The Vernon Vipers hit the snooze button one too many times Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
The Snakes looked lifeless in the first period, spotting the Merritt Centennials a two-goal lead before falling 4-3 in front of 1,200 B.C. Hockey League fans.
Armstrong’s Dylan Chanter (3rd goal), a second-year blueliner with Merritt, opened the scoring when his point shot deflected off Viper defenceman Ryan Renz’ stick at 3:48.
The 6-foot-3 Chanter drew an assist on the Cents’ second goal, a 5-on-3 marker by Sebastien Pare. With shutdown defencemen Geoff Crisfield (tripping) and Renz (cross-checking) sitting in the box, Pare squeaked a shot past netminder Austin Smith from the side of the net.
“We wanted it more,” said Chanter, the game’s first star. “Their team is down right now and we out-competed them. Not in the second (period) as much, but we took the life away from them.
“That was the plan all along – get a good road start, and sure enough we got two goals quick.”
Centennials’ head coach Luke Pierce said Chanter has become a key component on his blueline.
“He had a great year last year, learning from some really great defencemen in Reece Wilcox and Billy Marshall,” said Pierce. “He was smart enough to learn and watch them and develop and now he’s the guy that’s teaching some of our other guys.”
The Vipers, tied for second last in the BCHL at 3-6-0-3, came out buzzing in the second period, catching the 8-3-1 Cents flatfooted on a terrific stretch pass from Renz to Pearce Eviston. Going in alone, Eviston was denied twice by netminder Tyler Steel, a Vernon native.
Vernon stuck with it, and were rewarded when Brett Corkey’s point shot was deflected past Steel by second star Craig Martin (2nd), who hadn’t scored since the first game of the season.
“Our start wasn’t very good and you have to go wake them up and you shouldn’t have to do that,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson.
“Other than the first 20, it was a white wave, but we’ve got to put a full 60 together.”
Cody Fowlie, acquired earlier this week from the WHL Everett Silvertips, impressed in his Viper debut. The 20-year-old Airdrie, Alta. product one-timed a centering pass by Renz from the corner to tie the game 2-2 at 7:18.
“I came here to win games and get the boys going,” said the soft-spoken winger.
“We’re just going to keep working here and see where we can go. If we can start putting the puck in the net here, and start winning a few games we’ll be all right.
“We were good towards the end of the game. The first period, the start was a little rough, but we got going in the end, but just couldn’t tie it up.”
Fowlie fit right in on a line with Aaron Hadley and Adam Tambellini, and before long, Williamson had him playing in all situations.
In the third period, he lost the handle on a backhand attempt after Corkey sprung him up the middle with a precision stretch pass.
“He definitely had his chances,” said Williamson. “That’s his first game and I think he’s only going to get better.”
Tyler Martin, with his first of the season, restored Merritt’s lead with the team’s second powerplay goal 13:40 into the second period, but Craig Martin pulled the hosts even yet again just before the intermission.
With a Merritt penalty pending, Landon Robin of the Vipers showed some deft hands, undressing a trio of Centennials before feeding Martin (3rd) a backdoor pass late in the second period.
“We let up in the second period and they were ready to capitalize,” said Pierce. “You just can’t take that risk with teams with that type of talent.”
Vernon continued to control the play in the third period, but it was Merritt that capitalized when third star Richard Sabourin (1st) buried a point shot through traffic for the winner at 6:32.
Steel recorded 32 saves for the win. Smith had 25 stops for the Snakes, who are on the road for a pair of weekend games on the coast.
Vernon visits the Surrey Eagles tonight, followed by the Langley Rivermen Saturday. Both teams share 5-5-0-1 records.