Give the Penticton Vees a hint of an opportunity, and they will pounce, just like they did Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
The four-minute high sticking minor by the Vernon Vipers’ Trevor Fidler was all the league-leading Vees needed to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage. Add a empty netter by hard-working veteran Matt Serratore and Penticton escaped with a 4-2 win in front of 2,200 B.C. Hockey League fans.
The Vees (18-3-0-1), who snapped a two-game skid and lead the season series with Vernon 3-0, were down by a pair late in the second period when Riley Alferd fired the first of three straight man-advantage goals to get his team back in the game.
Alferd, named first star, danced into the high slot unchallenged and fired a quick snapper to beat netminder Jarrod Schamerhorn for his team co-leading 15th goal with 2:55 to play in the frame.
“If you give me time in the middle of the ice and let me pick anywhere on the net, I trust my shot and I just let ‘er rip,” beamed Alferd. “I’ll take what they give me anytime. I love that area.”
Speaking outside of an eerily silent Vipers’ dressing room, Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner didn’t hide his disappointment in his team’s defensive meltdown. He will expect better when the Vipers (11-7-1-1) host the Victoria Grizzlies (8-7-0-3) this afternoon (2:00) at the Big Wheel.
“When you’re 2-1 going into the third, you’d like to think you put yourself in a good spot, especially at home,” said Ferner. “But the reality is you’re not going to win hockey games when you’re giving up over 40 shots a night.
“We need to make sure we’re committed to the zone that we’re in. If these kids want to move on to the next level, that’s the easiest way.
“Even if you score a boatload of goals in Junior A hockey, that’s not going to translate into much if you can’t play defence. If the coach can’t trust you, or if you don’t want to play defence, you won’t play.”
The Snakes certainly got the start they wanted when Luke Voltin (3rd goal) jumped on a turnover at Penticton’s blueline and surprised third-star netminder Hunter Miska high gloveside at the 16-second mark.
Anthony Latina (10th) capped a shorthanded breakaway with a nice deke for the Vipers’ other goal 6:40 into period two.
“We started off good, a good 20 minutes and then we let the foot off the gas,” said the 20-year-old Toronto product. “They deserved to win, but it’s a good lesson for us.”
Latina felt for Schamerhorn (second star, 42 saves), whose workhorse effort gave Vernon a chance to win.
“Schammy keeps us in a lot of games and we support our goalies, whoever’s in net. 46 shots is way too much pressure on him and he deserves a better outcome.”
Ex-Viper Demico Hannoun (15th) one-timed a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Patrick Newell for Penticton’s first snipe on the four-minute minor to Fidler. Jack Ramsay (6th) tipped Gabe Bast’s pointshot one minute later.
Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson noticed his team’s energy level was a little off at practice this week. Instead of barking at them, he took more of a laid-back approach.
“The old days, I probably would have thrown a fit, but I just kind of let it happen to see how we’d react, and they didn’t react well,” said Harbinson.
“We started to get better in the second and it was a huge goal (by Alferd) at the end of the second that gave us a chance.”
Miska finished with 30 stops, the best of which were a pair of spectacular glove saves on Voltin to keep his team alive.
Meanwhile, the Grizz were shelled 10-4 by the host Trail Smoke Eaters Friday at Cominco Arena. Vernon product Harlan Orr led the Smokies with three goals, while former Viper Craig Martin had 1+2.
In other Interior action Friday, the Merritt Centennials shaded the host West Kelowna Warriors 4-3 in overtime, and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks grounded the Cowichan Valley Capitals 5-2 at the Shaw Centre.