You’ll have to look back through a few boxscores to find the last time a Vernon Viper scored a B.C. Hockey League goal.
The answer to that trivia question is Michael Roberts, a Vernon product and former Viper now with the KIJHL Revelstoke Grizzlies, who did the deed 185 minutes and 16 seconds ago in a Jan. 28 win over the Merritt Centennials.
Since then, the Vipers’ usually potent offence has taken a detour down Snakebite Alley as they fell 2-0 to the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday at Royal LePage Place. Vernon has been shut out in three straight games.
“Kids played well, we just can’t score right now,” said Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner.
“We’re not initiating enough. We didn’t get enough second and third opportunities, and our forecheck’s not there because we’re not getting pucks deep. We’re trying to do everything off the rush.”
The Vipers (30-15-1-2), who are nine points ahead of the Warriors (24-20-0-6) for second place in the Interior Division, hurt their chances by sending West Kelowna on eight powerplays, including a trio of 5-on-3 advantages.
Liam Blackburn opened the scoring on the final 5-on-3, burying a rebound for his 21st of the season 7:10 into the third period.
With just over four minutes remaining, d-man Mac Ferner, the son of Mark Ferner, hammered home a point shot under the crossbar for his second of the year.
In just his third BCHL start, Stephen Heslop, a call-up from the KIJHL Princeton Posse, recorded 33 saves for his first career shutout.
“I didn’t know if I’d have an opportunity to play Junior A this year at all, so this one obviously means a lot to me,” said Heslop. “I’m so thankful to Bill (Posse coach Rotheisler) and Rylan (Warriors’ coach Ferster) for the opportunity to help out this team lately.”
Ferster was pleased with the Warriors’ compete level, as they were without starter Andy Desautels, d-man Kristian Blumenschein and forward Jordan Masters due to the flu.
“It was good for our guys to be in a game like tonight. They’re like playoff games now and this is what a playoff game would be like,” said Ferster, who also praised his team’s willingness to block shots. “It’s a huge part of the game and I think both teams committed to it tonight, which is what you’ll see more of down the stretch.”
Among his 24 saves, Vernon’s Danny Todosychuk recorded a pair of phenomenal right pad saves, robbing Jason Cotton in the first period and Tanner Campbell in the second period.
The Vipers leave for Vancouver Island this morning and will hope to break the goal drought when they visit the Victoria Grizzlies (22-16-1-9) tonight at The Q Centre.
Even with Vernon’s recent scoring troubles, they are tied with the Grizz for third-best offence (3.69 goals per game). Victoria has won three straight.
Until Vernon rediscovers its offensive mojo, Ferner can at least take solace in his team’s defence, which also ranks third overall (2.79 goals against).
“Defensively, we’re doing the job,” he said. “We’re limiting teams’ opportunities, but we’re not creating enough.
“We’re still in games, and that’s the positive. We’re still hanging around.”
The Vipers are in Duncan Saturday night to face the Cowichan Valley Capitals (18-28-2-2) before battling the Chilliwack Chiefs (28-26-1-1) Sunday afternoon.
West Kelowna visits the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (21-91-3-5) tonight at the Shaw Centre. The ‘Backs trail the Warriors by two points for the final Interior playoff spot.
SNAKE BITES: Vipers’ forward Luke Voltin was supposed to play Tuesday, but re-aggravated his ankle injury in the pre-game skate…Injured forward Mackenzie Bauer has been skating with the Vipers, but is questionable for weekend action.
With files from Kyle Anderson/West Kelowna Warriors.