It was a case of two teams riding completely different streaks Saturday night at Cominco Arena.
The more desperate club prevailed as the Vernon Vipers, losers of four straight B.C. Hockey League games, snapped the host Trail Smoke Eaters’ four-game run with a 4-3 win.
The Snakes, last in the Interior Division at 11-14-0-7, nearly squandered a four-goal lead, but held on in front of nearly 900 fans. Trail (15-20-0-1) is two points ahead of the Vipers, who have four games in hand.
“We got up early, but got on our heels a little bit,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson. “We had our chances, but they capitalized on some of theirs.”
The unit of Andrew Tegeler, Aaron Hadley and Liam Board continued its hot streak Friday, putting Vernon on the board in the fifth minute.
“Tegeler had a good neutral-zone hit and created a turnover. Board (8th goal) ended up banging in a back-door play. All three guys touched the puck; it was good,” said Williamson.
Defenceman Marc Hetnik joined the rush to set up Tambellini for the first of his two goals, his team-leading 20th and 21st.
Braedan Russell, with his second, kept Vernon rolling in the second period, wristing one past Lyndon Stanwood from the sidewall shortly after a Viper powerplay had expired.
Williamson credited d-man Bryce Eviston for generating the Snakes’ final goal by Tambellini. It was his first point of the season.
“It was all him – neutral zone, he went on a rush, took the puck wide, shot and Tambellini buried the rebound.”
Trail responded with offence from Tyler Berkholtz (6th), on a odd-man rush, Mitch Foyle (3rd) on a powerplay rebound, and Luke Sandler (15th).
Netminder Austin Smith recorded 32 stops for the win. Stanwood had 17 saves for the Smokies.
With Viper captain Brett Corkey and second-year blueliner Geoff Crisfield both suffering upper-body injuries in Friday night’s loss to Penticton, and with Mitch McAllister out of the lineup to illness, Williamson called up d-man Alex Gran and forward Kurt Black.
“He was steady and made some good plays,” said Williamson of Gran, who plays with the Okanagan Major Midget Rockets.
“For a young guy who has only played Midget hockey, he did quite well. He was calm with the puck and made some good plays.”
Regarding Black, a Winfield product who plays with the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks, he added: “He did a good job of just keeping it simple. He works real hard and I was happy with him.”
Vernon ends its pre-Christmas schedule with a home-and-home set against the Merritt Centennials, starting Friday at Wesbild Centre. The second-place Cents (17-0-1-1), winners of three straight, entertain the Snakes Saturday at Nicola Valley Arena.
“We know they’re going to be hard working so the last two games we’ve got to be focussed,” said Williamson. “Going into the break, we need some points so hopefully the guys can muster up a couple good efforts.”
SNAKE BITES: Corkey and Crisfield are doubtful for weekend action…Viper backup keeper Danny Todosychuk was also in sickbay last weekend…Forwards TJ Dumonceaux (knee) and Craig Martin (leg) remain out indefinitely.