Once he let in the only goal that would beat him in his B.C. Hockey League debut, Cole Demers was fine.
The 17-year-old Kelowna product made 27 saves and was named the game’s third star as he helped the Vernon Vipers stay unbeaten with a 4-1 win over the visiting Coquitlam Express Friday night before 1,593 fans at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers (3-0) visited the West Kelowna Warriors (1-1) Saturday night.
“I was nervous in the beginning but, funny enough, when they scored on me that’s when I actually calmed down,” said Demers, who found out Thursday at practice he was getting the start after fellow 17-year-old Ty Taylor played the first two games against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
“The shutout was no longer there so no pressure. I just wanted to keep the win streak going. Ty and I are good friends on and off the ice, a lot of respect for each other.”
The only shot that eluded Demers was a powreplay wrister from Luca Leone midway through the second period. Demers got a lot of the shot, but it trickled through him and just got across the goal line.
The goal made it 3-1 Vernon.
“The guys played great in front of me,” said Demers. “We came out with a really strong start, had some lapses in the second period but we played a really good team game and a complete game.”
The Vipers scored a hat trick in the opening 20 minutes, started by Steven Jandric, who took a beautiful pass from Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game Jimmy Lambert and beat Express goalie Reid Cooper.
Captain Riley Brandt, the game’s first star, scored his third of the year with a wrist shot to the top corner, stick-side, less than two minutes later, and Mitchell Oliver snuck in from the point on a powerplay and buried a Christian Cakebread rebound to make it 3-0 Snakes at 17:06.
“We wanted to come out with a strong effort,” said Lambert. “The message our coaches have been sending since Day 1 is we need to be the hardest working guys on the ice at all times, chip pucks in, be hard on them and tire their defence and get pucks out of our zone.”
Vipers defenceman Carter Stephenson finished the scoring on a powerplay at 18:06 of the second period, firing a wrist shot into the top corner on Cooper’s glove side after a pass from Jagger Williamson.
Defenceman Curtis Jandric had two assists and was named the game’s second star for Vernon, who outshot Coquitlam 42-28.
While Demers had numerous family members and friends in attendance, so too did Vernon’s Noah Turanski, in his third year with the Express.
Turanski’s entourage also included his summer boss, Dan Loewen of Vernon Dodge Jeep, where the 18-year-old detailed cars before returning to the Lower Mainland.
“I still get nervous playing here, it’s hard to shake it,” smiled Turanski, a member of the Coquitlam blueline corps. “There were a lot of people here watching me. There were a lot of chances for us tonight, we just didn’t bury them and they did. It was a winnable game.”
The Express fell to 1-2 heading into a Saturday night date in Salmon Arm. The Gorillas dropped to 0-3 with a 4-1 loss at home to the Chilliwack Chiefs.
The Chiefs (2-0), Victoria Grizzlies (4-0), Penticton Vees (2-0), Wenatchee Wild (2-0) and Merritt Centennials (1-0-1) are the only unbeaten teams.
Salmon Arm, Powell River, Prince George and Surrey have yet to win.
SNAKE BITES: The Express bus broke down in Kamloops. They were stuck for about an hour and arrived in Vernon shortly after 2:30 p.m…Scratches for the Vipers included F Brett Stapley, and D-men Callum Volpe and Sol Seibel…Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster won an autographed Vipers jersey in a Save-On-Foods draw for which he was soundly booed by the crowd…Vernon Minor Hockey product Billy Cawthorn made 32 saves in his Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League debut Friday with the Comox Valley Glacier Kings, a 2-1 loss to the Storm in Campbell River. Cawthorn was in the Vipers’ pre-season camp.