Black Press Sports
On paper, it should have been anyone’s game as two mediocre B.C. Hockey League teams faced off Wednesday night at the Poirier Sports & Leisure Centre in Coquitlam.
Michigan product Tyger Howat, however, loves playing the Vernon Vipers and the 20-year-old was the difference in a 5-1 Express win before 375 fans.
Howat, who has played for eight teams in five different leagues over the last three seasons, turned aside 41 shots as he beat the Vipers for a second time. The Express derailed the Vipers 4-3 in overtime back on Sept. 18 at Kal Tire Place.
“Their goalie played really well,” said Viper second-year winger Jagger Williamson. “There was one shift where we had seven shots in 20 seconds and he stood on his head. We just couldn’t catch a break. He beat us in Vernon so I guess he’s got our number.”
Viper starter Andrew Shortridge allowed four goals on 17 shots before being relieved by Brendan Barry at the start of the third period. Barry gave up one goal on eight shots.
Coquitlam improved to 12-12-1-3.
The Vipers had another team meeting early Thursday afternoon, further stressing the importance of good starts and attention to detail.
Alex Ambrosio knocked in his own rebound 2:43 after the national anthem for his fifth, while Austin McIlMurray made it 2-0 off a quick pass by Colton Kerfoot five minutes later. McIlMurray, a Florida product, has goals in three of the last five games and 11 on the season.
Shortridge made a big breakaway save off Cam Bertsch and Charlie Barrow moments later with the Express shorthanded.
Howat recorded 15 saves for the Express in the first period, his finest coming in the dying seconds on a Vernon power play.
The Snakes (13-16-0-2) Vernon enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play for 74 seconds with d-man Latrell Charleson ringing a shot off the cross bar.
“Sacco hit a post too,” said Williamson. “The effort was there. The majority of the game was spent in their end. We talked at the meeting about how the schedule’s not going to get any easier so we have to stick to our systems and good things will happen.”
Jack Surowiec was hit with a pass coming out of the penalty box by Jarell Pinchuk and Surowiec converted his fourth on the breakaway.
Howat delivered 13 saves in the middle frame with the Express getting eight shots. Kerfoot converted his 13th on the powerplay with 13 seconds left in the period, making it 4-0.
Barry was beat by Cam Bertsch with a shot that appeared to surprise the Viper goalie off a face-off, 3:11 into the third. Bertsch has four goals.
D-man Darren Rizzolo, with his second, scored Vernon’s goal on a power play 4:58 into the third.
The Vipers visit the Penticton Vees (27-2) tonight before hosting the Cowichan Valley Capitals (14-10-1) Saturday night.
SNAKE BITES: Viper F Hunter Zandee fought Jake Brien to a draw late in the first period…F Christian Cakebread and D Mac Ferner missed the game due to injuries…The Vipers have lost four straight…Nick Jones scored twice as the Vees iced the visiting Merritt Centennials 5-3 Wednesday night. Vernon’s Brett Jewell had 2A for the Cents.