Morning Star Staff
Jordan Burns had to look back to his Pee Wee days in Greater Vernon minor hockey to find a team as talent-laden as the Powell River Kings.
The 2007-08 Watkin Motors Mustangs featured current junior stars Curtis Lazar, Colton Thibault, Dylan Bowen, Alex Gillies and Cole Sanford.
The Kings’ lineup seems to be equally blessed with depth, and it showed Saturday night at Kal Tire Place as they upended the Vernon Vipers 7-2 in front of 1,700 B.C. Hockey League fans.
“We have incredible depth on forward,” said Burns, an 18-year-old defenceman committed to the NCAA Division 1 Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks.
“Any one of our top three lines could be a first line on another team. Any of our dee can play top four and both our goalies are really good.
“It’s a treat to be on the team for sure.”
The Kings (24-8-2-2), one point behind Victoria for first overall, overcame an early two-goal deficit, exploding for seven unanswered goals, including three on the powerplay to brush back the Snakes.
Burns capped a four-goal second period with his first of the season, a one-timer knuckle puck from the point that fooled Vernon netminder Austin Smith.
The 20-year-old tender was pulled after that. He allowed five goals on 18 shots, and gave way to Danny Todosychuk, who gave up a pair on a dozen shots.
“It was long awaited,” smiled Burns, of his goal. He also has 12 assists in 34 games. “Took a little longer than I hoped.”
Powell River head coach Kent Lewis said Burns is still a work in progress, but added there is plenty of untapped potential.
“He does some good things, he’s a good kid, he’s good with the biscuit.
“He’s picked the school that’s right for him. He’ll play another year to ready himself for the college level. He’s still just a young kid and he’s growing. He’s got good poise and a good knack for the puck.”
Vernon, second in the Interior Division at 20-10-3-4, got off to a terrific start, racing out to a 2-0 lead on snipes three minutes apart by Liam Coughlin (12th) and Ryan Renz (2nd) in the first period.
Jared Wilson fed Colton Sparrow a pass out wide, and Coughlin went hard to the net to bury the rebound off Sparrow’s shot at 6:57.
Renz, who has lost 22 games to injury this season, wristed a point shot through traffic after Mason Blacklock won an offensive zone faceoff at 9:55.
“We started really well and took the game to them,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson. “The game got away from us and they were opportunistic. From our goaltenders out, we weren’t that good.”
Stephen Hiff (5th goal) responded with Powell River’s first powerplay goal with 1:03 to play in the period. Singles by JJ Colshaw (7th), Luke Nogard (13th), Kurt Keats (9th) and Burns gave the Kings a hefty 5-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Keats (10th) and Jarryd Leung (15th) capped the scoring in front of Jonah Imoo (21 saves) in the final frame.
Williamson said Vernon’s discipline played a major factor in the outcome. Sparrow helped Keats pick up the Gordie Howe hat trick by instigating a scrap late in the first period.
Brendan Persley and Kyle Chatham, a 20-year-old in his first BCHL fight, dropped the mitts in period two.
“It was just a perfect storm,” said Williamson. “We just came unravelled. They were antagonizing and they pushed our guys’ buttons that night.”
Burns agreed: “We got them off their game. He (Lewis) makes sure we’re disciplined as we can be and when other team start getting out of hand we like to take advantage.”
The Kings wrapped up their pre-holiday schedule with a 5-0 matinee loss to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks Sunday at the Shaw Centre.
First star Adam Clark registered 44 saves for the shutout, while Michael Roberts, another member of the Pee Wee Mustangs crew, recorded a deuce for second star.
Landon Smith and Gillies each added a goal and assist, while Jeff Kennedy supplied a single.
Vernon opens the New Year against the host Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday, Jan. 3 at Cominco Arena.
Aside from last year when they finished fourth in the Island loop, Powell River has been a perennial contender, finishing either first or second in each of the past four seasons.
The Vipers and Kings had some epic battles in the Fred Page Cup final for three straight seasons (2009-11), with Vernon shading Lewis’ crew each time to advance to the Doyle Cup B.C-Alberta regional playdown.
Lewis would love to buck that trend this year, and he believes the Kings have the firepower to make it happen.
Powell River has just two players in the BCHL top-20 scorers (Jarid Lukosevicius and Ryan Scarfo are 19th and 20th respectively), but they have six players with 10 goals or more each. They are also the only team with a sub-2.00 goals-against average (1.92).
“I’m tired of playing teams in the league finals and not finishing. We need finish and I think we’ve addressed that. Look at our scoring spread out over three lines. It’s never easy to get there, but when you get there, score.
“It’s a pretty good group. We’re trying to get some continuity and get healthy. We haven’t had some good pieces for a long time which allows for other guys to play up.”