Austin Smith recorded 20 saves for his first-ever B.C. Hockey League shutout as the Vernon Vipers blanked the host Salmon Arm SilverBacks 3-0 Friday night at the Shaw Centre.
Smith, who played with the WHL Swift Current Broncos last season, snared the starting position out of training camp.
“He made it look fairly easy,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson, who planned on starting Smith again in a rematch between the teams Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
Williamson’s decision to form a power line with centre Adam Tambellini and wingers Aaron Hadley and Pearce Eviston proved a wise one. The trio combined for five points, with Tambellini playing the setup man with three assists.
“They created lots of chances and were on the puck all night, That’s a line that can do some real damage out there,” said Williamson, who praised the work ethic of all four lines.
“There were times when our fourth line was on the ice buzzing around and would catch the other team on a change and that’s when Adam’s line came out and scored.”
On Vernon’s first goal, defenceman Ryan Renz made a great heads-up play, springing Eviston at the far blueline with a stretch pass from his own goal line. Eviston came across the slot, bobbled the puck, but made good on his second effort, scoring low stick side at 2:21.
Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 10-3 in the first period, and 30-20 overall. Colin Dzijacky, acquired from the AJHL Grande Prairie Storm in the offseason, recorded 27 saves and second star in the loss.
“Colin was outstanding,” said Salmon Arm head coach Scott Robinson, who has had less than a week to get acquainted with his new team since taking over the bench from Troy Mick, who is now focusing solely on general manager duties.
“He did a lot of very good things and did keep us in it. That’s what you expect with a 20-year-old goaltender. Unfortunately for him, we’re not giving him any support.”
Later in the first frame, Michael Statchuk found himself in a scrap with SilverBack veteran Jeff Kennedy after he hammered a Salmon Arm player into the boards. Kennedy picked up the instigator and an extra misconduct.
Aaron Hadley, netting his second of the season, converted on a powerplay early in the second period to put Vernon up 2-0. Colton Sparrow and Tambellini worked the puck from the sidewall to the goal line before finding Hadley for the back-door play.
Tambellini won a clean draw back to Geoff Crisfield, who rifled a top corner blast past Dzijacky for Vernon’s final goal.
The goal matches Crisfield’s offensive output from last season. His one goal last year came in Vernon’s final regular-season game against Salmon Arm.
With all the offseason changes that went on in Salmon Arm, Robinson expects some growing pains before his team gets on track.
“Literally, I’m having to look at my game card on the bench to know who’s who. I’ve got name bars I’m trying to read, but I don’t have first names in my head,” said Robinson, who coached last season with the now-defunct Dawson Creek Rage of the North American Hockey League.
“We know where we’re at, we know where we want to go, and we know how we’re going to get there. There will be some pain, but we’re trying to establish a base and work up from there.”
SNAKE BITES: Vernon defenceman Marc Hetnik (lower body) missed Friday’s game and was doubtful for the rematch Saturday night.