It’s a good thing hockey games are 60 minutes long.
Down 5-3 in the home of their arch-rival, the Vernon Vipers appeared headed for a dismal B.C. Hockey League road defeat Friday night in Salmon Arm.
But spurred by a goaltending change, and an offensive-minded defenceman, the Vipers scored four times in the game’s final five minutes to steal a 7-5 victory over the Silverbacks in front of 990 fans at the Shaw Centre.
The Vipers entertained the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday at Kal Tire Place.
“It was good for our guys to battle back and take away a two-goal lead for Salmon Arm in those last five minutes,” said Vipers assistant coach Kevin Kraus, handling the head coaching duties with Mark Ferner away dealing with the death of his brother.
“But I don’t think we played very well. Our defensive zone was a bit of a scramble, we were making a bunch of awkward plays. At the end of the day, though, we won. We got two points.”
With the teams tied 3-3 after 40 minutes, Taro Hirose broke the deadlock 82 seconds into the final frame on a powerplay for the Silverbacks, who then padded the lead two minutes later on a marker from Ross Heidt.
It was then that Kraus made a goaltending change, pulling starter Danny Todosychuk in favour of Jarrod Schamerhorn.
“I just felt like we weren’t playing well in front of Danny. I don’t think they were playing hard and were hanging him out to dry, so I felt bad for Danny and made the change,” said Krause. “It kind of sparked our guys, and Jarrod made a couple of nice saves to keep us in it.”
With a division defeat looming, defenceman Mitch Meek would score twice at 14:26 on a powerplay and at 16:14 – his sixth and seventh goals of the year, tops among Vernon blueliners – to tie up the contest.
Jagger Williamson popped in the game-winner 1:21 later at 17:35, his third goal of the year, before TJ Dumonceaux sealed the victory with an empty-netter at 19:42.
“They turned it over just inside the blueline, Johnny (Coughlin) grabbed it and I knew he was going to shoot so I went to the side goalie,” said Williamson of his game-winner. “The rebound came right to me and I put it in the open net.
“Mitch’s goals were huge. That gave us confidence and got us rolling to a big win and a big two points.”
The victory, combined with a West Kelowna Warriors’ 3-1 loss in Trail Friday, moved the Vipers into sole possession of second place in the Interior Division, and stretched the team’s winning streak to four games.
Vernon (15-7-1-2) has 33 points, two more than West Kelowna. The Penticton Vees, 6-0 winners in Langley Friday, are 14 points up on the Vipers at 23-3-0-1.
The Silverbacks, losers of five straight, opened the scoring Friday just 48 seconds into the game on a goal by Bryden Marsh.
Liam Finlay equalized with his 11th of the year 19 seconds into the middle frame, and Liam Coughlin (11th) gave Vernon a 2-1 lead at 12:45.
Colton McCarthy (fourth) sandwiched a goal between Salmon Arm markers from Josh Blanchard and Joshua Laframboise.
The teams combined for 90 shots, 45 each.
“There wasn’t too much defence played by either team,” said Krause. “We can’t be playing that way every night and expect to win hockey games in this division.”
SNAKE BITES: Finlay is among 25 BCHL players invited to the Team Canada West selection camp for the 2014 World Junior A Challenge Dec. 14 to 20 in Kindersley, Sask. The selection camp runs Dec. 9 to 11 in Calgary. Former Viper Demico Hannoun is one of five Penticton Vees invited to the camp. Former Viper Luke Pierce, head coach of the Merritt Centennials, is an assistant coach with Canada West…Former Viper Dallas Calvin scored into an empty net Friday as the Smoke Eaters beat the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1. Trail sits in fifth place in the Interior Division, two points ahead of Salmon Arm and four back of the Warriors…Vernon’s Jordan Burns had 1+1 as the Powell River Kings thumped the visiting Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-1 on the Sunshine Coast Friday.