It was a happy homecoming for Harlan Orr.
The 20-year-old Vernon product took a sweet pass from Kurt Black, with the teams playing four-on-four, and fired a wrist shot past Jarrod Schamerhorn for the game-winning goal midway through the third period as the Trail Smoke Eaters beat the Vernon Vipers 5-3 in the B.C. Hockey League regular-season opener for both teams Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
The two teams met again Saturday at Trail’s Cominco Arena.
“I came off the bench, was fortunate to get the puck right away when I was open and luckily enough I got it over the goalie. It’s pretty exciting,” said Orr.
“The win is really big, especially for our confidence this year. We never got a win in this rink last year, so starting the season off on a good note is going to help us.”
First star Rhett Wilcox had two goals for Trail before leaving the game in the third period after taking a hit to the head from Vipers defenceman Mac Ferner, who received a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct on the play.
Wilcox opened the scoring at 15:19 of the opening period, the beneficiary of a beautiful pass from Kale Howarth, who stole the puck from Vipers forward Liam Finlay in the Vernon zone. Wilcox one-timed a shot past Schamerhorn who had no chance.
The first Vipers goal of the new season came with 24 seconds left in the frame. Hunter Zandee went to the net and buried a rebound of a Joe Sacco shot past Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie.
The Smoke Eaters took a 2-1 lead at 5:26 of the second when Nick Halloran wired a wrist shot past Schamerhorn stick-side. The lead lasted all of 11 seconds.
Off the ensuing face-off, Finlay grabbed a loose puck, dangled past a Trail defender to go in alone on MacBurnie, who stopped Finlay. Vernon forward Steve Jandric crashed the net on the play and put the puck into a wide-open cage.
Exactly two minutes later, Trail took a 3-2 lead when Wilcox converted a pass from Kienan Scott on a two-on-one with Vipers defenceman Bo Pellah caught up ice.
With Orr in the penalty box, the Vipers tied the game at 17:59 when a cross-ice pass from Peter Tufto went in off of Finlay’s skate. The goal was originally called off but all four on-ice officials discussed the play and ruled it a clean goal.
Vernon had 19 shots on MacBurnie in the middle frame but managed only eight in the final 20 minutes.
“Obviously it’s a little disappointing,” said Vipers head coach Mark Ferner of the opening night defeat. “I know we had a real nervous group, which is no excuse by any means. The things we practised throughout the week, the habits started to creep in from where they played before.
“We didn’t play with a lot of structure, we didn’t move the puck like we should and you have to give Trail credit. They came in here and played a pretty good road game.”
Scott, into an empty net with two seconds left in the game, completed the scoring.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Ferner.” We’ve got some good players here that need to get their feet wet. They need to know if we’re going to have success here, they’ve got to play a certain way for 60 minutes.”
Vernon was 1-7 on the powerplay, Trail went 0-6.
Both goalies were solid as each faced a ton of rubber. Trail outshot Vernon 40-39.
“Bailey’s been a great addition to our group and it was great to see him get the win,” said Trail coach Nick Deschenes of MacBurnie’s play. “He’s an ultimate competitor. He made a couple of saves I don’t think most goalies would have, and he probably got us that win.”
SNAKEBITES: Ferner is facing a possible suspension for his hit on Wilcox…The Vipers scratched newly acquired defenceman Darren Rizzolo and forward Brett Stapley…Cydnie Rice, 25, made her Vernon debut Friday, working the game as a linesman. Rice, from Invermere who now lives in Kelowna, began in the BCHL last season but never officiated at Kal Tire Place…The Vipers have carded forward Michael Roberts and were forced to send defenceman Reece Soukaroff back to Alberta due to a carding issue regarding 17-year-olds from Hockey B.C….The expansion Wenatchee Wild went into Prince George and pummelled the Spruce Kings 5-1 as the league’s 64th season kicked off Friday. The Wild outshot the hosts 50-18 while five different players handled the scoring, led by Las Vegas native Brandon Harris who had a goal and two helpers. Wenatchee has three Canadians – centre Matthew Baker of Midhurst, Ont., right winger Kyle Stephan of Berry, Ont., and defenceman Logan Milliken of Canmore, Alta. – on its roster. Milliken and Stephan picked up assists Friday. The Wild have one player – d-man Konsta Janke of Samammish – from Washington state…In Salmon Arm, Elijah Barriga scored twice and Angus Redmond made 33 saves as the Silverbacks doubled the defending champion Penticton Vees 4-2. Highly touted newcomer Easton Brodzinski had both goals for the Vees…West Kelowna Warriors erased a 3-0 deficit 16 minutes into the game with five unanswered goals en route to a 6-4 decision over the visiting Merritt Centennials…The Cowichan Valley Capitals edged the Victoria Grizzlies 3-2. Former Vipers defenceman Mitch Meek picked up a match penalty in a second-period incident for the Caps…Langley Rivermen doubled the Surrey Eagles 6-3.