With seven points separating second through sixth place in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division, teams can’t afford to take a night off.
The Vernon Vipers did just that Friday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who opened a weekend home-and-home set with a 2-1 win at the Shaw Centre.
The Snakes (9-6-0-1), who sit one point ahead of the ‘Backs (7-7-0-4), entertained Salmon Arm Saturday at Kal Tire Place. They cap a three-game weekend today (3 p.m.) against the sixth-place Trail Smoke Eaters (8-8) at Cominco Arena.
“They were better than we were, simple as that,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner. “We were flat from the puck drop.”
Taro Hirose, the Silverbacks’ leading point-getter with 7-10-17 in 18 games, put the hosts up 1-0 with a powerplay goal at 8:53. Vernon had killed off the first penalty to Johnny Coughlin on a 5-on-3, but just as Trevor Fidler was returning to the ice from a high-sticking minor, Hirose beat Jarrod Schamerhorn with a high snap shot from the point.
After a scoreless second period in which Salmon Arm outshot Vernon 13-8 (and 35-25 overall), the Gorillas extended their lead on an odd-man rush at 13:59 as Carson Bolduc recorded his team co-leading seventh goal.
“We gave up too many odd-man rushes,” said Ferner. “We weren’t responsible enough. We didn’t deserve to be in the game.”
If it wasn’t for Schamerhorn, who finished with 33 stops, Ferner said the score could have been worse. The Kelowna product has been a steady presence in the absence of suspended keeper Danny Todosychuk, who will be available to play in Trail.
“He was really good, and he gave us a chance,” said Ferner. “When you’ve got a 19- and a 20-year-old goalie, both of them want to play. It’s a tough spot to be in because they’re both quality goalies.”
Liam Finlay, with his second goal and fourth point in three games since joining the Vipers, broke Angus Redmond’s shutout with 13 seconds to play. With Schamerhorn pulled for the extra attacker, Finlay buried a rebound off a goal-mouth scramble.
SNAKE BITES: Ex-Viper Kellen Jones recorded his first goal of the season as the ECHL Bakersfield Condors outlasted the Alaska Aces 3-2 Wednesday night. Jones has 1-7-8 in 10 games, while twin brother Connor has 3-4-7 in 10 games…Vernon’s Ryan Harrison earned family bragging rights over first cousin Dave Robinson Friday night as his Calgary Dinos blanked Robinson’s UBC Thunderbirds 3-0 in Canada West men’s play in Vancouver.