through that weak point with a battering ram. Some big hits rocked the boards and echoed through the arena as possession of the puck was desperately sought across a nail-biting 20 minutes of play.

The Silverbacks nearly broke the deadlock as Noah Wakeford failed to convert on a rebound from the right circle. The Vipers had a pair of chances as well as Brett Stapley connected with a crossbar. Shots on goal by the end were 13-9 Vernon.

In the third period, both teams were hit hard by penalties early on, with the Silverbacks losing MVP Kingston for much of the period through a misconduct penalty. Vernon d-man Jack Judson also took a five-minute major penalty for a head hit at 3:45 on the smaller Tanner Campbell. There was no original call on what Ferner termed a good hit, but a linesman assessed the major after a discussion amongst all four officials.

Ferner is appealing the automatic four-game suspension to Judson, who had zero penalty minutes going into Game 4.

Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 14-13. The Silverbacks came within inches of a goal at least twice during the period, sending the crowd into an uproar several times as the puck dinged off the post or was narrowly deflected by Vipers’ goalie Ty Taylor.

Nick Unruh of the Gorillas took a slashing minor with three seconds left in regulation.

Dumba was named first star with a 49-save performance in net during the match. Taylor made 31 saves for the shutout and second star.

Josh Arnold, Lucas Sowder, Jasper Weatherby and Matt Dorsey supplied snipes as Wenatchee disposed of the Cents before 550 fans at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. Chase Bell countered for the Cents.

In Game 3, Dumba was greeted by Vipers sniper Derek Brown, who scored his third of the series 12 seconds after the national anthem, and added his fourth at 18:35 to give Vernon a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

“Brownie is on fire,” said Viper captain and first star Jagger Williamson (1+2). “It was a broken-down play and we know Dumba likes to go down so he shot it up high. I just heard it go in. We brought him (Brown) in to score goals and he’s doing the job. He has a great release and he loves to score goals. The talk around the room is ‘Get the puck to (No. 9) niner.’”

The Vipers acquired Brown in a trade with the Alberta League Bonnyville Pontiacs in early January. Brown anchored Bonnyville’s top line with Brandon Whistle, who the Vipers traded for in early November and then dealt to the Silverbacks after Christmas for Josh Latta. Brown compiled 63 goals in 141 games with the Pontiacs and rang up 11 snipes in 16 games with Vernon. Brown, Jordan Sandhu, who had one assist Tuesday night, and Latta have produced 16 points in the series.

“I’m not surprised at all what he’s doing out there,” said Whistle, of Brown. “I played with him for two-plus years and it’s really weird seeing it from the other end. He’s dominating. I told our goalies he shoots top glove, short side. On fifty per cent of his goals, he beats the d-man wide and then goes high. He did that twice last (Tuesday) night.”

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