The Penticton Vees shaded the Vernon Vipers 4-3 in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,950 fans Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
Patrick Newell, Mitch Newsome, Cody DePourcq and Lewis Zerter-Gossage supplied goals for the Vees, who have won all four meetings with Vernon this season.
Texan Thomas Aldworth pulled the hat trick for the Vipers, his last tally coming with goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn on the bench for a sixth attacker, with 30 seconds to play.
Aldworth netted his 15th snipe of the season 6:23 into the game, triggering an onset of more than 400 hundred stuffies on the annual charity Teddy Bear Toss Night. A lack of volunteers on hand to retrieve the toys caused a 10-minute delay. Aldworth was the beneficiary of a wild rebound after TJ Dumonceaux’s shot went high off goalie Hunter Miska to the left hash mark.
Newell equalized with 1:44 remaining in the first period when rookie d-man Mitchell Oliver stick handled through his own crease, forcing a shocked Schamerhorn to make a save. Newell buried the rebound on the goal-line for an early Christmas gift.
Newsome and DePourcq rang up goals in 85 seconds midway through the second period to put Penticton up 3-1. Newsome went blocker side from the right after d-man Patrick Sexton made a smart play using his knee to keep the puck inside the zone before dishing a gorgeous pass.
DePourcq, playing a historic 200th BCHL game, all with the Vees, completed a bang-bang play with blueliner Dante Fabbro. Chicago Blackhawk draft Jack Ramsey earned the secondary assist. DePourcq, a 20-goal scorer last year, has seven on the season.
“He’s fun to coach,” said Fred Harbinson of the Vees. “He’s a great kid. The frustrations of coaching a lot of times is trying to motivate guys and trying to get guys going and you never have to motivate that kid. Every day he comes with a smile on his face to the rink and wants to work and his work ethic is as high it goes. It’s been a pleasure coaching him.”
The 5-foot-5, 160-pound dynamo has probably faced the Vipers close to 40 times since breaking in with the Vees as a 16-year-old.
“It’s special and unique to play that many games in this league,” smiled DePourcq. “It’s a tough league and I’ve been fortunate to not have many injuries throughout my career, and play with so many great players and teams over the last three years. I love playing against Vernon. We bring out the best in one another and the games are always a lot of fun.”
DePourcq, who is eligble for a fifth season next year, quickly listed his most memorable game but couldn’t remember who it was against.
“The Royal Bank Cup (final),” he beamed. “Just watching the seconds tick down on the clock was a great feeling. I’m not even sure who we played.”
The Vees clipped the Woodstock Slammers of Ontario 4-3 in the 2011 RBC championship in Humboldt, Sask. DePourcq’s father, John, won a national title with the Penticton Knights in 1986.
Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson, noting that DePourcq was talking to a fan in the hallway rather than heading upstairs for a run, joked: “So, you play your 200th game, you don’t have to do the cool down?”
Aldworth pulled the Snakes within a goal with a minute left in the same period, 58 seconds into a Connor Chartier roughing minor.
The Vees restored a two-goal cushion at 8:30 of the third when Zerter-Gossage buried a high wrister from the ringette line. It was the first goal in nine games for the high-scoring Montreal product.
“We matched their tempo most of the game,” said Aldworth. “They took it to us and outworked us in the second period and in order to beat these guys, we have to outwork them for 60 minutes and we just haven’t been able to that.”
Penticton outshot Vernon 36-30 and moved to 25-4-0-1 atop the Interior Division. Vernon is second, 16 points back at 16-8-1-2.
The West Kelowna Warriors, who lost 3-0 to the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks, are third, two points back of the Vipers.
Vernon faces the Smoke Eaters in Trail, while Penticton entertains the Powell River Kings in Saturday night action.
The Vipers showed a special tribute to former head scout Larry Black, who lost a year-long battle with cancer last Sunday. He was 66.