Overtime has parlayed into misery for the Vernon Vipers this B.C. Hockey League season.
The Penticton Vees took a turn at swiping an extra point from the Vipers in a thrilling 3-2 victory before 1,618 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Eric Linell wired a slapper from the left point top cheddar past Vernon goalie Aidan Porter, on a power play, 32 seconds into overtime. Defenceman James Miller fed Linell as the Vees moved the puck around nicely playing four-on-three. Miller drilled a shot at Porter’s crest 17 seconds into the same man advantage. Linell leads the Vees with a dozen goals.
The Vipers have lost a league-high five overtime games and a pair of shootouts.
Penticton went on the power play with 1:49 left in regulation when Viper d-man Mitch Andres was assessed a boarding major and a game ejection after a push on Brendan Harrogate in the right corner of the Vernon zone.
“One thing we’ve been working on is getting quality shots to the net on our power play which has been struggling,” said Linell, a 20-year-old New York product. “Millsy had a great pass, we did some switches and I got to my one-time side and just ripped it top shelf.”
The Vees (11-6-1-2), who moved into a tie for fourth spot with the idle Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the tight Interior Division, forced OT when Ryan Sandelin buried a pass from Linell on a bang-bang play in front of Porter, 37 seconds into Josh Latta’s roughing minor. Latta got caught up with Jack Barnes on the sidewall near the Viper bench and Vernon fans did not like the call.
Linell, who was traded to Penticton from Surrey a month ago, loves the parity in the Interior.
“We talk about in the room during practice week. You’re a few points out of last place and a few points out of first place so it definitely pushes you a little more to win. Every game is big.”
It was the usual track meet between the two fast and skilled rivals with Miller breaking a scoreless tilt at 2:47 of the second period with a slapper from the left point. Massimo Rizzo and Linell drew assist on the power play (D Brandon Fuller was off for delay of game).
The Vipers struck back 40 seconds later when Ben Sanderson one-timed a beauty cross-ice pass by Jack Judson from the left hash mark. Coleton Bilodeau earned the secondary assist. Bilodeau took a hit from Sandelin with five minutes left in the second period and never returned. Sandelin was given an interference penalty.
The Vipers lost captain Jagger Williamson with an arm injury after he blocked a Miller howitzer on a second-period penalty kill. Williamson blocked a second Miller offering with his leg before seeking attention at the Viper bench. Williamson, a centre who returned for a few shifts on the wing, was headed to hospital to have his arm X-rayed after the game. His arm is not broken.
Vernon went in front early in the final period when Sebastian Streu deflected a point shot by Judson with 10 seconds left in Mason Snell’s tripping minor.
Streu, who will play for host Germany in the upcoming 2019 IIHF World Junior U20 Championship, says the Vipers are due for something good.
“It’s pretty much the story of our season, right?” said Streu. “So many injuries and lots of suspensions. We just haven’t had any lucky bounces which means they’re bound to come.”
Streu, who has four goals in eight games, wasn’t happy with the call on Andres.
“I was right behind the hit. Sure, it was a penalty, but you’ve got to know the situation of the game. He was already falling down which was unfortunate, obviously. I wouldn’t call it a five-minute major because that pretty much gives the game away.”
Best move of the night came on a penalty kill midway through the third when Latta used a dazzling head fake on Miller and cruised in for a quality chance on Vees goalie Jack Fontaine.
Vernon dipped to 8-6-5-2 for fifth place in the Interior.