For the second time in as many weeks, the Vernon Vipers have ambushed a B.C. Hockey League opponent in the third period.
After stunning the Salmon Arm SilverBacks two weeks ago, the Snakes did it again Saturday against the host Chilliwack Chiefs, netting a trio of unanswered third-period goals to set up a 5-4 overtime win.
With Vernon trailing 4-1 heading into the third period, Mason Blacklock recorded his second consecutive two-goal game to spark the Vipers’ comeback in front of 1,500 fans at Prospera Centre.
The White Rock native pocketed both goals (11th and 12th) from the slot, the first on a Pavel Datsyuk-like pass from defenceman Kenny Citron at 14:29, the second on a quick feed from behind the net by Liam Coughlin at 18:38 to force OT.
Coughlin (3rd), on a feed from Mike McNicholas (3A), scored in between Blacklock’s pair at 16:46.
In OT, defenceman Jason Bird (3rd) jumped up on the play, burying the rebound off a McNicholas (3A) shot for his second goal of the game.
“It wasn’t a great effort up until the last six minutes or so,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Dave Robinson. “It’s one of those wins where you’re happy with the result, but not really happy with the process.”
In terms of confidence, the 19-year-old Blacklock said Saturday’s comeback was huge.
“We had the opportunity to just roll over and have a pretty average weekend, or all come together as one and surprise Chilliwack,” said Blacklock, whose 12 goals are second in the BCHL behind SilverBack sniper Alex Gillies (14).
“Everyone felt great after and it was a great team-building moment for us. Anytime I can help the team on the scoresheet makes me feel good, but the most important thing is getting the two points.”
Making Saturday’s win more impressive was that the Vipers did it with just nine forwards. Dexter Dancs took the warmup, but did not play, and Josh Betinol was forced to retire early.
D-man Michael Statchuk filled in admirably up front.
“He was solid,” said Robinson. “He does all the right things.”
The Vipers, tied for third in the Interior at 6-4-1-2, had a chance to earn their first four-game win streak since 2011-12 (they strung together five wins in February 2012) Tuesday night against the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters.
The 4-8-1-1 Smokies, last in the Interior, were looking to snap a four-game skid. They fell 3-2 to the Powell River Kings Sunday at Cominco Arena.
The Vipers then head out for a three-game road weekend to the coast, starting Friday night against Powell River (10-1-0-1). Vernon visits the Nanaimo Clippers (5-6) Saturday, followed by a Sunday matinee with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (1-10-2-1).
The Chiefs’ Ben Butcher (2nd) and Vernon’s Bird swapped powerplay goals in the first period before Chilliwack raced ahead with three snipes in the second period.
Carter Cochrane (3rd), T.J. Roche (1st) and Kurt Black (4th) supplied the offence.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy we needed to take advantage of a team that’s struggling right now,” said Robinson.
“They worked for their goals. There were a lot of scrambles in front. Teams that are struggling are just finding simple ways to score goals.”
Danny Todosychuk recorded 28 saves for his fourth win. Lyndon Stanwood had 34 stops for Chilliwack.
SNAKE BITES: Dancs and Brendan Persley were expected to play Tuesday, but Betinol was not…With Austin Smith injured, Danny Todosychuk earned his third straight start Tuesday. Michael Stiliadis, acquired last week from the OJHL Georgetown Raiders, is expected to start one of Vernon’s three weekend games…Armstrong’s Dylan Chanter, a d-man with the USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints, suffered a two-minute seizure after hitting his head on the ice during a fight with Corey Petrash of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in USHL action Saturday night. Chanter, 18, formerly of the Merritt Centennials, also suffered a separated shoulder in the fall, but later Tweeted that he was “awake and okay”…The Penticton Vees lost forward Ryan Gropp to the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds Tuesday. Gropp, a Kamloops native, had 3-5-8 in 10 games. He was the T-Birds’ first-round selection, sixth overall, in the 2011 Bantam Draft…Former Viper d-man Stevie Weinstein, now with the NCAA Division 1 Bentley Falcons, was named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week after posting four points, all assists, in a weekend split with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks.