The Penticton Vees’ powerplay still might have a few kinks to work through, but it got the job done Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Dante Fabbro’s point shot beat netminder Jarrod Schamerhorn on a man advantage early in the second period as the Vees shaded the Vernon Vipers 1-0 in front of 2,600 B.C. Hockey League fans.
The Vees (13-1), who iced the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 for their 10th straight win Sunday, went 1-for-2 on the powerplay. They are fourth-last (15.63 per cent) in the 16-team loop. Vernon went scoreless on three man advantages and is dead-last (6.78 per cent).
“Both teams played pretty hard,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner. “Again, it came down to special teams. We created some first opportunities, not enough second opportunities.
“But I can’t fault our kids’ effort. Third period, we basically played three lines and held them to four shots.
“Our compete level is getting better. Now that we have it, we’ve got to sustain it.”
Hunter Miska recorded 29 saves for first star and his second shutout of the season. The Stacy, Minn. native shared the love with his defencemen, who have combined to allow a league-low 25 goals. That is eight fewer than the next nearest team (Merritt has given up 37).
“Our defencemen played great tonight,” said Miska. “The Vipers were really trying to come down the boards, but our dee kept pushing them away and turning the pucks over to get them to our forwards.
“They are giving me the first shot and I’m making the saves either in my body or sending a good rebound out and we turn the play over to the other end.”
Two of Miska’s biggest saves came when he stacked the pads on Mitch Meek early in the second period, and again in the third frame when he stretched out his left pad to deny Vipers’ sniper Thomas Aldworth, who had dangled around Penticton’s defence.
The Vees have been the league’s top defensive team the past two seasons, and head coach Fred Harbinson likes what he has seen so far this year, too.
“Our goaltending and attention to detail on the defensive side is winning us a lot of games right now,” said Harbinson, who earned his 300th career BCHL win against Vernon.
“It’s a mindset of how we want to play here. We don’t play in one direction. We play just as hard, sometimes harder going back to our net.”
The Vipers will be without defenceman Ryley Booth as they entertain the Merritt Centennials (8-5) Saturday, 6 p.m., at Kal Tire Place. Ferner traded the Armstrong product to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Tuesday afternoon for future considerations.
The move was made to clear up a roster spot for incoming forward Liam Finlay, who Vernon picked up from the Penticton Vees for futures.
“We had a logjam at defence and wanted to acquire another forward,” said Vipers executive vice-president Todd Miller. “There was an opportunity to acquire Liam and he’s a guy who’ll be with our program for a couple of years. Something had to give on the backend.”
Booth had one goal and three assists in 10 games with Vernon.
The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Finlay had 1-4-5 in 10 games with the Vees. He posted 17-34-51 in 28 games with the Okanagan Rockets last season, and is committed to the NCAA Division 1 Denver Pioneers for 2016-17.
“The numbers he’s put up in Major Midget speak for themselves,” said Miller. “It’s just an opportunity to add some more skill.”
In addition to injuries to forwards TJ Dumonceaux and Mackenzie Bauer, several Vipers have fallen ill.
“We have some guys starting to get sick so we’ve got to manage it the right way,” said Ferner, noting they play 13 games in November. “You’ve got to give kids a day off here and there and make sure they’re rested.”
The Vipers also have a bevy of suspensions to contend with. They had sought an appeal to suspensions stemming from an Oct. 18 line brawl with the West Kelowna Warriors, but the BCHL upheld its original ruling. Forward Riley Brandt (six games) and d-man Brandon Egli (four games) missed Saturday’s tilt as a result.
Ferner did not appeal suspensions to netminder Danny Todosychuk (six games) and Booth (two games), who missed both weekend games.
SNAKE BITES: Ferner called up Vernon product Jeff Bochon and West Kelowna’s Nicholas Gnazdowsky, both forwards, against the Vees…Vernon’s Cole Woodliffe, who plays with the KIJHL’s Summerland Steam, recorded his first-ever BCHL goal as a call-up, helping the West Kelowna Warriors ice the host Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-5 in OT Saturday night. Woodliffe has 6-5-11 in 13 games with the Steam…Merritt rebounded from Friday’s loss by pounding the Powell River Kings 5-1.
With files from Kristi Patton, Black Press.