Vipers to battle Silverbacks

The Vernon Vipers hope to re-gain their focus tonight when they face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre.

  • Jan. 15, 2016 10:00 a.m.

Morning Star Staff

The Vernon Vipers hope to re-gain their focus tonight when they face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Shaw Centre.

The Vipers were up 2-1 midway through the second period when they gave up two goals in eight seconds in a 5-2 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday night at Royal LePage Place.

Vernon dipped to 17-23-0-2 in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division, tied with the Trail Smoke Eaters for the fourth and final playoff position.

“We had that mental lapse for about a minute and shot ourselves in the foot,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “Five-on-five and our PK, we competed well all game.”

West Kelowna’s big line hurt the Vipers with Liam Blackburn netting his 22nd in tight to tie the tilt.

Eight seconds later on a face-off, Jonathan Desbiens beat Brendan Barry with his 25th of the year. Kylar Hope made it 4-2 seven minutes into the second on a pass attempt through the crease.

Garrett Forster hammered home a loose puck (his 14th) 32 seconds in after a great play by  Connor Sodergren.

Matthew Greenfield recorded an all-planet pad save on the Vipers’ Ben Butcher midway through the opening 20 minutes. Butcher and linemate Steven Jandrick were on a 2-on-1.

The Vipers finally beat Greenfield as Odeen Tufto tucked one home by burying a shot through a bit of a screen for his 17th. Christian Cakebread and Liam Finlay drew assists.

Cakebread drove wide and beat both d-man Rylan Yaremko and Greenfield to give Vernon a 2-1 lead with his 10th, from Finlay and blueliner Callum Volpe.

Tyler Anderson hit the empty net for his first of the season with 1:40 remaining.

A scrum ensued in the corner, and with one second left, Reed Gunville of the Warriors and  Butcher dropped the gloves in a feisty fight that ended with Gunville picking up an instigator penalty. Butcher bodychecked Gunville to start the scrum.

“Butcher broke his nose so had his nose re-broken this morning (Thursday),” said Kraus. “He got jumped so got caught by surprise.”

The Warriors, who added 20-year-old forwards Bryan Basilico and Jake LeBrun at the trading deadline, improved to 24-15-0-2, two points back of the second-place Silverbacks.

B.C. Lions linebacker Adam Bighill will be a special guest of the Silverbacks tonight.

Bighill, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, has turned his facial defect into a strength — and he believes he can help others do the same. Bighill, 27, a five-year CFL veteran, has joined the board of Making Faces, a Toronto charity dedicated to helping others cope with facial differences.

“I want to show kids how I did everything I wanted to do despite any limitations people may have put on me from the day I was born,” said Bighill, bullied growing up in small-town Montesano, Wash.

Bighill was ashamed of his face. Other children made fun of him.

One day, he asked his dad why he was born this way, and his dad gave him an answer that would change his life. “God gave you this challenge, but He gave you extreme athletic ability,” his dad said. Bighill began to believe he was special.

Bighill also got a chip on his shoulder, settled some scores with bullies, and developed a competitive attitude. “I wanted to compete and prove I’m better than you,” Bighill explained. “It ended up giving me a lot of power. It was the driving force behind why I want to succeed.”

While he used physical gifts to excel, Bighill said each person has his or her own talents that can overcome facial challenges and labelling.

“You’ve got to find what you’re passionate about,” he advises. “You’ve got to believe in that. You have to stand out somehow. That’s how you break through a shell.”

The linebacker was named the CFL’s top defensive player at the league’s awards banquet, receiving 46 of 75 first-place ballots in voting conducted by the Football Reporters.

Bighill, who became a first-time father this month, is the second straight Lion to capture the top defensive honour.

“Wow,” Bighill said. “The last five years I’ve been living my dream and I have to thank the B.C. Lions for that. For all young people, don’t let anyone determine what you can do . . . don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”

Bighill recorded a CFL- and career-high 117 tackles this season. The five-foot-10 230-pound linebacker also had four sacks, an interception and fumble recovery.

“They can measure your speed and size but they can’t measure your heart,” said Bighill.