When Vernon Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson shipped sniper Adam Tambellini to the Surrey Eagles at the B.C. Hockey League carding deadline, he was adamant that Mason Blacklock be part of the returning talent.
We now know why.
Blacklock, 18, exploded for a goal and three assists to help the Vipers open a three-game Vancouver Island road trip with a 6-4 win over the Nanaimo Clippers Friday night at Frank Crane Arena.
Williamson said the White Rock native clicked well with linemates Andrew Tegeler (3+1) and Dexter Dancs considering it was only his second game with the Snakes.
“I’m sure it’s a shock to the system (getting traded)…but last night he was a kid we leaned on,” said Williamson. “His compete level was so good.
“They were really good defensively and supporting each other through the neutral zone.”
Vernon, last in the Interior at 13-19-0-7, got the start they wanted when Bryce Eviston netted his first of the season. After doing a Drew Doughty-esque spinorama at the blueline, the rookie d-man headed to the slot and beat Jayson Argue (16 saves) high blocker side to put Vernon up 1-0 after one period.
Matthew Grant (8th goal) and Garrett Brandsma (2nd) scored for the 21-15-0-2 Clips in the second frame, while Tegler (2nd, 3rd, 4th) turned the hat trick for the Vipers.
Reid Sturos, with his 14th and 15th of the season, kept Nanaimo close in the third period, but Blacklock (10th), with the winner, and Logan Mick (3rd), with the insurance tally, put the game away.
“Tonight we just never gave up. There was a lot of points where they tied the game or brought it within one goal and we didn’t get down on ourselves,” said Blacklock.
“We’ve got a lot of belief in the dressing room that we can still make the playoffs. We might not be the flashiest guys but we’ve got hard-working, good players so we’re going to surprise some teams in the second half.”
Danny Todosychuk was stellar in making 40 for saves for his fourth win.
“He made some big stops late,” said Williamson, who went with Todosychuk over veteran keeper Austin on a hunch.
“Danny’s got a good mind-set and he’s been pushing Austin and we’ve got some good healthy competition there.”
Smith was expected to get the start when the Vipers visited the last-overall Cowichan Valley Capitals (9-24-1-3) Saturday night in Duncan. They face the Victoria Grizzlies (27-9-0-4) in a 1:30 p.m. matinee today at Bear Mountain Arena.
In other Interior Conference action Friday night, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks stopped the Trail Smoke Eaters 3-1, the Penticton Vees iced the Powell River Kings 5-4 in OT and the West Kelowna Warriors tied the Surrey Eagles 3-3.