The Salmon Arm Silverbacks stretched their win streak to five games by upending the Vernon Vipers 6-2 in B.C. Hockey League play Wednesday night before 1,605 fans at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers battled the bigger and older Silverbacks hard, showing way more urgency and pushback than they did in a pair of home losses last weekend.
Nick Hutchison converted in the slot on a nice feed from second star Carson Bolduc to put the Gorillas up 93 seconds after the national anthem by Galina Labun. Hutchison’s eighth snipe of the season came after Viper winger Hunter Zandee was called for elbowing 10 seconds into the tilt.
Josh Blanchard picked up a turnover deep in the Vernon zone while killing a penalty and made it 2-0 with 2:27 left in the opening 20.
The Vipers responded on a power play 86 seconds later with captain Colton McCarthy knocking in a loose puck from in tight on goalie Angus Redmond. Darren Rizzolo took the point shot after a nifty feed off the sidewall by Riley Brandt. It was McCarthy’s team-high ninth.
Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 16-13 in a fast first period and 39-37 on the night with Andrew Shortridge going the distance for the Snakes.
It was anybody’s game until Vernon veteran d-man Mac Ferner bounced the puck off the back of the Viper net right to Ross Heidt, who beat a stunned Shortridge at 13:42. It was Heidt’s team-leading 12th goal of the year.
The Vipers lost focus in the final five minutes of the third, allowing three goals in just over two minutes. Marcus Mitchell (5th), Vernon product Colton Thibault (8th) with McCarthy serving a slashing penalty and Chase Zieky (4th) on a sweet redirect of a Jared Turcotte pass, completed the Silverback offence.
Brandt one-timed a slapper after a gorgeous cross-ice pass from d-man Bo Pellah for the Vipers’ second goal. It was 4-2 Silverbacks with four minutes to play.
Salmon Arm improved to 11-3-2, six points back of the Interior Division leading Penticton Vees. Vernon dipped to 8-9-0-1 for fourth spot, four digits up on the Merritt Centennials for the final playoff berth.
The Silverbacks lost d-man Ryley Booth, a former Viper, after a blow to the head penalty on McCarthy late in the first period. They also had rookie forward Cameron Couture ejected early in the second period for a check from behind on Pellah.
Viper 16-year-old rookie Brett Stapley and 19-year-old Blanchard, who are similar size, traded a few punches in a spirited, even scrap behind the Viper net in the second period. The fight occurred seconds after Zack Andrusiak of the Vipers was whistled for running over Redmond.
D-man Cameron Trott, an 18-year-old Silverback rookie from Anmore, B.C., did everything right all night to earn first star.
The Snakes host the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters (6-9) Friday night.