After five head-to-head B.C. Hockey League tilts, the Vernon Vipers have yet to solve the Penticton Vees.
Hunter Miska recorded 30 saves for his fourth shutout and 20th win as the Vees blanked the Snakes 3-0 in front of 2,300 fans Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Miska, a 19-year-old Stacy, Minn. native, also recorded his first assist of the season, setting up Gabe Bast for an empty net insurance goal, his fourth of the year, with 1:08 to play.
“Oh yeah, I was cellying,” said Miska, the game’s first star, of his first point. “It was the first game of 2015, we were all pretty fired up.”
The Vipers (22-11-1-2), who trail the BCHL-leading Vees (29-5-2-1) by 14 points in the Interior Division, get two more cracks at the Vees in February, before playoffs.
“We need to find a way to beat this hockey team,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner.
“They’re a good team and they find ways, and their goalie was good again for them tonight. We just need to play with more urgency.”
Vernon began a three-game home stand Saturday against the Trail Smoke Eaters (13-21-0-2). They entertain the Prince George Spruce Kings (18-14-0-4) Friday at Kal Tire Place, followed by a Saturday-nighter against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (18-12-1-3). The Dawgs have won three straight.
The Snakes swarmed Penticton early in the first period, opening up a 10-1 shot count before the Vees settled down later in the frame. Colton McCarthy had the Vipers best chance, ringing iron on a heavy shot past Miska.
In the second period, former Viper Demico Hannoun (second star) snuck one past netminder Danny Todosychuk, who finished with 20 saves. Vees co-captain Cody DePourcq forced a turnover near the corner, then fed Hannoun for his 17th goal and fourth against Vernon.
“For the most part, I thought we played pretty well,” said Ferner. “When we did have some success, we got pucks behind their dee early, and we try to be as physical as possible without taking penalties.
“It’s a tough building to come into; you don’t have that last change. Once they get that first goal, it’s tough to get back. We had our opportunities, and they get their second (goal), and we had to shorten our bench up a little bit.”
Steen Cooper (6th goal) gave the Vees a two-goal cushion five minutes into the third period when he redirected a Bast point shot just as their powerplay expired.
SNAKE BITES: The West Kelowna Warriors made a few moves to retool their blueline, acquiring 1994-born d-man Braeden Jones from the AJHL Grande Prairie Storm in exchange for ‘95 forward Devon McAndrews Friday. A day earlier, they picked up ‘94 D Tyler Kunz from the Prince George Spruce Kings in exchange for ‘94 F Michael Buonicontri and ‘96 D Greydon Robinson.