Let’s see, what was the highlight of Saturday night’s 5-2 B.C. Hockey League victory at home over the Trail Smoke Eaters for Vernon Vipers veteran forward TJ Dumonceaux?
Scoring two highlight reel goals? Two big divisional points as the team extended its winning streak to four games? Being named the game’s first star? Or surprising his dad, Perry, in a special pre-game ceremony when Perry thought he was going to be presenting his son with an honour?
“It was all pretty surreal, it’s still sinking in,” said Dumonceaux, 20, after the game. “The best part was probably seeing my dad’s face when I said this isn’t what you think it is.”
Perry Dumonceaux, 57, was escorted to centre ice prior to the game under the guise of presenting his son with a special community service award.
It was son who turned the tables on dad, as TJ announced to the crowd of 1,700 that he had grown a moustache for Movember to help raise money for prostate cancer awareness after Perry was diagnosed with the disease a year ago.
TJ’s goal was to raise $3,000. Thanks to help from his teammates, billets and fans, Dumonceaux raised $5,641 and presented his dad with the cheque, a huge hug and a framed Dumonceaux Vipers’ third jersey to the delight of the fans and both teams, who banged their sticks on the boards in approval.
“He was shocked and in awe. He couldn’t believe it. It was pretty cool,” said Dumonceaux, who plans to keep his wispy ‘stache for awhile. “He had no idea I was doing this all month. I kept it secret from him.”
Dumonceaux opened the scoring at 12:32 of the first period. He stepped out of the penalty box (slashing minor), slipped in behind the defence and took a great stretch pass from Brandon Egli to go in alone and beat Trail goalie Brett Clark top-shelf.
The Vipers extended the lead early in the second when Liam Coughlin finished off a pretty three-way passing play from Liam Finlay and Luke Shiplo at 3:53 on a powerplay. Luke Voltin scored 14 seconds later, off the ensuing faceoff, and the Snakes enjoyed a 3-0 cushion.
Vernon Minor Hockey product Harlan Orr got Trail on the board off a Vipers turnover in their own end at 6:03, putting a shot past Jarrod Schamerhorn.
Dumounceaux scored the goal of the night with nine seconds left in the frame.
Coughlin took the puck down the right wing, fought off a defender, spun and fired a perfect pass to Dumonceaux at the left slot. Dumonceaux one-timed a rocket past Clark.
Voltin ended the Vernon scoring at 6:55 of the third with his second of the night. Orr added his second for the Smokies on a late powerplay at 18:27.
“Every game’s a four-point game,” said a disappointed Orr before greeting family and friends outside the Smokies’ dressing room.
“If you lose, they’re further ahead, we’re further behind. If we win, we close the gap. From here on out, every game is huge because it’s a tight division and only four teams make the playoffs.”
The Smoke Eaters had been coming off an emotional 3-1 home ice win Friday over the West Kelowna Warriors, and played with three AP players Saturday as several regulars either missed the game with sickness or injury, or played under the weather.
“They challenged us early and our team didn’t respond,” said Trail assistant coach Craig Clare. “This was a big game for us to get back in the mix…We’ve had APs up for the last six or seven games. They’re not the problem. They’ve been helping us get points. Our top guys weren’t our top guys and we hung our goalie out to dry. We’ve played Vernon three times and still haven’t played our best game.”
The game marked the return behind the Vernon bench of head coach Mark Ferner, who missed a couple of games mourning the death of his brother. Dumounceaux said Saturday’s win was for the coach.
“We didn’t want to bring it up, but just go out and play for him,” said Dumonceaux. “We didn’t have to talk about it with him. We may say our condolences after the game but that was a big one for us and for him as well.”
The Vipers begin the week alone in second place in the Interior Division at 16-7-1-2 for 35 points, two ahead of the West Kelowna Warriors (14-8-0-5), and 12 behind the league-leading Penticton Vees (23-4-0-1). The annual Teddy Bear Toss goes Friday with the Vees in town.
SNAKE BITES: Larry Black, who spent 11 years as a head or regional scout with the Vipers, died Sunday night in Kelowna General Hospital, after a year’s battle with cancer. The father of three was 66. Blackie was named assistant GM and director of player personnel with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in May, 2013…The Vipers dealt F Brandon Wagner to the Silverbacks Monday for future considerations. Wagner, 18, had three goals and one assist in 24 games with Vernon…Salmon Arm also released F Nick Josephs to the KIJHL Kelowna Chiefs. The 19-year-old rang up 75 points in 33 games with Kelowna last year before joining the Silverbacks. He had one goal and three assists in 11 games this year…Vernon’s Colton Thibault netted his sixth of the season as the Silverbacks iced host Merritt 5-2 Saturday night.