The last powerplay chance paid off for the Vernon Vipers.
Defenceman Latrell Charleson’s shot at 15:36 of the third period – with Merritt forward Zachary Zorn in the penalty box for goaltender interference – snapped a 3-3 tie and lifted the Vipers to a 5-3 B.C. Hockey League win over the Centennials in front of 1,523 fans at Kal Tire Place Wednesday.
Vernon (12-12-0-1) visits the West Kelowna Warriors (13-8-0-2) tonight and host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (9-11-1-1) Sunday at 2 p.m. at Kal Tire Place.
“I thought there were mistakes made by both teams, but that’s junior hockey in general,” said Vipers head coach Mark Ferner. “We fought hard to get the lead then gave it right back.
“Latrell jumped in, took a nice pass from Jags (Jagger Williamson) and he’s a pretty skilled guy for a big guy. His shot beat Kehler over the blocker.”
The Vipers had been 0-5 with the man advantage prior to Charleson’s third goal of the season.
Liam Finlay’s second goal of the game, his 10th of the year, into an empty net at 19:03 capped a wild third period which saw the teams erupt for six goals.
Colin Grannary opened the scoring at 18:50 of the first, giving the Centennials (8-17-0-2) a lead that would last a total of less than two minutes.
Defenceman Griffin James, with his third of the year, tied the game for the Vipers with the only goal of the middle frame 56 seconds into the period on a setup from captain Colton McCarthy.
Zorn gave Merritt a 2-1 lead at 3:29 of the third before second star Finlay, from first star Jagger Williamson and third star Christian Cakebread at 5:09, and Cakebread, with his second from Williamson and Finlay, at 8:47, gave Vernon its first lead of the night.
Williamson finished with three helpers.
Gavin Gould equalized on a powerplay for the Centennials at 11:33. Vernon product Brett Jewell drew an assist.
“The third period has been our best period and we were flying tonight,” said Williamson, reunited with Finlay on a line with Cakebread which combined for nine points Wednesday.
“Our line was clicking. I played with Liam last year and he’s a fun guy to play with.”
Kehler finished with 40 saves as the Vipers outshot Merritt 45-35. Andrew Shortridge picked up his 10th win of the season for Vernon, who are now seven points ahead of the Cents and Trail Smoke Eaters.
“All games are important but especially the ones against the teams you’re battling for a playoff spot with,” said Ferner. “What we care about, though, is how we play. Not who we play. We have to pay attention to details and be a better 200-foot hockey team.
“Committing away from the puck is so important. It gives you opportunities to score and be better defensively.”
Vernon remains three points back of the third-place West Kelowna Warriors.
The Warriors beat the Spruce Kings 6-4 in Prince George Wednesday.
Anthony Brodeur made 33 saves and Scott Conway scored 16 seconds into the second overtime on the team’s 34th shot to give the hometown Penticton Vees a 1-0 win over the Coquitlam Express.
It was the Vees’ 23rd straight win.
It was also a night of waiting for Penticton fans who finally got to litter the ice with stuffies during the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss.