There were no post-game gatherings or socials for the Vernon Vipers after they lost 4-3 to the last-place Prince George Spruce Kings Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Instead, head coach Mark Ferner called for an 11 p.m. curfew and gave his players 48 hours to ponder what gratitudes they cherished the rest of Thanksgiving Weekend.
The Vipers pretty much giftwrapped a turkey, complete with stuffing, for the Kings, who entered the tilt with one win and just 16 goals in 11 B.C. Hockey League games.
Vernon (5-6-0-1) hosts the Trail Smoke Eaters (4-6) tonight and then entertain the Merritt Centennials (5-7) Friday night with NHL Hall of Famer Howie Meeker handling the ceremonial opening faceoff.
The Vipers outshot the Kings 49-21, including a 20-5 margin in the first period when they spent most of the time on the powerplay for a 2-0 lead. Vernon enjoyed a 5-on-3 where they zoomed the puck around the zone but couldn’t beat rookie goalie Liam McCloskey
Captain Colton McCarthy, who scored twice on deflections in tight, felt the Vipers lost focus after 20 minutes even though he warned his teammates not to take the Kings lightly.
“I think we just need to be prepared to come to work and work our bag off every night,” said McCarthy, who netted his second snipe with 59 seconds to play. “We can’t get away from that because that’s what cost us in the end (tonight). It’s tough being in the situation where we are with five wins and six losses, but we’ll keep coming to the rink everyday and working hard.”
Odeen Tufto, also with the man advantage, had the other Vernon goal, 17 seconds into a first-period powerplay. The Kings argued that Jimmy Cipollone was interfering with McCloskey in the crease.
McCloskey recorded 46 saves for his first win in four starts before 1,711 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place. The Pitt Meadows 17-year-old resumed his stellar play Sunday with 37 saves as the Kings upset the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 4-3.
Cavin Tilsley, Braiden Epp and Adam Brubacher supplied powerplay snipes and Corey Hoffman added one at even strength for the pesky Kings, who but made it 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Epp and Brubacher netted goals 28 seconds apart early in the third period.
Chad van Diemen, in his first year as Prince George head coach, was an assistant coach with Powell River Kings, who twice lost the BCHL finals in Vernon.
“This isn’t an easy building to get a win in. This is my seventh year in the league and we played Vernon in the playoffs a few years when I was in Powell River and I think this is my third win here,” smiled van Diemen.
Hoffman was awarded a penalty shot a 12:39 of the second period after Viper alternate captasin Riley Brandt gloved the puck in the crease. Brendan Barry, making his Viper debut in goal, made a glove save on Hoffman to deflect the shot to the corner and keep it 2-2.
“The guys did a great job responding at the start of the second,” said Van Diemen. “The plan is blue collar. Prince George is a pretty blue-collar town and that’s the way we have to play. I thought our penalty kill did a pretty good job towards the end of the first and set the tone for the momentum to build.”
Alternate captain Mac Ferner had his second straight game with two assists on point shots that were tipped.
“We work hard at times,” said Ferner, when asked what needs to change in Viperville. “I think we just need to keep our foot on the gas at all times. We seem to get away from it a little bit and that’s when we start losing hope. I think when we chip it, we play our best hockey. That last five minutes, of the game, that’s how we need to play every game. We were all over them, they couldn’t get pucks by us, we were shooting everything and we had traffic at the net, just keeping it simple.”
Prince George captain Jake LeBrun said the road win was huge since the Kings were starting a stretch of six away games in nine days.
“Things are finally starting to click for us,” said LeBrun, whose father, Sean, played three years in the WHL and was a second-round draft choice of the New York Islanders. “We have a lot of new guys coming in here and learning a lot of new things. It’s great to get our second win in, against a good team like Vernon.”
Brandt wore a full visor after undergoing major dental surgery Friday night after being smacked in the mouth by Nanaimo Clipper goalie Jakob Walter. Brandt did not lose any teeth in emergency surgery, instead having them pushed back in place.
Walter was only assessed a double minor for high sticking, but the Vipers appealed for supplemental discipline. The league reviewed the play and suspended Walter six games for a direct blow to the head.
SNAKE BITES: Prince George brusing d-man Adam Burnett was ejected with 6:48 left in the first period for a check from behind on Hunter Zandee… The Interior Conference-leading Penticton Vees (10-1) have former Viper F Luke Voltin from the Langley Rivermen in exchange for D Griffin Foulk. The Rivermen also grabbed F Logan Mick from the Silverbacks in exchange for F Chase Zieky. Mick, a Vernon product and ex-Viper, is on injured reserve (hip)…Viper grads Connor and Kellen Jones will start the season with the ECHL Missouri Mavericks.