Morning Star Staff
The Vernon Vipers iced the Prince George Spruce Kings 6-3 Wednesday night and then rode the iron lung into Kal Tire Place at 6:30 a.m.
They now get five days to recover from bus legs, happy in knowing they are closer to securing the fourth and final playoff spot in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division.
Christian Cakebread returned to the lineup after a few weeks on injured reserve and joined Ben Butcher in recording two goals before 750 fans at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (formerly known as the Coliseum).
“We did we wanted to and that was get two points which we needed after Trail beat Salmon Arm the other night,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus.
The Vipers have 47 points with nine games remaining, while the Smoke Eaters have 42 points with eight games left. Vernon visits the last-place Merritt Centennials Tuesday.
Vernon has four home contests, including one against the last overall Surrey Eagles. Trail has six home tilts, including a Feb. 27 date with the Vipers to close the regular season.
The Vipers dialed up three unanswered goals in the third period to officially eliminate the Spruce Kings (11-34-3-1) from playoff contention.
Prince George rookie d-man Cooper Prechel opened the scoring with his first BCHL goal, 5:55 after the anthem, set up in the slot for a one-timer by blueline partner Matthew Stief on a 3-on-2 rush.
Butcher, with his ninth, and blueliner Callum Volpe, with his third, responded for Vernon. Liam Finlay and d-man Bo Pellah drew assists on Butcher’s snipe, while Brett Stapley and Steven Jandric earned helpers on Volpe’s goal.
Kings captain Stephen Penner levelled the score at 2-2 three minutes into the second period with a shot from the point which fooled Viper goalie Andrew Shortridge.
D-man Mitchell Oliver (4th) and Cakebread netted goals six minutes apart later in the period. Cakebread supplied his 12th goal 3:35 into the final period before Nic Ponak replied for the Kings three minutes later. Butcher finished a 2-on-1 with Charley Michalowski with 2:58 remaining.
“It was nice to get Cakebread back,” said Kraus. “He’s very skilled and he adds an energy presence too. He goes to the areas you need to go to for goals.”
Forwards Riley Brandt and Hunter Zandee, along with goalie Brendan Barry, remain on IR.
The Vipers host the Langley Rivermen, Friday, Feb. 12.