Natural-born sniper. Indy 500 wheels. A star-in-waiting.
Right winger Jimmy Lambert is all of the above and the alternate captain strutted his stuff big time Wednesday night with four goals as the Vernon Vipers stuffed the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 7-3.
Lambert, a Saskatoon product who turns 20 in February, scored four different ways and pulled the natural hat trick to put the Snakes up 5-0 early in ther third period. He has 11 goals on the season.
A University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks commit who was recently added to the WHL Regina Pats’ 50-man list, Lambert was all smiles sitting on a stationary bike awaiting a post-game radio interview. He’s not sure when he last rang up four G-notes.
“Probably back in Novice but I don’t think my dad would let me score that many goals,” beamed Lambert. “Obviously, the team played pretty well. We kind of lost it a little bit in the third period. When you get chances, sometimes they just go in and I guess that’s what was happening for me tonight which is never a bad thing.”
Linemate Steven Jandric went bar down after a bounce off the back boards for his team-high 16th, 7:08 after the national anthem. D-man Connor Clouston and linemate Brett Stapley drew the assists.
Christian Cakebread, with his eighth of the year, made it 2-0 with a deflection of a Michael Ufberg point shot almost four minutes later, on a powerplay.
Lambert then electrified the crowd of 1,552 on a powerplay six minutes later. Goalie Darion Hanson settled the puck for d-man and former Silverback D Cameron Trott, who fed Lambert a short pass deep in the Viper zone.
Lambert picked up speed and burned two or three Silverbacks down the right sidewall before cutting to the net and beating tender Nick Tallarico with a beauty backhand.
“He’s fast, he’s really quick; I wasn’t expecting that down the wall,” said Silverback blueliner Ryley Booth, an ex-Viper who watched Lambert flash past him.
Lambert went bar down on a 5-on-3 powerplay for the only goal of the second period and opened the scoring in the third with a gorgeous shake and bake move on relief goalie Trevin Koslowski’s doorstep for the natural hatty, putting Vernon up 5-0.
“You always have your goals planned out in your head; that’s what every junior hockey player or minor hockey players thinks of and sometimes they go your way,” said Lambert, who pocketed 56 points with the Saskatoon Contacts his final year of Major Midget.
Stapley, who put up 53 goals and 138 points in his last season of Bantam with North Shore Winter Club, says confidence and trust is making the Vipers’ hottest line prosper these days.
“Everything was clicking tonight,” said Stapley, 17, who was conversing with a Quinnipiac University Bobcats coach after the game. “Lambert played amazing with four goals. Our line is starting to gel together and he was getting the puck and finding the back of the net and it was awesome to see.”
Lambert upped the lead to 6-1 by taking his time and burying a wrister top cheddar from the high slot at 8:20. The Silverbacks struck for consolation goals 81 seconds apart – by Josh Blanchard and Booth – in the dying minutes.Blanchard has seven snipes, Booth four.
Luke Gingras, with his third in his seventh game as a Viper, competed the offence with 2.6 seconds remaining from the side of the net.
While taking a few foolish penalties, the Silverbacks looked disinterested most of the night as their four-game winning streak ended.
“Nobody had legs tonight,” said Booth, an Armstrong product. “I don’t know what it was; we had a tough day at practice yesterday. He’s (new head coach Misko Antisin) not happy, obviously but who would be. Since he was hired, practices are a lot tougher; everyone’s a little more engaged everytime we’re on the ice and it wasn’t there tonight. We usually compete a lot harder.
The Vipers outshot the Gorillas 44-36 with newbie net detective Darion Hanson recording the dazzler save of 2016 with an acrobatic trapper stop on Marcus Mitchell 38 seconds into a Salmon Arm powerplay early in the third period.
“He (Hanson) got a standing ovation which was well deserved,” said Lambert. “That was our battle; we let goals in those last 10 minutes. Everybody’s looking for numbers and that includes the goalies so we have to make sure we’re helping them out when we’re getting ours. That was kind of our bad, but we got the win.”
Lambert said the 20-year-old Hanson, an all-star in the North American League a year ago, has brought a pro-like influence to the Snakepit.
“You saw it tonight He’s made some of those highlight-reel saves but I’ve also noticed he’s super calm in the net. Anytime there’s a scramble, he’s not moving all over the place. He’s always in position which is what you want in a goalie. He reminds me of Carey Price; he’s always calm in all those positions.”
Vernon, who are 10-3-0-1 at home, improved to 17-13-3, three points ahead of the Trail Smoke Eaters alone in second place in the Interior Division. The Smokies earned a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the front-running Penticton Vees before 2,580 fans Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Grant Cruikshank’s 23rd goal was the winner at 1:55 of OT.
Salmon Arm dipped to 14-18-1 and GM Troy Mick will likely tweak his last-place roster before the Jan. 10 trading deadline.
Stapley said the Vipers can’t wait for their next shift as they go into their final two games before the Christmas rest. Vernon visits the Merritt Centennials Friday night and the Smokies Saturday night before returning home for a Thursday, Dec. 29 home date with the Silverbacks. The Vipers are 17 points behind the Vees, who are ranked No. 6 in the country.
“It’s always nice to go into a break with a real positive mind-set and be playing well so when we get back, we’ll just build it from there,” said Stapley. “We want to be competitive as we can every night and start making some tracks on Penticton. We know they’re a long ways away, but we’re give it our best effort every night and keep racking up the points.”
SNAKE BITES: D Sol Seibel and F Nic Rasovic were Viper healthy scratches…Viper F Austin Adamson earned the Fortis Energy Player of the Game…Gorilla D Carter Cochrane crosschecked Niko Karamanis hard into the Silverback net, setting off some fireworks 7:52 into the second period…Viper D Shane Kelly, who turns 20 today, tangled with Josh Latta, while Viper blueliner Cooper Watson took on Justin Wilson in third-period fights. Neither tilt was very eventful…Tallarico, of Vancouver, just signed with the Silverbacks after 10 games with the SJHL Estevan Bruins.