Viper defenceman Johnny Coughlin battles Diego Cuglietta of the Centennials for a loose puck in BCHL playoff action Friday night in Merritt

Viper defenceman Johnny Coughlin battles Diego Cuglietta of the Centennials for a loose puck in BCHL playoff action Friday night in Merritt

Vipers take 3-0 series lead on Cents

Earning a shutout in the postage-stamp sized Merritt Nicola Valley Arena is pretty much like recording a hole-in-one on the golf course.

Morning Star Staff

Earning a shutout in the postage-stamp sized Merritt Nicola Valley Arena is pretty much like recording a hole-in-one on the golf course.

The Vernon Vipers somehow pulled out a 1-0 goosegg there Friday night to grab a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Division semifinal playoff series. Game 4 went Saturday night in Merritt.

Mitch Newsome scored at 9:37 of triple overtime as the Penticton Vees shaded the host West Kelowna Warriors 4-3.

The second-place Vipers outshot the third-place Cents 29-24. Jarrod Schamerhorn earned the win.

“It was tight checking with not a lot of opportunities which was surprising on that small rink,” Viper captain Riley Guenther told The Morning Star as he ate post-game lasagna on the team bus. “ We played a good shutdown game and Schammy was very good tonight, especially two big saves in the third period (one on sniper John Schiavo).”

Riley Brandt beat Cents’ goalie Jonah Imoo on a wraparound 2:50 into the second period after linemate Linden Hora forced a turnover on the forecheck.

“It was a tough game,” Cents’ coach Luke Pierce said on the Q101 post-game radio show. “Our first five minutes were real solid, and then the first period turned into a penalty fest. We had a bit of a lull in the second, but I thought our guys played real hard in the third.”

Kraus gave props to the Vipers’ defensive core and the calmness of Schamerhorn, who only had to make 13 saves in the opening 40 minutes.

“He’s solid and making the save,” said Kraus. “Our dee are confident that if we’re hemmed in or we make a mistake, Schammy will be there. He and Danny (Todoyschuk) both have a good, calming effect on our team.”

Imoo was named second star behind Brandt and ahead of Schamerhorn.

“Jonah should be an inspiration to our team,” said Pierce. “We should build off that, but it took us a little while. Give our opponent credit. They’re playing extremely hard, extremely well. There’s not a lot of room out there.

“They may have had six or seven scoring chances; we may have had five. It’s not a wide-open game; you got to fight for every inch. Jonah was great, but I thought Jarrod Schamerhorn had a great game, too.”

Mitch Profeit of the KIJHL North Okanagan Knights backed up Schamerhorn with Todosychuk on injured reserve.

The Vipers used an aggressive forecheck and retrieved most pucks the Cents dumped in from the blueline. Vernon also neutralized Merritt’s powerplay to the point the Cents had trouble even setting things up.

The Cents lost Zak Bowles in the first period for a check from behind penalty and then lost agitator Cole Chorney to injury late in the second period.

“We changed a little bit of our dynamic coming out of our end in the third,” added Pierce. “I thought that we were trying to be a bit too cute with our tape-to-tape passes. (Vernon) jump on you real quickly, so we tried to stretch them out a little bit to relieve some of the pressure on our defencemen.Losing Zak Bowles early in the game, and then Cole Chorney for the third period had a really big impact on our game. It sort of wore us down.”

The Cents defeated the Vipers twice in Merritt during the regular season.

“I got a real good feeling about our group and the way they’re going to respond tomorrow,” said Pierce, a former Cent and Viper gritty forward. “The response that we get from our group will show how much the guys believe in one another, especially when you have a guy between the pipes there who is giving you a chance.”

The Vees took a 2-1 series lead before 1,200 fans at Royal LePage Place.

The Warriors, who trailed 3-0 after the first period, were outshot 77-48, including a 33-20 margin in overtime. Penticton goalie Hunter Miska was sensational.