Rookie Jagger Williamson pocketed 2+3 as the Vernon Vipers torched the Trail Smoke Eaters 11-3 Friday night before a season-high 2,689 B.C. Hockey League fans at Kal Tire Place.
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 17-year-old rookie’s first goal, in his 50th game of the season. The Viper coaches put Hora on the top line with TJ Dumonceaux and Thomas Aldworth, and had a designed play from practice to get him off the snide.
Anthony 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 Riley 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 visit 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 also have 60 points as they chase the fourth and final Interior playoff berth.