Just one night after it appeared they had learned how to play hockey by correspondence, the Vernon Vipers regrouped and brushed back the Penticton Vees 2-1 in B.C. Hockey League action before 1,935 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
The Vipers, who mustered just 13 shots in a 3-0 loss Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre, showed much more puck support as they improved to 4-4-2. The Vees dipped to 5-4.
It was a night of carnage and penalties with both teams losing one player through a game misconduct and a few players requiring medical attention from the athletic trainers.
“That was a crazy game,” said Vernon 20-year-old alternate captain Jesse Lansdell, named first star with the winner and some heavy hits. “It was a bagger to say the least. A great team effort by our group and a characteristic win after what I thought was an uncharacteristic effort the night before. It was a huge bounce back by and momentum builder for us going into Wednesday (host Surrey Eagles).”
Vernon went in front with 15 seconds remaining in a five-on-three powerplay when Elan Bar Lev Wise banged in a rebound at 7:38. D-man Mitch Andres smacked goalie Jack LaFontaine in the mask with a shot and Bar Lev Wise knocked in his first of the season. D Jack Judson earned the secondary assist at 7:38.
Penticton levelled the score at 14:34 of the second period, shorthanded, with Kenn Johnson going high glove side on Aidan Porter with a hard knuckler from the left point. Eric Linell was in the penalty box serving a slashing minor which negated a Penticton powerplay. Linell chopped Teddy Wooding, who tried to go low, five-hole on LaFontaine, with 88 seconds left in a Andres major for running over LaFontaine. Andres was ejected, leaving the Vipers with four blueliners for half the game since Austin Chorney left earlier with an injury.
Lansdell deflected Judson’s shot for his second of the season at 11:39 of the third period. Alex Swetlifkoff earned the secondary helper. The goal came 36 seconds into a powerplay after Peter Muzyka went off for roughing Vernon forward Kjell Kjemhus in front.
Mason Snell of the Vees was assessed a check-from-behind minor and a game ejection after he rocked Vernon’s Connor Marritt along the side boards a few minutes later. Marritt left the tilt but did return.
“It was a gutty performance,” said Penticton alternate captain Ryan Sandelin, who had a decent chance to force overtime as the Vees pressed with six attackers in the final seconds. “We didn’t have a lot of guys, a couple guys out with injury and sickness. We would have liked to have put one in there, but at the end of the day, we took too many penalties (Vernon was 2-for-8 on the pp) and it ended up costing us in the end. A lot of guys didn’t get to play as much as others and it drained us.”
The Vees were without some major firepower in Massimo Rizzo, Cassidy Bowes, Luke Loheit and Drew Elser, while the Vipers missed towering d-man Landon Fuller (suspended five games after a hit on Elser) Friday night.
Lukas Sillinger and Bar-Lev Wise collided at the Penticton blue line in the final minute and both went down hard. Ber-Lev-Wise was bleeding from the mouth and was in the trainer’s room for stitches post-game. Vernon captain Jagger Williamson did not finish the game after an injury.
Losing top-six forward Josh Prokop to the Western League has somewhat changed the identity of the Vipers, who like the Vees, use a fast, physical, hard-on-the-puck system for success.
“I’m not going to lie and say we’re the most skilled group I’ve played for, but I think we know the guys we have in our room, lots of character and lots of hard work,” said Lansdell, a Notre Dame commit who felt like he was coming off summer break returning from suspension. “Once we get some more games together, we’re gonna start building off one another. Our identity is a hard-nosed, blue-collar team.”
Sandelin, who has a scholarship with the Mankato State Mavericks for next season, wasn’t surprised to see the Vipers push back.
“We knew they were going to come out hard, Saturday night at home, you can expect that from every team in our league, especially after the way Friday night went,” said the 19-year-old Minnesota product.
Just four points separates the basement from the penthouse in the Interior Division with the Merritt Centennials first with 14 points. The Vipers, Vees and Wenatchee Wild share the cellar with 10 points.
“Obviously, we’d like to be at the top all the time, but I think it’s good for the league,” said Sandelin. “On any given night, anyone can win. The better the league is, the better us players get for sure. You have to bring your A game 24-7.”