The Vernon Vipers close out the first part of an 11-game B.C. Hockey League road swing Sunday afternoon in Nanaimo against the Clippers, hoping to extend the team’s winning streak to eight games.
Vernon enters the game having won seven straight, including the first two games of the Island-Sunshine Coast swing, beating the Kings 5-3 in Powell River Friday, then rolling into Port Alberni Saturday and handing the Alberni Valley Bulldogs their first home-ice loss of the season, rallying for a 4-3 shootout victory.
Affiliate player call-up goalie Cole Steinke, who plays for the Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, got the start Saturday and responded with a solid effort, making 18 saves while the Vipers peppered Bulldogs netminder Luke Pearson with 46 shots. Steinke is filling in for the injured Max Palaga.
Vernon trailed 3-2 and had Steinke on the bench for an extra attacker when Christian Felton found Cam MacDonald in front of the net with 73 seconds left in regulation time to force overtime. Two five-minute OT sessions solved nothing, so the game was to be decided by the shootout, where Steinke and Pearson were at the mercy of the shooters.
First up for Alberni was Dawson Tritt and he ripped home a goal. Dawson Holt was next for Vernon and was stopped. Tommy Bannister was then thwarted by Steinke. Connor Marritt buried his chance and it was even at one after two rounds. In the third round Ryan Doolin would snipe one home, followed by a goal from MacDonald and it was square again. Mitch Deelstra struck for one for the ‘Dogs only to be followed up by a goal from Matt Kowalski making it 3-3 after four rounds. In the fifth round, Jackson Doucet was stopped and Nick Kent would win it for the Vipers with a hot shot to the glove side giving his team the 4-3 win.
Dawson Holt and Marritt scored in regulation time for the Vipers.
On the Sunshine Coast Friday, Ben Helgeson scored two goals and Logan Cash tallied the game-winner on a third-period penalty shot as the Vipers completed a season sweep of Powell River with a 5-3 win over the Kings.
MacDonald gave Vernon the lead a minute after the national anthem, though the Kings would square the game before the end of the first period.
In the second, the Vipers did a nice job of controlling pucks and keeping the Kings to just five shots. Three seconds after a Vipers powerplay expired, Helgeson potted home a rebound at the side of the net to make it 2-1. The Vipers nearly increased their lead, but a Jackson Caller slap shot rolled wide after a save from Derek Krall. The Kings tied the game at 2-2 in the final minute as Dawson McKay tipped a point shot past Herbst.
In the third, the Kings took their first lead of the game as PJ Garrett’s slap shot made it through a maze of bodies to make it 3-2. That lead was short-lived as Colby Feist won a race to a loose puck in the corner, slung a puck in front and Helgeson poked it under Krall to make it 3-3. Less than two minutes later, Cash was hauled down on a partial breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. He would deke out Krall and roof it for his first of the year to make it 4-3. The Vipers would get a huge insurance goal as Connor Sleeth picked the pocket of a Kings defender, walked out from behind the goal and sniped one to the glove side of Krall to make it 5-3.
Reilly Herbst made 24 saves as he improved to 6-0 since joining the Vipers from the Chicago Steel of the U.S. Hockey League.