The Vernon Vipers have surprised a number of teams with their third-period heroics.
They nearly did it again Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre, but instead fell 6-5 in overtime to the Penticton Vees in a B.C. Hockey League thriller.
In double-OT, Brett Beauvais beat netminder Danny Todosychuk on a penalty shot after Vernon d-man Josh Bryan was called for a tripping minor (automatic penalty shot at 3-on-3) at 3:31.
Tied 3-3 early in the third period, the Interior Division-leading Vees (11-3-1-1) appeared to have put the game away on goals by Cody DePourcq (6th goal) and Max Coatta (9th).
However, Vernon (9-5-1-3), showing the no-quit attitude that has helped them win six of their last eight, responded with two of their own to force OT. Jared Wilson and Riley Guenther, both d-men, and both netting their first goal as a Viper, guaranteed their team a point.
“We’ve had some good games where we came back late, so it’s definitely showed our guys we can come back at any time,” Vernon head coach Jason Williamson told Black Press. “We have some high-end skill up there. It’s refreshing to see that they won’t quit, ever.”
Coatta opened the scoring in the opening period on the first of two Penticton powerplay goals. Vernon took a 2-1 lead into the intermission on snipes by Dexter Dancs (8th) and TJ Dumonceaux (2nd), scoring his second goal in as many games after a 14-game drought.
Depourcq (second star) equalized with the game’s lone second-period snipe, assisted by Riley Alfred and Brad McClure.
McClure, with his team-leading 10th goal, and Jason Bird (4th), who finished with a goal and three assists, traded goals early in the third period.
“Jason Bird was good in jumping up in the play and we were creating things off the rush,” said Williamson, adding Vernon’s defensive play was a little sluggish.
“We weren’t as good as I’ve seen us be in the defensive zone. We were giving up too many opportunities. We’ve just got to be more aware of the guys around us and not puck watching.”
The Vees outshot Vernon 45-26 and held the Vipers scoreless on three powerplays. Olivier Mantha recorded 22 saves for his sixth win. Todosychuk had 40 stops for Vernon.
“We were just that little bit off on puck battles, but we showed some compete being able to come back,” said Williamson.
Vernon was missing a trio of players as they entertained the 9-8-1 Merritt Centennials Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Wilson, along with forwards Demico Hannoun and Dancs, are in Calgary for a five-day selection camp for Team Canada West, which will compete at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S.
Merritt also has three players at the camp – d-man Dane Birks and forwards Diego Cuglietta and Jeff Wight.
In other BCHL action Friday night, the West Kelowna Warriors took over sole possession of second place at 11-4-0-1, one point ahead of Vernon, as they outlasted the host Coquitlam Express 4-3 at Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.
Reid Simmonds netted the winner with 22 seconds remaining in regulation to cap a two-goal night.