Jagger Williamson (left) and Cameron Trott of the Vernon Vipers crush Cam Donaldson of the Powell River Kings in BCHL play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Jagger Williamson (left) and Cameron Trott of the Vernon Vipers crush Cam Donaldson of the Powell River Kings in BCHL play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Vipers get double dose of Vees

A preview of the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference Ryan Hadfield Memorial Trophy playoff final series?

A preview of the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference Ryan Hadfield Memorial Trophy playoff final series?

Perhaps, but the Vernon Vipers aren’t looking that far ahead. Instead, they are extra stoked about facing the Penticton Vees twice this week for the last time in the regular season. The teams meet tonight in Penticton and Friday night in Vernon.

Assistant coach Kevin Kraus says the Snakes are hardly conceding the division title to the Vees, ranked No. 11 in the country.

“Why not try and catch them?” said Kraus. “They have been losing a few games lately and we had success last time we werethere. We just have to be a lot more disciplined and have a good start.”

The Vipers, who have 13 games left and are a dozen points behind the Vees, gave up three powerplay goals and lost 3-1 to the Powell River Kings before 2,818 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Penticton lost 5-2 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Sunday at the Shaw Centre after grounding the West Kelowna Warriors 4-2 before 3,138 Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Kraus says the Vees don’t have the top-end talent they had a year ago with first-round NHL drafts Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro, but he figures they have more depth than ever. Vernon is second in the Interior, seven points clear of the Merritt Centennials and Trail Smoke Eaters. The top-two finishers get opening-round playoff byes.

“We’re not looking at whether we finish first, second or third; we want to control what we can and we wanna win every game,”said Kraus.

Darion Hanson will start in net for the Snakes with rookie Ty Taylor at the Canadian Junior League Prospects Game in Cornwall, Ont. Wednesday night. Penticton D Griffin Mendel is also in Cornwall. Conor Webb of the Junior B North Okanagan Knights isexpected to back up Hanson.

Viper F Luke Gingras may come off Injured Reserve, but captain Riley Brandt remains out for at least another three weeks with a broken thumb. The Vees will be without 13-goal man Ryley Risling, a towering forward who was assessed a four-game suspension for a head contact penalty against West Kelowna.

Said Vees’ goalie Mat Robson on the Vipers: “They are not just going to hand us two points,” he said following Tuesday’s practice. “No team in this league will.”

“I mean they make things happen as a five-man unit,” said Robson. “If we’re not careful out there, the one guy will be loose and whether its one of their better shooters, or not, if you give him a Grade A chance, he is going to have a good chance to score.”

Duncan Campbell, a Penticton winger, loves the rivalry.

“It has been some real hard fought games,” said Campbell. “A lot of emotions run through them. Guys play hard. You never want to lose to your main rival.”

Powell River Kings (30-17-1) converted a powerplay goal in each period to stop the Vipers in a game with very little flow due to 21 minor penalties called by referees Quinn Bjordal and Mitch Hardington. The Kings won their ninth straight, but had that streak stopped in a 5-2 loss to the Langley Rivermen Sunday afternoon.

Steven Jandric converted a wraparound at 4:22 to open the offence Saturday, sliding the puck under Kings’ goalie Mitch Adamyk for his 20th snipe of the season.

Jonny Evans ripped his 25th to level the score on a shot from the left circle that went off the crossbar and in past Hanson with just 26 seconds left in the period. D Shane Kelly was off for high sticking.

Both teams had some Grade A chances in the second period. Vernon D Cooper Watson hit the crossbar with a slapper that hit the post so hard the puck ricocheted all the way back to the Snakes’ end.

Ben Berard came in as the trailer on a three-on-two rush for the Kings and had a great look at the net, but Hanson made a sweet pad save. Berard had a decent chance at an open net on the rebound, but couldn’t get a good shot away.

Matt Cairns recorded the winner with 28 seconds left in the second period, pocketing his first BCHL goal on a snap shot from the right face-off circle that snuck under Hanson’s arm. Watson was in the penalty box for crosschecking.

Tristan Mullin added insurance midway through the final period when he fired a shot along the ice that beat Hanson glove side. Mullin has 29 snipes. F Hunter Zandee was off for tripping.

Elijiah Barriga bagged his 21st and 22nd goals of the season as the Silverbacks upended the Vees in a Sunday matinee. Vernon’s Michael Lenoury was recalled by the Silverbacks from the Junior B Nelson Leafs.

SNAKE BITES: The Vipers entertain the Nanaimo Clippers Saturday night and host the Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday at 2 p.m. They have seven home dates and two away games in February…The Wenatchee Wild, who are here Feb. 10, are rated No. 9 in the 132-team CJHL. The Wild are 35-6-4. The Georgetown Raiders of Ontario and the Brooks Bandits of Alberta are the top-two ranked clubs…The BCHL and its board of governors have approved a three-year term for the Chilliwack Chiefs and Prospera Centre to continue to host the Bauer BCHL Showcase. “Knowing we’ll be in Chilliwack and Prospera Centre for at least the next three seasons gives us a great deal of confidence the Showcase will continue to thrive,” said BCHL commissioner John Grisdale. “The event has gotten smoother each year and we expect that will continue and our players will receive maximum exposure.”…Vernon’s Connor Powell pulled the Gordie Howe hat trick with the Chiefs in a 6-3 win over the Smokieas Friday night in Chilliwack. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound rookie D scored his third goal of the year, earned one assist and took down 6-foot-5, 207-pound superstar Kale Howarth in a third-period scrap.