Of all the Vernon Vipers heading home for the holidays, T.J. Dumonceaux probably had the most to look forward to.
The 20-year-old Kelowna forward is probably just getting over his first sunburn as he kicks back with his family somewhere on a beach in Hawaii.
But if his mind was preoccupied by sunny climates Saturday night at Kal Tire Place, it certainly didn’t show as he led the Vipers with two goals and plenty of hustle as the Snakes swarmed the Powell River Kings 5-2 in front of 1,700 B.C. Hockey League fans.
“It’s a lot more fun going into the break with a win and that’s where our heads were at,” said Dumonceaux, who fired the winner 13:56 into the second period, and added insurance four minutes into period three. He now has 16 snipes on the season.
“None of us were really thinking about after the game, we were all in the moment. It’s what you need before a break because it is tough to play a game like that right before you’re going home.”
The second-place Vipers, who improved to 22-10-1-2, enter the break six points clear of the West Kelowna Warriors (18-12-0-5), who fell 7-2 at home to the Penticton Vees Friday.
Vernon returns to action against the BCHL-leading Vees (28-5-2-1) Friday, Jan. 2, at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Vernon outshot Powell River 49-25, and had fired seven pucks at towering netminder Stefan Wornig by the three-minute mark. However, the Kings (15-12-0-7) opened the scoring with their first shot of the game at 4:23 when Jarid Lukosevicius collected the first of his two goals, beating Jarrod Schamerhorn clean from the high slot.
Thomas Aldworth (26th goal) replied later in the first on a Viper rush with Liam Coughlin, using a seamless release to beat Wornig, high gloveside.
The momentum really swung Vernon’s way after they killed off a charging minor to Riley Brandt early in period two. On the next shift, forward Luke Voltin (9th) charged into the Kings’ zone and fired a beauty toe-drag-snapshot to give the Vipers their first lead.
Lukosevicius (16th) wired his second of the night with a slick top-shelf snipe through traffic during a powerplay midway through the third period. Less than a minute later, Liam Finlay (13th) redirected an Aldworth shot in front of Wornig to complete the scoring at 11:12.
“We just made too many stupid mistakes that cost us goals,” said Kings’ head coach Kent Lewis. “The fifth one (by Finlay) summed it up. We get within two and I think we can do it. We just didn’t throw enough pucks on the net.”
Vernon head coach Mark Ferner praised his team for a terrific rebound effort after an erratic performance in Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Merritt Centennials.
“It’s a tough time of year to motivate kids, but they came out with a real good effort against a good hockey team,” said Ferner. “We understand they were shorthanded and possibly tired, but we don’t care who we play, we care how we play.
“We didn’t make it hard on ourselves. We limited our turnovers and our dee did a good job of getting the puck into our forwards’ hands.”
Powell River completed a ridiculous three-game road schedule against Vernon, with earlier stops in Port Alberni Thursday and Langley Friday. They also had three call-up players in the lineup as they were without snipers Stephen Hiff and Kurt Keats, and defensive stalwart Carmine Buono.
A one-week break and the Kings are right back at it against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Dec. 27 (Vernon gets a 12-day hiatus).
“We’ll have a quick break and get some bodies back in the lineup and hopefully get better,” said Lewis, a hard-nosed winger with the Nanaimo Clippers and WHL Victoria Cougars in the early ‘80s.
“Most of these kids in this league get a very little break. I’d love to see a 50- or 52-game schedule like when I played in the league.”
Liam Coughlin, named third star, set up both of Dumonceaux’s goals, the first with a hard backhander to the front of the net, where Dumonceaux was able to pounce on a rebound. The Boston native stretched the Kings’ defence with a cross-ice pass to d-man Johnny Coughlin (no relation), who fired on Wornig, and again Dumonceaux was well-positioned to deposit the rebound.
Johnny Coughlin, a Rochester, N.Y. product committed to the NCAA Holy Cross Crusaders, is thrilled to be heading back east for the break.
“I’m excited to get home, but at the same time, this is what I do. I’ve been here since August and it’s important for me to play well and finish the job here.”
Asked if he has anything special planned, Johnny Coughlin replied: “It’ll just be a lot of family time; I miss them a lot. Hopefully it’s a white Christmas.”
Schamerhorn recorded 23 saves for his 15th win, while Wornig made 44 stops for the Kings.
SNAKE BITES: Brandt delivered a hit-of-the-year candidate on Curtis McCarrick in the third period, steamrolling the unsuspecting Powell River forward in front of the penalty box as he rushed the puck up ice. It also earned the mulleted Trail agitator his second charging minor on the night…The game was delayed by 35 minutes because the referees were stuck in traffic following a fatal car accident by Duck Lake on Highway 97.