After a horrid 4-2 loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night, the Vernon Vipers returned to some sense of normalcy Sunday in a 4-3 overtime matinee win over the last-place Merritt Centennials.
Head coach/GM Mark Ferner, fully aware of how fragile his young B.C. Hockey League bunch are at 5-4-0-2, gave a state-of-the-Snakes address after the Vipers lost to lowly Cowichan.
“We can deal with losses when the effort is there, but when there’s no effort, I have a problem,” said Ferner. “We were pretty selfish Saturday night. You can’t blame the young guys because when the veterans are trying to do it by themselves, the young guys will do it too.”
The Vipers gave up more turnovers than Sweet Caroline’s Bakery in pretty much gift-wrapping two points to the Caps, who are so disorganized they were forced to borrow minor hockey jerseys the night before in Penticton (lost 7-3 to the Vees) since they left their own jerseys in Trail.
Ferner wasn’t sure if Friday’s emotionally-charged 3-2 double OT loss in Trail left the Vipers weary against the Caps, but he says “we need to be better from the goalie out.”
The Smokies were rocked 9-1 by the Westside Warriors Saturday night. The Warriors, who beat Cowichan 5-2 Sunday afternoon, host the Vipers Friday night with the same two teams back here Saturday night. Vernon hosts the Quesnel Millionaires (3-5) tonight.
The Vipers outshot the Caps 41-26 and went 2-for-9 on the powerplay as goalie Derek Dun made several big stops for 3-7 Cowichan, who have been averaging almost five goals against a game. Rookie Bryton Udy took the loss.
It was 2-2 after 40 minutes before Mike Hammond and Troy Paterson scored 3:01 apart to give Cowichan its first win in Vernon in decades. Austin Evans and Chase Kaiser staked the Caps to a 2-0 lead after a snoozer of a first period. John Knisley and d-man Adam Thompson equalized with goals nine minutes apart.
Caps’ d-man Darin Robak, who helped the Vipers win the Royal Bank Cup last year, logged loads of minutes and was steady all night. Ex-Viper Nick Amies is out with a concussion.
“I told the guys that Vernon has a good transition game and I thought we played them well,” said Robak. “Things are going great for me. Dale (head coach Purinton) is pretty much treating me like a king so I’m very happy.”
Vernon sorely missed their captain David Robinson, who was attending his brother’s wedding.
Robinson led by example Sunday, scoring twice, including the winner.
The Cents (1-8-0-1) were looking to upset the Vipers in OT for the second straight week after taking period leads of 1-0 and 3-2 on goals by Max Vallis (2) and Regan Soquila.
“We kept battling and it was a good win for us,” said Ferner. “David won a battle for the puck in front of the net and scored on a backhander. That’s just him. A lot of guys think they’re working hard, but we know we’re going to get hard work every night from David.”
Ferner stacked his top line with leading scorer Dylan Walchuk (7-5-12), Bryce Kakoske and first star Robinson, and the line clicked. Kakoske and Mark Basara rounded out the offence with Thompson supplying two assists. Viper blueliner Malcolm Lyles earned third star.
Vernon outshot Merritt 31-18 with Blake Voth pocketing the win and Jared Andersen the loss.
The Vipers are fourth in the Interior Conference, two points back of Penticton and four back of the Smokies (8-4) and Salmon Arm SilverBacks (8-2).
Vernon product Riley Spraggs sniped his first BCHL goal Saturday night in the Prince George Spruce Kings’ 9-5 loss to the Surrey Eagles.
The Kings fell to 2-7-0-2, tied with Quesnel for sixth place.
Alex Grieve of the Warriors is the Player-of-the-Week. The 20-year old captain scored once and assisted on four other goals in the 9-1 victory over Trail. Less than 24 hours later, he recorded 3+1 in the win over Cowichan Valley.
The SilverBacks are rated No. 9 in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League rankings this week.
The Langley Chiefs, who lead the Coastal Conference at 7-1-0-2, come in at No. 11. Leading the poll are the Markham Waxers of Ontario, followed by the Humboldt Broncos of Saskatchewan.