Their leading goal scorer didn’t get on the scoresheet. Their MVP earned one measly assist.
It was all fun and games Friday night as the Vernon Vipers torched the Trail Smoke Eaters 11-3 before a season-high 2,689 B.C. Hockey League fans at Kal Tire Place.
Rookie Jagger Williamson pocketed 2+3 and received the team’s Most Improved Player trophy in an on-ice awards ceremony following the Vipers’ final regular-season home tilt.
Thomas Aldworth, who has 36 snipes, and linemate TJ Dumonceaux – named MVP – didn’t have to do much as the Vipers showed their extreme depth against the last-place Smokies.
It was 3-3 when Jake Lucchini fired his second of the game and 33rd of the season for the Smokies at 7:56 of the second period, going top shelf on Jarrod Schamerhorn.
The Vipers then reeled off eight unanswered goals, including the winner by Williamson with 90 seconds left in the middle frame.
Williamson and fellow freshman Blaine Caton supplied snipes 31 seconds apart early in the third and the Vipers kept pressing, getting powerplay goals from Linden Hora, Michael Roberts and Colton McCarthy.
The fans went bonkers as Hora’s top-cheese snipe was announced. It was the popular rookie’s first goal, in his 50th game of the season. The Viper coaches put Hora on the top line with Dumonceaux and Aldworth, and had a designed play from practice to get him off the snide.
Anthony Latina fed a wide-open Hora in the low slot and he found nothing but net.
“It felt really good, getting the monkey off my back.,” said Hora, 18. “He (head coach Mark Ferner) just pretty much told me to stand in front of the net and just shoot.”
Said Viper captain Riley Guenther on Hora’s marker: “It was awesome. They were working on it in morning skate, talking to him before the game, just trying to get him excited so he could get his first one and it happened. That actually wasn’t the play. We had a five-on-three there. We set him up in the slot, Lats found him and he put it home. That’s a big one for him.”
Latina, with 2+2, McCarthy with 2+1, Riley Brandt and d-man Brandon Egli completed the attack as the Vipers stretched their win streak to five games. Vernon outshot the last-place Smokies 50-23 with rookie goalie Brett Clark having little chance on most Viper goals.
Vernon product Harlan Orr registered his 17th of the season for the Smokies just 72 seconds after Latina had given the Snakes a 1-0 lead 2:09 after the anthem.
McCarthy reached the 10-goal plateau with a pair of beauties in the third period. He redirected a slap pass from Brandt in front of the Smokie net, three minutes after a sweet coast-to-coast rush and deke on Clark’s doorstep.
Vernon improved to 36-16-1-3, 35 points in front of the Smokies, who had 10 just 10 forwards due to injuries and suspension.
The Snakes visited the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday night and battle the first-place Vees next Friday night in Penticton to close the regular season. Vernon has clinched second place and will tangle with either Salmon Arm, West Kelowna Warriors or Merritt Centennials in the Division semifinal series.
Vernon product Colton Thibault scored once as Salmon Arm held off the visiting Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-3, while Penticton iced the Cents 4-1 and West Kelowna stopped the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-3.
The Silverbacks, Cents and Warriors all had 60 points as of Saturday morning as they chase the fourth and final Interior playoff berth.
Dumonceaux, a 20-year-old Kelowna product, has 26 goals and 45 points in his third year with the Vipers. He also received the Wayne Buck Memorial award.
“I was surprised (winning MVP), but I’m happy with it for sure. It’s a big difference from last year and I hope we can keep it rolling for playoffs.”
Veteran goalie Danny Todoyschuk, who won the Community Service Award and the Blueliners Scholarship, loved the MVP selection.
“That would have been my pick too if they asked me,” said Todoyschuk. “He works his bag off on and off the ice and he’s a leader on and off the ice. He works hard every night, banging bodies and scoring goals so it was an easy choice.”
Guenther also liked the pick.
“He’s a huge part of our team, on and off the ice. He’s a great guy, he leads by example, works hard everyday in practice and in the gym. I can’t say enough about the steps he’s taken this year from last year have been huge.”
Ontario’s Luke Shiplo was named the Top Defenceman. He has 5-37-42.
“I’m his roommate and he’s just a great guy,” said Guenther, chosen Unsung Hero. “He came in here and really helped out our powerplay. He’s a great puck mover, moves his feet and really jumps into the play. He really rounds out our dee.”
Dynamo forward Liam Finlay took the Top Rookie trophy, while Brandt was Fan Favourite, Aldworth Most Sportsmanlike and d-man Mitchell Oliver Scholastic Player of the Year.