On paper, the Vernon Vipers appear to be a one-line hockey team.
Head coach/GM Mark Ferner will address that fact as the 3-3-0-1 Vipers begin a three-game B.C. Hockey League road trek Friday on the Sunshine Coast versus the Powell River Kings.
Vernon went 1-1 in the fifth Bauer Showcase last weekend in Chilliwack, rallying for a 4-3 double overtime win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals Sunday morning after losing 3-2 to the unbeaten Wenatchee Wild Saturday afternoon.
The Vipers’ No. 1 unit of Liam Finlay, Odeen Tufto and Steven Jandric has accounted for half of the team’s 27 goals through seven games. Aside from d-man Bo Pellah, who scored against the Caps, the threesome represented Vernon’s entire offence at the Showcase.
“Yah, we’re going to mix the lines up a bit and get some guys going,” said Ferner. “We’ve gotta get Jagger (second-year F Williamson, 17) going. He’s had no luck. He’s having pucks bounce off his stick and stuff like that, things that normally happen to a 16-year-old.”
The Vipers gave up a shorthanded snipe to Patrick Geary and a powerplay goal to Jared Domin while falling behind 2-0 after 20 minutes against Cowichan Valley.
Darien Craighead made it 3-0 Caps five minutes into the second frame before the Vipers big line went to work.
Tufto, from Jandric and d-man Mitchell Oliver, responded midway through the second. Jandric, with a quick release top cheddar, from Oliver and Griffin James, pulled Vernon within one 4:34 into the third.
Finlay registered the equalized eight minutes later with Jandrick and Tufto assisting.
After a tight-checking 4-on-4 overtime session, Tufto beat Cowichan goalie Lane Michasiw with 23 seconds left in 3-on-3 play. Finlay drew the helper.
Jandric, an 18-year-old rookie out of Prince George, earned first star.
“He played well,” said Ferner. “He did the things we need to him to do and that’s skate hard down the wing. He plays a north-south game and those other two play east-west. He has a real good compete (level) to his game.”
Ferner said the Vipers got a huge lift when alternate captain Riley Brandt steamrolled a Cap near the Vernon bench with a monster check late in the middle period. Geary stepped in and took on Brandt in a spirited scrap.
Andrew Shortridge, who returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion in practice last week, also gave the Vipers some inspiration with a few huge stops when the 3-1-0-1 Caps were pressing for the 4-0 killshot goal.
The expansion Wild (5-0) matched the Vipers in speed as they outshot Vernon 13-2 in the first period and enjoyed eight powerplays to Vernon’s two.
“They’re quick, they play with pace,” said Ferner, on Wenatchee. “They’re on ya so you have move the puck in a hurry. Their dee aren’t overly mobile, but they move the puck and their goalie is good.”
The Wild got 19 stops from Detroit Red Wings draft Chase Perry, none better than the cross-crease dazzler when he denied Pellah on a 2-on-1.
Perry was a fifth-round choice of Detroit in 2014 and played last year for the woeful Colorado College Tigers. He was previously with Wenatchee in the NAHL.
Troy Conzo, Hunter Alden and Tyler Rockwell counted Wenatchee goals, while Jandric and Jimmy Lambert responded for the Snakes.
Viper veteran Jarrod Schamerhorn recorded 36 saves to earn third star. Vernon d-men Austin Cho, for boarding, and Mac Ferner, for charging, both took majors
SNAKE BITES: Finlay and Cho are listed on the NHL Central Scouting ‘Players to Watch’ preliminary list of talent for the 2016 entry draft. D Dante Fabbro and C Tyson Jost, both of the Penticton Vees, F Colin Grannary of the Merritt Centennials C Ty Westgard of Surrey Eagles, F Kyle Betts of Powell River and F Kohen Olischefski and D Dennis Cholowski of the Chilliwack Chiefs. also made the rankings…The Vipers are fourth in the Interior, three points back of the first-place Vees…Vernon product Cole Woodliffe has signed with the Weyburn Red Wings in the SJHL. A late cut of the Cents, Woodliffe rang up four goals in a 5-3 Summerland Steam win over the host Spokane Braves in KIJHL play on Sept. 19.