Vernon Vipers look to extend unbeaten streak

Snakes release veteran forward ahead of Saturday's tilt with the Vees in Penticton

Vernon Vipers goalie Ty Taylor stops Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Elijiah Barriga on a penalty shot with nine seconds left in regulation time as the Vipers beat Salmon Arm 1-0 at the Shaw Centre.

Vernon Vipers goalie Ty Taylor stops Salmon Arm Silverbacks forward Elijiah Barriga on a penalty shot with nine seconds left in regulation time as the Vipers beat Salmon Arm 1-0 at the Shaw Centre.

The Vernon Vipers have dropped one player. The Penticton Vees have added one and and shipped another to Junior B.

The rivals renew pleasantries Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre with the Vipers (20-13-3-2) unbeaten in seven and trailing the first-place Vees (29-6-1-0) by 14 points in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division.

Penticton have won six of seven heading into a home game tonight against the Trail Smoke Eaters, who sit in third, seven points back of Vernon.

Both the Vipers and Vees tinkered with their rosters ahead of the Jan. 10 trade deadline with Vernon head coach and GM Mark Ferner contemplating adding another body.

Vernon released 20-year-old forward Nic Rasovic, who picked up an assist in 15 games in an injury-plagued season.

“We’re looking at it,” said Ferner. “Obviously we’ve got room for one and we’re always looking.

“We like our group and we don’t want to mess with this group too much. If a player becomes available that we’re familiar with, then we’ll certainly take a look at it.”

Penticton, which trails Mainland Division-leading Wenatchee Wild by one point in the battle for first place overall, acquired the CJHL playing rights Monday to 20-year-old forward Taylor Sanheim from the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in exchange for 18-year-old forward Ty Barnstable.

“Taylor is a hard-nosed, physical player, who brings plenty of experience with him and we feel those elements will help solidify our forward group as we gear up for what hopefully will be a long playoff run,” said Vees’ president, general manager and head coach Fred Harbinson.

Sanheim, 20, spent parts of the last three seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Hitmen, compiling 12 goals and 51 points in 132 career regular season games, to go along with 168 penalty-minutes. He also played in another 22 playoff games with the Hitmen, and helped them to a WHL Final appearance in 2015.

In 18 games with Calgary this season, the Elkhorn, Man. product had a pair of goals and seven points.

To make room for Sanheim on the roster, the Vees put 20-year-old defenceman Gabe Bast on a Junior B card, as he will affiliate with the Surrey Knights of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League.

The Vipers closed out 2016 with a 1-0 win Friday over the Silverbacks in Salmon Arm, the back end of a home-and-home with the Gorillas to kickstart the second half of the season (Vernon won 4-2 Thursday at Kal Tire Place).

Jimmy Lambert scored the game’s only goal, his 13th of the season, two minutes into Friday’s game at the Shaw Centre, and goalie Ty Taylor made 29 saves for the shutout.

Taylor stopped Salmon Arm’s Elijiah Barriga on a penalty shot with nine seconds left in regulation time, awarded after the referee deemed a Vernon player intentionally pushed the net off its moorings during a mad scramble.

Vernon travels to Prince George next Wednesday before returning home to host the Silverbacks Friday, Jan. 13, and the Merritt Centennials Saturday, Jan. 14.