Riley Brandt of the Vernon Vipers checks Steven Fiust of the Cowichan Valley Capitals in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Riley Brandt of the Vernon Vipers checks Steven Fiust of the Cowichan Valley Capitals in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Vipers to take on Austrian team

The Vernon Vipers snapped their five-game losing skid and then announced they will face a touring Austrian team in January.

Latrell Charleson made it rain teddy bears at Kal Tire Place Saturday. His powerplay goal also turned the Vernon Vipers’ fortunes around.

Charleson’s point shot eluded Cowichan Valley goalie Lane Michasiw at 16:51 of the second period to tie the game 1-1, but the Vipers seized control and momentum for the final 23 minutes as they rallied to beat the Capitals 3-1 on Teddy Bear Toss night in front of 1,679 B.C. Hockey League fans.

The Vipers (14-17-0-2) host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (18-8-2-1) tonight at 7. Vernon holds a four-point lead on the Trail Smoke Eaters in the battle for fourth place in the Interior Division.

“It was definitely a big goal, it got us going,” said Charleson of his fourth marker of the year, set up neatly by Christian Cakebread – who did not return to the lineup in the third period after suffering an upper body injury earlier in the game – and Odeen Tufto, which brought hundreds of stuffies onto the ice surface.

“That’s my first goal on a Teddy Bear Toss night,” said Charleson. “It was nice. We didn’t want to get shutout on this evening.”

The Vipers snapped a five-game losing streak, but things didn’t start well.

They were outshot 27-19 after two periods – 16-8 in the first – and were being dominated by a Capitals squad that opened the scoring at 11:04 in the first period when Matthew Hudie beat Andrew Shortridge, who made two great saves before Hudie deposited a rebound into an open net for his 13th of the year.

Shortridge finished with 34 saves and was named the game’s first star.

After Charleson’s goal, the Vipers took over the game. They nearly took the lead at 4:50 of the third when Brett Stapley deflected a Charleson shot that beat Michasiw but not the crossbar.

Minutes after Shortridge stoned Hudie on a clear-cut breakaway, Vernon defenceman Bo Pellah flipped a shot from the point at the Capitals net. It was deflected by Vernon captain Colton McCarthy past Michasiw at 7:51 to give the Vipers their first lead in five games.

“Playing with a lead is obviously a lot better,” said McCarthy, who has a team-high 15 goals. “You don’t have to sit back on your toes too much. Just keep it simple, chip pucks in and out.

“It was a huge win for the guys. We’ve been feeling a little bit frustrated but we came out hard, played the right way and got the two points.”

After the Vipers killed off a four-minute high sticking penalty to Jagger Williamson, Joe Sacco added the insurance marker on a powerplay at 19:06, his fifth of the season.

The game marked the return of former Vipers defenceman Mitch Meek, dealt to Duncan in the off-season. Meek, who was held off the scoresheet, has 4-20-24 in 28 games for the Caps (16-11-1-3).

“This is a game I was definitely looking forward to,” said Meek, who spent time after the game visiting his former Vernon billet family, Brad and Stacey Donison, and their son, Josh (the Donisons brought Meek’s favourite baked goods).

“We came out strong in the first but in the end, we didn’t get the two points we wanted. My billet family came to watch so it was an important game for me, and I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with a win. But it’s nice to come back here to this building.”

The Vipers will host the touring Red Bull Salzburg of Austria (U-20) Monday, Jan. 25. Red Bull will play four or five games in B.C.

The last time an international club visited Vernon was the 2009-10 season when the Sweden U18 team led by Gabriel Landeskog (now with Colorado Avalanche) faced the Vipers.

The Red Bull Salzburg club features mainly Austrian-born players with a few German products. 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.

Tickets for the exhibition will be $7 for adults and seniors and $5 for students and Children.

SNAKE BITES: The Vipers played witout defencemen Mac Ferner and Griffin James (injured), and F Liam Finlay (World Junior A evaluation camp in Leduc)… D Carter Stephenson played his second game as an affiliated player from the Vancouver NW Giants Major Midget League squad. He made a terrific pass in the first period from his own goal line to Cakebread at centre, springing the forward for a breakaway which was stopped by Michasiw…The Silverbacks have won all three meetings with the Vipers this season.