The Vernon Vipers are all alone atop the Interior Division of the B.C. Hockey League.
The Vipers registered three powerplay snipes in a 4-1 victory over the Merritt Centennials before 1,675 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon improved to 32-13-1-4 for 69 points, two more than the Penticton Vees. The host Wenatchee Wild dispatched the Powell River Kings 5-2 before 1,703 fans at the Town Toyota Centre to move within a point of the Vees.
Cents defenceman Jackson Munro buried a slapper from the left point on a powerplay with 2:15 remaining to prevent Vernon goalie Ty Taylor from setting a league-record eighth shutout of the season.
Jimmy Lambert, Jesse Lansdell and Brett Stapley counted man-advantage goals, while Josh Latta also scored for the Vipers.
Lambert was all alone in the crease paint to deflect a Chris Jandric point shot at 18:25 of the opening period for his 18th of the season. D-man Jack Judson earned the secondary assist.
Latta converted a shot from the left side after Merritt goalie Jake Berger allowed a rebound off a Cameron Trott wrister from the right sidewall, at 1:13 of the second period. Latta has eight goals.
Lansdell made it 3-0 with 2:49 left in the second stanza, redirecting a Judson shot on the powerplay. Stapley drew the other helper on Lansdell’s 14th.
Stapley completed the Viper offence 17 seconds into a 5-on-3, whipping in a one-timer from the left side of the net after a cross-ice feed by d-man Michael Ufberg. Trott pocketed the secondary assist.
Vernon outshot Merritt 38-30. The Vipers get the weekend off before hosting the Chilliwack Chiefs next Wednesday night.
There wasn’t much celebrating by the Vipers after they discovered thieves had stolen hundreds of dollars in cash and several watches. Two young Viper fans saw the two men leaving the dressing room during the second period and got decent photographs of the culprits leaving the scene.
1. Stapley. 2. Judson. 3. Taylor.