The Salmon Arm Silverbacks seem to bring out the worst in the Vernon Vipers.
And despite icing a much older and heavier team than the Vipers, head coach Mark Ferner wants no part of that excuse for the Silverbacks’ dominance this B.C. Hockey League season.
“This has nothing to do with age, this has everything to do with willingness to work,” said Ferner, moments after the Gorillas gonged the Snakes 5-2 before 1,602 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
“We’ve got some guys in there who I know think they are offensive players, but you’re not going to get opportunities if you don’t work.”
California product Elijiah Barriga pocketed 2+1 as the Silverbacks stopped the Vipers for the fourth time in as many meetings.
Salmon Arm is built for a long playoff run with the maximum allowed six 20-year-olds and nine 19-year-olds. Vernon, in a rebuild mode of sorts after going seven games in the Interior Division final a year ago, carries four 20s and five 19s.
It was all Salmon Arm most of the night with the Vipers showing true competitive spirit for much of the opening 10 minutes of the third period.
Ferner said the Vipers enjoyed success when they began paying attention to small details like taking time and space away from the up-tempo Silverbacks.
“When we started getting pucks deep, we created turnovers and when you get turnovers, you get momentum but we didn’t have enough of it. I’m not going to paint everyone with the same brush.
“The one thing that has to stay non-negotiable with our group is our work ethic and we had some guys out there not working as hard as they should. Some of the older guys are going through the motions and they’re cheating for their opportunities.”
With second-leading scorer and sparkplug Liam Finlay in Ontario after making Team Canada West for the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, Ferner inserted workhorse winger Jagger Williamson on a line with 16-year-old rookie and star-in-waitng Brett Stapley and skate-till-ya-drop veteran Riley Brandt.
That line won several shifts with Brandt bowling over a number of Silverbacks, including roadrunners Ross Heidt and Taro Hirose and Armstrong product Ryley Booth.
Salmon Arm also got goals from Carson Bolduc, Ross Heidt and Chase Zieky as they ran up period leads of 2-0 and 4-1.
“I just think we’re a better team,” said Booth, a rugged d-man, on why the Silverbacks keep beating the Vipers. “We’re faster, I think we’re more composed and a deeper team. We always expect a pushback from Vernon. I don’t know what it is but we get too comfortable in third periods trying to protect the lead.”
The Vipers found another gear after getting an early snipe from Odeen Tufto before Barriga went top shelf from the right circle with a corker over Viper goalie Andrew Shortridge’s shoulder with 8:18 to play.
Bolduc bagged his ninth of the season midway through the opening 20, his shot from in tight just trickling over the goal line. Josh Laframboise drew the assist, his first of two on the night.
Heidt, who was dangerous all night, made it 2-0 on a gorgeous cross-ice feed by Laframboise with 57 seconds to play in the period. Heidt became the first Silverback to reach the 20-goal plateau.
Barriga, who has two multi-goals on the year, pushed it to 3-0 nine minutes into the middle frame, going right on Shortridge’s doorstep and tipping in a point shot by Phil Middleton.
Barriga has six goals in his first year with the Silverbacks. The L.A. Kings’ fan compiled eight goals with the NAHL Amarillo Bulls last year.Williamson picked up an errant clearing pass and beat Silverback goalie Brandon Kegler with a low wrister, 63 seconds later, for his second of the season.
“I just think they’re working, They’re pretty simple,” said Williamson, of the Gorillas. “They know what we’re gonna do and we know what they’re gonna do. Right now, they’re just outworking us and we gotta play a lot better.
“When we started chipping pucks, their d-men just gave it right to us. Bubba (Brandt) on the forecheck, I don’t think any d-man wants to look around and see him coming. We just gotta stick to the game-plan and we’ll be better.”
Chase Zieky converted on a Salmon Arm power play 3:31 after the Viper snipe, burying a wild rebound after a shot by d-man Kodi Schwarz for his 13th. Vernon captain Colton McCarthy, a Salmon Arm product, was in the penalty box for goalie interference. Schwarz, who has a Christmas birthday coming up, sparkled on the Gorilla back line all night.
Tufto gave the Vipers some hope at 3:39 of the third period when he backhanded in a nifty pass from Jimmy Lambert, who had streaked down the right sidewall. Tufto, a Minnesota native, has a dozen goals on the year.
Barriga, who posted his second two-goal outing of the season, felt a quick start was crucial on the road.
“I think we came out a lot stronger and we just kept pushing till the end,” said the native of West Corina. “It seems like we have a little jump on them in this rivalry. We were expecting a pushback towards the end and we got it, and we just settled down and do what we do.”
The Silverbacks outshot the Snakes 38-32 with Kegler improving to 5-3, Salmon Arm rested starter Angus Redmond since they open a home-and-home series with the Interior Division-leading Penticton Vees Friday night at the Shaw Centre.
Penticton head coach/GM Fred Harbinson and director of player personnel David Michaud were pre-scouting the game. The Vees are 28-2-1 and rated No. 1 in the nation. Salmon Arm is second in the division at 19-8-2-1.
Vernon dipped to 14-18-0-2 and visit the Langley Rivermen (18-12) Saturday night.
SNAKE BITES: D-Men Mac Ferner and Griffin James may come off injured reserve for the Langley game…High-scoring Nick Hutchison, of Hicksville, NY, is on IR for the Silverbacks. He rang up 30 points in 23 games before hurting his shoulder hitting the boards in practce. He and Booth are roommates…D Mitchell Oliver was a clear winner in a late second-period scrap with Marcus Mitchell of the Silverbacks….Brandt fed rookie Cameron Coutre several punches, but the 17-year-old Coutre, who gave up 30 pounds, hung in there well in a fight midway through the third…Team Canada West, with nine BCHLers, opens the Challenge Sunday against the Czech Republic at 10 a.m. (Pacific) at the Cobourg Community Centre.