D-man Johnny Coughlin

D-man Johnny Coughlin

Snakes face daunting schedule to close out BCHL season

Vernon Vipers begin three-game BCHL road swing Friday in Victoria.

If there’s one quality the Vernon Vipers have demonstrated this B.C. Hockey League season, it’s resiliency.

Until last weekend, the Snakes hadn’t lost back-to-back games since they endured a three-game slide in late September. To end their January schedule with a pair of shutout losses to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks certainly stings, but their ability to bounce back has helped them earn a comfortable hold of second place in the Interior Division at 30-14-1-2.

Mark Ferner’s crew was looking to avoid a second three-game tailspin as they played a rare Tuesday nighter against the West Kelowna Warriors (23-20-0-6) at Royal LePage Place.

The Snakes will be grateful for their cushion in the standings as they will be away for all but three of their remaining 10 games. They begin a three-game road swing Friday against the Victoria Grizzlies (21-16-1-9) at The Q Centre. They then visit the Cowichan Valley Capitals (18-28-2-2) Saturday at Island Savings Centre, ending with a Sunday matinee against the Chilliwack Chiefs (28-16-1-1).

“It’s a tough month for sure,” said Ferner, following the Vipers’ game-day skate Tuesday. “We’re still in a fight. We’ve got some real tough games ahead.”

Angus Redmond recorded 23 saves for his second straight shutout, and fifth of the season, as the ‘Backs completed a home-and-home sweep of the Vipers in front of 2,000 fans Saturday night at the Shaw Centre.

Third star defenceman Phil Middleton buried his own rebound past second star Danny Todosychuk at the side of net with 1:44 to go in period one. Thomas Plese and Taylor Maruya assisted on the Vail, Colo. product’s fifth goal of the season.

“We played a good game, we just didn’t score,” said Ferner. “That’s one thing that sometimes you can’t control – how well their goalie plays. That said, you can’t let one player beat you.

“It (offence) dries up sometimes but as long as we’re playing well on the other side of the puck, I’m OK with it. It happens at the highest levels.”

Ferner isn’t about to hit the panic button following the weekend dry spell.

“Were not in a funk or anything. To hold a team to 22 or 23 shots, you feel like you’re giving yourself a chance,” he said. “Give Salmon Arm credit – they’re a desperate hockey team and trying to make playoffs.”

“The first night (3-0 loss Friday) we didn’t deserve the victory, but the second we played a lot better.”

The Warriors, who snapped a five-game skid with a 2-1 win over the visiting Merritt Centennials Saturday, were just two points ahead of the Gorillas (21-19-3-5) for the final Interior playoff spot heading into Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the North Okanagan Knights were heavily outshot in a 6-0 KIJHL loss to the Kelowna Chiefs Sunday afternoon at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

Dakota Little, Braeden Cyra and Josh Baird each collected a goal and an assist for the 19-23-2-2 Chiefs, who outshot the 6-38-1-4 Knights 51-16. Kelowna got other singles from Austin Dorn and Carter Melnyk.

Chris Turner finished with 16 stops for his third shutout. North Okanagan, losers of six straight, got 45 saves from Josh Shank.

SNAKE BITES: Vernon forward Mackenzie Bauer missed his sixth straight game to injury Tuesday, but is probable for weekend action…Forward Luke Voltin, out for the last five games, was expected to return against the Warriors…Redmond, a Langley native committed to Michigan Tech, was named BCHL Player of the Week. He gave up just one goal (1-0 loss to Penticton last Wednesday) in three games…Former Viper Adam Tambellini recorded two goals and two assists as the host Calgary Hitmen slammed the Prince Albert Raiders 10-1 in WHL play Friday. Tambellini, a third-round pick of the New York Rangers, leads the Hitmen with 37-26-63 in 50 games.

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