The Vernon Vipers like Mondays.
Playing a rare B.C. Hockey League holiday afternoon game, the Vipers downed the Merritt Centennials 5-1 before a Family Day crowd of 2,082 at Kal Tire Place Monday.
The victory moved Vernon (30-23-2-1) to within one point of the idle Wenatchee Wild (30-22-3-1)in the battle for third place in the Interior Division, and two points ahead of the fifth-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks (28-22-4-1).
The Snakes and Wild each have two games remaining, Salmon Arm has three.
Ryan Shostak staked the Vipers to a 2-0 first-period lead Monday. It stayed that way until 2:43 of the second period Brophy Dunne pulled the Cents to within a goal.
Jack Glen restored the Vipers’ two-goal lead 90 seconds later and Vernon took a 3-1 lead into the final 20 minutes.
Goals in the first three minutes by Max Bulawka, at 51 seconds, and Jackson Caller, on a powerplay, at 2:59, put Vernon ahead by four.
Reilly Herbst made 27 saves for his 19th win of the year while the Vipers fired 45 shots at Merritt’s Tanner Marshall.
The Vipers swept all six regular-season meetings with the Centennials, who will be the only BCHL team to miss the post-season.
Wenatchee extended its lead in third place to three points over Vernon and Salmon Arm Sunday with a 4-1 win over the Silverbacks. All of the goals were scored in the first period.
The Victoria Grizzlies clinched the sixth seed for the Interior Division playoffs Sunday with a 4-2 win at home over the Powell River Kings. The Grizzlies will play the third-place team in the opening round of the playoffs.
The defending champion Prince George Spruce Kings became the Interior’s seventh seed Sunday with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Langley Rivermen. Prince George will play the Trail Smoke Eaters in the opening round of the playoffs. Langley finishes fourth in the Mainland Division and draws the regular-season champion Coquitlam Express in Round 1.
The Wild have two games left, both on the road in Penticton. The Vees will play the West Kelowna Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Vipers finish with a home-and-home against West Kelowna starting Friday at 7 p.m.at Kal Tire Place. Salmon Arm goes to Chilliwack and Trail and plays its final home game against Merritt.