Whoever said B.C. Hockey League Sunday matinees are humdrum affairs forgot to tell the Vernon Vipers and Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
The teams entertained 856 fans with a trio of first-period scraps, and then took it to overtime, where the host ‘Backs eked out a 3-2 win Sunday at the Shaw Centre.
Alex Gillies, a Vernon product, pocketed his second goal of the night, and 25th of the season, by tipping Andrew Farny’s point shot past third star Danny Todosychuk for the winner 1:19 into the first OT.
The Interior Division has tightened right back up, with the third-place Vipers (23-14-3-5) trailing the surging West Kelowna Warriors (26-12-2-2) by two points. Troy Mick’s Gorillas (22-17-1-5), winners of two straight, are four points back of Vernon.
“Thirteen games left and it’s still tight,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson. “Everyone’s gearing up for the stretch drive so every point is important.”
Vernon entertains the division-leading Penticton Vees (27-11-2-4) Friday night (7:00) at Kal Tire Place. The Vees have lost three straight.
The Snakes visit the Merritt Centennials (22-17-3-1) Saturday at Nicola Valley Arena.
It was a feisty start to Sunday’s tilt as Vernon d-man Jared Wilson answered Jeff Kennedy’s dance invitation, and three minutes after that, the Vipers’ Tyler Povelofskie and SilverBacks’ Jack Berezan tangled in an all-rookie tilt. Liam Coughlin and Salmon Arm captain Blake Box completed the fisticuffs after Box slashed Coughlin at 15:06.
Gillies got Salmon Arm on the board six minutes into period one as Vernon had trouble clearing the zone. Gillies finished with a backhander over Todosychuk’s pad.
Williamson credited Salmon Arm netminder Adam Clark (28 saves, second star) for some big saves late in the first period when Vernon finally got some pressure in the SilverBacks’ zone.
Brett Mulcahy, with his third goal in six games as a Viper, replied for Vernon 6:26 into the second frame. The Kelowna product completed a slick three-way passing play with linemates Demico Hannoun and Colton Sparrow, who has played some of his best hockey as a Viper over the last month.
Alex Jewell (11th goal), another Vernon native, restored the Backs’ lead as his shot deflected off Dylan Chanter’s visor and past Todosychuk (30 saves).
Coughlin (13th) forced OT when he one-timed a Michael McNicholas offering on a 2-on-1 rush 11:02 into the third frame.
Meanwhile, Dancs and McNicholas each had a goal and an assist as Vernon bounced the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-1 before 1,700 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
“It wasn’t our sharpest game, they just did what they needed to do to win,” said Williamson. “Our penalty kill was good (held Alberni 0-for-6) and Smitty (netminder Austin Smith) played well.”
Coughlin and third star TJ Dumonceaux chipped in with a pair of helpers each.
Williamson had split up the line of McNicholas, Coughlin and Dancs, but reunited the trio for weekend duty.
“When they’re together they seem to score,” said Williamson. “It was just a matter of time because I was going to run them until they did.”
Logan Mick (3rd) opened Vernon’s account on a 2-on-1 with Dumonceaux, and McNicholas (20th) picked the top corner, glove side, on netminder Nathan Warren (19 saves) to make it 2-0 at the break.
Alberni responded on Mitch Owsley’s third snipe of the year 17:08 into period two. Dancs (18th, second star) restored the Snakes’ two-goal cushion on a three-way passing play with McNicholas and Coughlin just 37 seconds after that.
Brendan Persley (5th) completed the offence with a knee-down one-timer in the third frame, helping Smith (29 saves) record his 12th win.