Last time the Vernon Vipers played a European team was 2009 when Gabriel Landeskog and a Swedish U18 side met the Vipers in a Sunday matinee.
D-man Kyle Bigos scored in a shootout as the Vipers won 3-2 in a thrilling, fast-paced tilt.
The Vipers will resume their Euro experience Monday night against the Red Bull Salzburg U20s of Austria at Kal Tire Place.
“We’re pretty beat up with nagging injuries and the flu so we’ll probably bring up some young kids as APs (affiliates),” said Viper head coach Mark Ferner. “It should be a real entertaining game.”
Salzburg outlasted the West Kelowna Warriors 8-6 before 550 fans Monday night at Royal LePage Place and lost 6-1 to the first-place Penticton Vees in front of 1,700 fans Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Salzburg is third in Group A of the Erste Bank Young Stars League at 16-11-1. Their top scorer is Patrick Hagler with 12 goals and 36 points in 25 games.
Centre Florian Baltran amassed five goals and 19 points in 69 games with the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds and Lethbridge Hurricanes last year.
Red Bull Salzburg has several familiar faces in its executive including club director and former NHL head coach Pierre Pagé and skills coach, former NCAA star and NHLer Brian Savage.
Salzburg is coached by former Boston College standout and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick J.D. Forrest as well as former Clarkson University defenceman and Bentley University assistant coach Matt Curley.
“With Pierre Pagé involved, you know they will be a hard-working group,” said Ferner.
Scott Conway and former Viper Luke Voltin each scored a pair for Penticton. The Vees got singles from Griffin Mendel and AP call-up Cassidy Bowes. Egger got the Red Bulls on the scoresheet midway through the second, when he tipped in a point-shot at 11:37.
Salzburg used some great speed and unreal puck movement to grab an early 4-0 lead on West Kelowna. Marek Valach opened the scoring just 59 seconds in as his attempt from behind the goal bounced off Warriors’ goaltender Keelen Williams and slid over the line.
A beautifully executed two-on-one gave Salzburg a 2-0 lead as Valach buried a sweet shot from the right circle. West Kelowna sniper Liam Blackburn was stopped on a penalty shot after Red Bull Salzburg went up 3-0.
West Kelowna kept playing the body throughout the game, engaging in some scrums after the whistles, as both teams became feisty in the middle part of the second period
Bryan Basilico and Kyle Marino (powerplay) brought the Warriors within five after 40 minutes. Basilico drew an assist on the Marino marker, setting him up with a nifty little pass from below the goal-line.
The Warriors outshot Red Bull Salzburg 21-10 in the final frame, and scored the only three goals as Blackburn potted one shorthanded, before Quin Foreman and Tyler Anderson beat Wouter Peeters.
“They’re pretty good,” said Warriors’ play-by-play man Kyle Anderson, a Vernon product. “They surprised us. They were a lot faster and their puck movement caught us off guard. They’ve got some big bodies and we pushed them around and they started getting annoyed. Marino must have thrown 25 hard checks.”
Anderson said Curley, who knows the BCHL well, figures Red Bull, given a 20-year-old experienced goalie, would fit somewhere in the middle of the pack if they played regularly in the league.
“The players that I have had the opportunity to work with that have come from the BCHL have been not only exceptional players but more importantly exceptional people, leaders on the ice and in the community,” said Curley. “This is the overwhelming sentiment within the NCAA community and is reason why there continues to be such a strong pipeline from the BCHL to the NCAA.”
Red Bull went 1-4 against U.S. Hockey League teams in a September tour.
Tickets for Monday’s game are $7 adults and $5 for children.
The Vipers host the third-place Warriors tonight and visit the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday night. Vernon is fourth in the Interior Division, two points ahead of the Smokies. The top-four teams advance to the playoffs.