The Vernon Vipers just can’t seem to solve the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
The Snakes were on the verge of snapping a three-game slump against their neighbours to the north, only to see a string of controversial third-period penalties sap their momentum and allow the Gorillas to pull a 4-3 comeback win before 1,200 B.C. Hockey League fans Saturday night at the Sunwave Centre.
With the Vipers leading 3-1 early in the third period, linesman Mike Langin handed captain Dave Robinson a four-minute butt-ending penalty as he battled with the SilverBacks’ James Friedel.
Jarryd Ten Vaanholt pulled Salmon Arm within a goal a minute into the ensuing powerplay, and things unravelled further when Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner earned a bench minor during the stoppage.
“The linesmen that made that call better be darn sure it’s a butt end and our indication is it wasn’t,” said Ferner, who argued the SilverBacks should have been assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty for taunting the Vipers in front of their bench after the goal.
Added Robinson: “It was pretty unfortunate that call was made. I don’t think I have ever butt-ended another player, and I never will.
“That kind of turned the game. It was another game where we outplayed and outshot them and probably deserved a better fate… so we’ll just have to learn from it and move on.”
The SilverBacks equalized 21 seconds later on a 5-on-3, with first star Josh Manson pocketing his fourth goal, assisted by Justin Krabben.
Brett Knowles (9th goal) collected with the winner at 10:14, scoring shorthanded just as a Viper was stepping on the ice after serving the bench minor.
“The last thing we expected was to be put in that situation,” said Ferner. “We were in a good spot – tied 1-1 going into the third period on the road.”
The Vipers opened the scoring in the second period when Kyle Murphy collected the rebound off Robinson’s original shot and fed the Viper captain for an open net goal, his 10th of the season, at 8:03.
With referee Matt Thurston’s hand raised for a delayed penalty against Salmon Arm, the Vipers’ Bryce Kakoske attacked the SilverBacks’ blueline, getting behind the defence and ripping his shot high glove side on netminder Chase Martin at 2:40 of the third period.
Robinson (11th) capped the Viper offence at 5:10, jamming home the rebound after Murphy (second star) tipped Brett Corkey’s point shot.
Devin Gannon, with his team-leading 13th goal, had Salmon Arm’s other tally, a second-period marker.
Martin was solid for the second-straight night against Vernon (they grounded the Vipers 3-2 Friday night at Wesbild Centre), recording 40 stops to earn third star and help the SilverBacks creep into second place in the Interior at 16-8. Bryton Udy (24 saves) took the loss.
Viper call-up Nick Kerr, the younger brother of former Snake James Kerr, dropped the gloves with the SilverBacks’ Dustin Cave five minutes into the third period.
Said Robinson of Kerr: “He’s a big kid and he stepped up and was throwing them pretty well.”
The Vipers, who occupy fourth in the Interior at 12-7-1-5, departed Tuesday morning for a four-game tour of the BCHL’s coastal teams, starting tonight against the first-place Powell River Kings (18-4-1-2) at Hap Parker Arena.
They visit the Coquitlam Express (10-9-1-4), Langley Chiefs (15-8-0-4) and Surrey Eagles (15-9-0-1) Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Said Ferner: “We’ll get out of Dodge for a while, which will be good for our guys. We haven’t had a lot of overnight games of late, so they’ll be looking forward to it.”
The next Viper home game is Friday, Nov. 26 against the Trail Smoke Eaters.