First place has been crossed off their wish list, but the Vernon Vipers still want to wrap up their pre-Christmas schedule in good spirits.
The Snakes, second in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division at 19-9-3-4, entertain the West Kelowna Warriors (18-11-1-2) tonight at Kal Tire Place, followed by the Powell River Kings (22-7-2-2) Saturday.
Vernon will resume action Friday, Jan. 3 against the host Trail Smoke Eaters.
Rylan Ferster’s Warriors enter tonight’s contest on a high after grounding the Kings 4-1 Sunday.
“They’ve got some firepower up front with (David) Pope, (Seb) Lloyd and (Jason) Cotton and their dee corps has improved a lot,” said Vernon assistant coach Dave Robinson. “It’s going to be a tough one and every division game is important.”
Vernon will look to recover from Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the shorthanded Salmon Arm SilverBacks at the Shaw Centre.
The SilverBacks, with just 16 skaters and head coach Troy Mick away scouting, rallied from two goals down to improve to 18-11-1-5.
“They were playing short, but they came out with a lot of energy and were outworking us,” said Robinson.
The Vipers jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on snipes by Liam Coughlin and Demico Hannoun, both with their 11th of the season.
Josh Bryan set up Coughlin’s marker at 3:32 by driving the net on a Vernon powerplay, while Michael McNicholas fed Hannoun during a 3-on-1 with 90 seconds remaining in the period.
Landon Smith jumpstarted the Salmon Arm comeback late in the second period, and then pocketed his league-leading 30th goal on a man advantage early in the third frame.
“He works very hard and he shoots everything,” said Robinson, of Smith.
Smith (30-25-55), a 6-foot, 180-pound native of Denver, is the BCHL co-scoring leader with Penticton’s Brad McLure (28-27-55).
The SilverBacks got the winner and insurance from pair of unlikely scoring heroes in Jeff Kennedy (5th goal) and Bryden Marsh (2nd).
“It was blown coverages in the dee zone,” said Robinson. “You can’t give any player those chances.”
Kennedy’s twin brother, Brendan scrapped the Vipers’ Dexter Dancs, who ran into SilverBacks’ netminder Adam Clark as he crashed the net in the dying seconds.
Meanwhile, the league-leading Penticton Vees will retain the Interior penthouse over the holidays after they bounced the host Victoria Grizzlies 3-2 Sunday at Bear Mountain Arena.
The SilverBacks fell 5-4 in overtime to the Merritt Centennials in a Sunday matinee at Nicola Valley Arena.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon captain Ryan Renz (upper body) is questionable for tonight’s game…Former Viper Michael Roberts drew an assist on Kennedy’s winner…McNicholas is riding an eight-game point streak. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. product has six goals and nine assists over that span, and leads Vernon with 18-30-48 in 35 games…The ‘Backs called up forward Logan Mostat from the KIJHL North Okanagan Knights for Saturday’s game.