The Vernon Vipers were 43 seconds away from a much-needed B.C. Hockey League win.
Instead, they watched in dread as Sean Flanagan forced overtime with a powerplay point shot, followed by first star Devin Muller’s breakaway buzzer beater to give the Salmon Arm SilverBacks a 3-2 decision Friday night at Wesbild Centre.
“I didn’t know I had only 1.8 seconds left,” grinned Muller, a shifty Swiss forward in his second year with Salmon Arm. “I probably wouldn’t have done this move had I seen how much time I had left.”
The Vipers (13-9-0-1), winless in their last five, tangled with the Gorillas (7-12-0-5) Saturday night at the Sunwave Centre.
Despite being short-benched and heavily outplayed in the opening two periods, Salmon Arm came back to snap a four-game skid.
“I feel real good for the guys,” said SilverBacks’ head coach Colin O’Hara. “We don’t deserve to be in the hockey game after the second period with the way we played. We’ll take the two points. We needed it in a real bad way.”
Salmon Arm’s Garrett Hendrickson, with his third goal, opened the scoring on a first-period powerplay, converting a feed from Kody Dhaliwal in front of 1,900 fans.
The goal came just seconds after the Vipers’ Brendan Persley had his backhand attempt denied by Kurt Williams (33 saves) on a shorthanded 2-on-1.
From then on, it seemed like a matter of time before the Vipers would respond. And they did early in the second period, getting two goals just over a minute apart from Darren Nowick, his 16th and 17th of the season.
The Long Beach, Calif. product chipped a rebound over Williams for the first goal at 2:44, and then showed good hands in tight after taking a feed from point man Brett Corkey during a man advantage.
Desperate, and perhaps sensing the Vipers were sitting back a bit in the third, the SilverBacks started pressing. They held Vernon to just two shots in the frame.
“We saw the best of the Vipers in the second period, but they sat on the lead in the third, I thought, and didn’t direct a lot of pucks to the net,” said O’Hara.
Flanagan’s equalizer, his third goal, came with Williams pulled for the extra attacker.
Viper defenceman Geoff Crisfield, who delivered one of the game’s hardest hits, rocking Jeff Kennedy right in front of the Salmon Arm bench, admitted the Vipers let one get away from them.
“It’s disappointing. We carried the play most of the game, but didn’t do what we needed to do in the third period. It came back to bite us in the end,” he said.
SNAKE BITES: A six-pack of Vernon junior A franchise players made the BCHL’s all-time top-50 after thousands of votes were cast during a six-week poll. Wayne Dye, Tom Serviss and Ernie Gare, all of the Vernon Essos, Dallas Drake of the Vernon Lakers, and twins Connor and Kellen Jones of the Vipers all made the cut.