The Vernon Vipers can now lay claim to a unique title: winners of the BC Hockey League Vernon pod, one game before the conclusion of a bizarre, exciting shortened 2021 season.
Vipers netminder James Porter Jr. was instrumental in the team’s 3-1 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night, making 37 saves on 38 shots.
After some early Vipers pressure, it was hometown Salmon Arm forward Logan Shaw who opened the scoring by burying a rebound, moments after a shot by Sullivan Mack went off the chest of Porter Jr.
Still in the first period, Vipers leading goal scorer Tyler Carpendale deflected a shot from the point by Sethe Bafaro. The puck snuck past the glove side of ‘Backs goalie Owen Say, letting loose a Carpendale fist pump. The period ended with the score tied up at 1-1.
The Snakes wasted no time jumping ahead in the middle frame. Bafaro, Hunter Donohoe and Cameron MacDonald put on a passing clinic to set up rookie Reagan Milburn for a tap-in, his sixth of the season. Salmon Arm was given their fourth straight powerplay of the game midway through the period, but couldn’t capitalize thanks to some athletic saves from Porter Jr.
Great goaltending was the story again in the third period, as Porter Jr. weathered another 13 shots from Salmon Arm. Ryan Shostak added an empty netter to seal the game with 1:22 to play.
With 26 points in 18 games played, the Vipers secured the top spot in the Vernon pod with the win. Salmon Arm has also clinched second place, being five points ahead of the West Kelowna Warriors, who have two games remaining on the season.
The ‘Backs are back tonight to play the Warriors at 6 p.m. The Vipers and Warriors will cap off the season Sunday at 4 p.m.