Smokies get by Vipers

The Trail Smoke Eaters clipped the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in double overtime in a wild and wacky B.C. Hockey League game Friday night at Cominco Arena.

Sam Mellor of the Trail Smoke Eaters beats Viper goalie Blake Voth in double overtime Friday night.

The Trail Smoke Eaters clipped the Vernon Vipers 3-2 in double overtime in a wild and wacky B.C. Hockey League game Friday night at Cominco Arena.

Sam Mellor, the BCHL’s leading pointgetter, scored his 13th goal of the year with 21 seconds remaining in the second overtime as Trail improved to 8-3 atop the Interior Conference.

Veteran Graeme Strukoff grabbed a loose puck in the Viper zone and found Mellor into open space. Mellor froze goalie Blake Voth and buried a backhand into the open net.

The dramatic goal capped a thriller that had a little bit of everything, including a penalty shot that had to be re-taken.

Thirty-two seconds into the second overtime, referee Andrew Guest assessed the Vipers’ Malcolm Lyles a penalty for goaltender interference, even though replays showed that Lyles had been pushed into goalie Kiefer Smiley.

The Smoke Eaters selected Travis St. Denis to take the shot. He out waited Blake Voth at the goal mouth and scored, while the Vipers protested that St. Denis was ineligible because he had not been on the ice when the penalty was assessed.

The referee waved off the goal, saying that he was on his way to hear the Vipers’ argument while St. Denis was on the move. He then allowed St. Denis to take the shot again. Voth stopped St. Denis on the second attempt.

“Ferns (head coach Mark Ferner) looked at each other at the bench because we knew St. Denis hadn’t been on the ice,” said Viper assistant coach Jason Williamson. “It was like icing the kicker before a field goal. It was wild.”

The game went to overtime after John Knisley’s re-direct of Aaron Hadley’s pass at 8:44 of the third period.

“I thought Hadley was pretty good,” said Williamson. “For a young kid playing close to home, he had a very strong game. They have some big, tough defencemen back there and he’s a horse. You’re not going to come out with the puck against him in the corner.”

The Vipers used some aggressive penalty killing to stop the Smokies on two 5-on-3 power plays.

Dylan Walchuk opened the scoring with a short handed goal. He forced a turnover at the Trail blue line and fed Trevor Fitzgerald, who drew the lone Trail defender to him and slipped the puck back to Walchuk, who flicked a backhand past Smiley.

Trail equalized when Strukoff blocked a high clearing attempt and bulled his way toward the Viper goal. His rising shot went over Voth’s right shoulder into the top corner.

Trail went ahead at 15:22 following a Viper turnover at the Trail blue line. Steve Weinstein pinched, but had the puck bounce over his stick. Steve Oursov headmanned to Dylan Tappe, who tried a pass to Oursov in the Viper zone, but instead shot over Voth’s glove hand.

Scott Jacklin was one-on-one with Voth and swept across the goal crease before going backhand, but Voth stayed with him with seconds left in the second period.

Late in the third, with the game 2-2, Knisley and Mike Zalewski broke into the Trail zone with one defender back. Knisley’s pass was deflected by Zalewski at the goalmouth, but Smiley stacked the pads and blocked the rising shot.

“It was a good game,” said Williamson. “We probably deserved to win, but it is what it is at the stage of the season. We got a point on the road against a pretty good team. The effort was there.”

The Vipers hosted the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night and entertain the Quesnel Millionaires Wednesday night.

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