Vipers snipe two straight Landon Fuller scores on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Jan. 11 in a 7-3 win for the Vernon Vipers. The snakes followed up on Sunday with a 5-3 win over Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Vipers are back at Kal Tire Place tonight (Jan. 15) to challenge the Penticton Vees. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)

Vipers improve playoff chances with 2 weekend wins

Vipers score 12 combined goals against Salmon Arm and Alberni Valley

The Vernon Vipers followed a 7-3 win last weekend with an identical score on Saturday, the first of back-to-back wins over the weekend.

Matt Kowalski had three goals and two assists in Saturday’s tilt with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at Kal Tire Place. The five-point night propelled Kowlaski into the top 10 in BCHL scoring.

The Snakes won despite giving up the first goal of the game 2:31 into the first period, when Dawson Tritt fired a shot from the right circle past Reilly Herbst on his team’s second shot of the game.

The goal turned out to be the early wake-up call the Vipers needed, and it was Kowlaski who jump-started the offence. The Vipers’ leading scorer scored two goals less than three minutes in the first period. The second came on a partial breakaway set up by a nice defensive-zone play by Landon Fuller.

The Bulldogs would get one back off the stick of Caige Sterzer, but 22 seconds later Matt Bulawka restored Vernon’s lead as he tipped home a shot by Trey Taylor for his 16th of the season.

The Vipers added to their lead to 4-2 in the second, but the Bulldogs made things close in the third after a goal by Mitch Deelstra.

Once again the Vipers answered with two goals in short succession, with Fuller and Ben Sanderson scoring 34 seconds apart to bolster the lead to 6-3.

With the game in full Vipers control and the team on the powerplay, the stage was set for Kowlaski to complete his hat trick. He did so in spectacular fashion, flipping the puck onto his stick blade for a lacrosse-style goal on Bulldogs goaltender Luke Pearson.

On Sunday the Vipers followed up with a second win in as many nights, this time on the road against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

All that scoring the night before seemed to leave the Snakes short on gas to start the divisional bout. The Silverbacks opened the scoring late in the first off the stick of Drew Bennett. Bennett then added another goal to start the second period after jumping on a loose puck in front of the Vipers’ goal crease.

The Vipers found their legs shortly afterwards, and Dawson Holt found the back of the net to cut the deficit in half. Max Bulawka buried his own rebound with five minutes left in the period to even the score, and JoJo Tanaka-Campbell added a powerplay tally to give the Vipers a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

The away team managed to add an insurance goal when a shot by Kowalski was redirected by Ben Helgeson past Backs goalie Grant Adams. Salmon Arm responded quickly to keep the game close, but at the 11 minute mark Sanderson set up Christian Felton who snapped home his fourth of the season, bringing the game to its fnal score of 5-3.

The Vipers’ Sunday win came without the services of defenseman Trey Taylor, who was in Hamilton, Ont. for the 15th-annual CJHL Prospect Game taking place on Tuesday. Taylor will be back in Vernon in time for Wednesday night’s home game against the Penticton Vees.

The wins over the weekend were important given the tight playoff race in the Interior. With the win on Sunday the Vipers leapfrogged the Silverbacks to hold down third place in the division.

READ MORE: Vernon Baseball to field high-level teams in spring 2020

READ MORE: North Okanagan Knights swept away by Storm 4-1

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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