What started out as a relatively tame midweek B.C. Hockey League tilt finished with 20 minutes of fireworks Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.
The Vernon Vipers exploded for a trio of third-period goals as they brushed back the West Kelowna Warriors 3-0 in front of 1,470 fans.
Vernon forward Anthony Latina found himself in the middle of everything in the a heated final frame. The Toronto product opened the scoring with his 11th of the season on a three-way passing play with linemates Colton McCarthy and Trevor Fidler, on a powerplay, at 4:24. He then set up defenceman Luke Shiplo (3rd goal) with a nice drop pass for insurance at 10:49.
Liam Finlay (11th) potted an empty netter with 63 seconds to play after some nice hustle from Fidler in a race for a loose puck. The 145-pound Finlay leads the Snakes with 11-18-29 in 26 games.
“Coach (Mark Ferner) came in the room and said ‘10 shots in the first 10 minutes’ and we exceeded that,” said Latina. “When we shoot the puck, we usually get it back and that created a lot of momentum for us.”
The Vipers (18-8-1-2), who now have a four-point lead on the Warriors (15-10-0-5) for second place in the Interior, hope to carry that momentum on a three-game coastal road trip starting tonight against the Powell River Kings (14-8-0-7).
Vernon visits the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (15-10-1-2) Saturday night at Weyerhaueser Arena before finishing the weekend with a Sunday matinee with the second-overall Nanaimo Clippers (21-10-0-1) at Frank Crane Arena.
Latina ended up bowling over Warriors’ netminder Andy Desautels as he drove to the net on Shiplo’s goal. That resulted in a skirmish between him and West Kelowna d-man Mac Ferner. The two chirped one another for several solid minutes in the penalty box while the refs figured out the infractions.
“I was on top of him (Desautels) just letting him know it wasn’t on purpose and he was fine with it, but a couple of guys on their team took exception to it,” said Latina. “In a 2-0 game against a rival team, it’s probably going to happen. It’s part of the game.”
Mac Ferner and Latina were later handed misconducts after animosity flared up again with five minutes to play. The Vipers’ TJ Dumonceaux and Warriors’ Rylan Yaremko were tossed for fighting, and Vernon’s Liam Coughlin also earned an early shower.
Mac Ferner, the son of Mark Ferner and a Vernon minor hockey product, met his mother, Jody, outside the players’ tunnel after the game.
“I can’t believe I got booed in my own hometown,” Mac told her with a sheepish grin.
Regarding Latina’s collision with Desautels, Mac told The Morning Star: “Any time someone touches your goalie, I get a little fire in my eyes. I don’t really approve of that.”
On the game, he added: “Our effort could have been a little better. We got some bad bounces and couldn’t get on our forecheck and we got some odd-man rushes we couldn’t really handle.”
West Kelowna (15-10-0-5) had some good jump early and were able to test netminder Jarrod Schamerhorn, who finished with 33 saves for his second-career BCHL shutout. Desautels had a solid 34-save showing for the Warriors.
Some of Schamerhorn’s best work came while handling some tricky point shots through traffic by Warriors’ d-men Kristian Blumenschein and Greyden Robinson.
Warriors’ head coach Rylan Ferster said the penalties in the third period hindered his team’s chance at a comeback.
“It was OK for the first period and then it kind of went downhill a little bit after the second and into the third,” said Ferster.
“We didn’t really have an opportunity to get back into it. That late penalty (interference to Blumenschein) took the wind out of our sails a bit.”
Both teams recorded several heavy hits, with the Warriors’ Rylan Yaremko levelling Coughlin in front of penalty box as the lanky Viper forward looked back to collect a pass in period one. During a Vernon penalty in the final frame, Dumonceaux used his speed to hammer Jason Cotton along the sidewall. He did the exact same thing to Robinson on his next shift.
Mark Ferner felt both teams were tentative in the first 40 minutes.
“Nobody really wanted to make a mistake and we tried to get our guys to initiate a little bit more and get pucks to the net with guys going there,” he said.
“They’re an explosive team so you’ve got to be aware. They’ve got some guys who can hurt you and you have to understand who you’re playing against and making sure we’re not turning too many pucks over.”
SNAKE BITES: Fidler wore Ryan Renz’s old No. 29 instead of his normal No. 14 because his jersey was singed by an ember as he stood too close to the fire at the Coldstream light-up…Coughlin and Thomas Aldworth each hit posts, in the first and third period, respectively…Fidler missed on a wide open net after working a slick 2-on-1 with Latina late in the first period…Neither Shiplo nor Finlay were named to Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge starting Sunday in Kindersley, Sask. A total of nine BCHLers were named to the 25-man roster, including ex-Viper Demico Hannoun, now with Penticton.