Andrew Shortridge recorded 41 saves as the Vernon Vipers upended the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-1 in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,380 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner juggled all four of his forward lines to start the game, but reverted back to the usual units after 40 minutes and the Vipers responded with three third-period goals.
Colton McCarthy gave Vernon a 1-0 lead late in the snoozer first period on a shot from 12 feet that fooled Smokie goaltender Bailey MacBurnie. Joe Sacco drew the assist on McCarthy’s sixth snipe of the season.
Sacco neatly tipped a Mitchell Oliver point shot with 7:07 left in the middle stanza to make it 2-0 Vipers. McBirnie enjoyed a stellar period, making two big stops off Odeen Tufto and one on Zack Andrusiak.
Shortridge was sensational all night, but was especially sharp on a late 5-on-3 power play in the second when he robbed Kurt Black in tight and flashed leather to stone Max Newton and Connor Brown-Maloski,
Shortridge reeled off successive stops on John Laurito from gimme range eight minutes into the third period and then stretched wide to stop a howitzer from Evan Howarth from the left sidewall with 4:18 remaining.
The Vipers had a fabulous chance to go up 3-0 early in the third when Oliver moved into the slot facing an open net but Brown-Maloski came out out nowhere for a huge shot block.
Riley Brandt put the game away at 8:41 of the third when he picked up a loose puck near the left hash marks, cruised in alone and went top cheddar for his sixth of the year.
Just 14 seconds later, Liam Finlay buried a beauty backhander after some magical passing by Tufto and Steven Jandric. It was Finlay’s fifth goal of the campaign.
Just seconds after Finlay failed to convert in front of the Smoke Eater net, Laurito and Cooper Leitch connected on a sweet 2-on-1 with Leitch going upstairs on Shortridge’s doorstep. It was Leitch’s third goal of the season.
McCarthy battled hard to win a loose puck in the Smokie right corner and dished to a wide open Jimmy Lambert for a gorgeous one-timer with 2.7 seconds remaining. Lambert has four G-notes.
Vernon improved to 6-6-1 and one point back of the second-place Salmon Arm Silverbacks and West Kelowna Warriors. Trail dipped to 4-7, last in the Interior Division. The Vipers host the Merritt Centennials (5-7) Friday night. NHL Hall of Famer Howie Meeker, in town for the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner Saturday night at the Village Green Hotel, will handle the ceremonial puck drop Friday.
Please see Friday’s Morning Star for more extensive Viper coverage.