The Chilliwack Chiefs didn’t have to look far for motivation when they hosted the league-leading Vernon Vipers Friday night at Prospera Place.
With a B.C. Hockey League loss to the Snakes the week before still fresh in their minds, the Chiefs returned the favour with a 4-1 win in front of nearly 1,800 fans.
With the game deadlocked after 40 minutes, the Vipers got on the board early in the third period as Darren Nowick collected a loose puck on a broken play in the neutral zone and drove wide before ripping a shot past Mitch Gillam for his sixth goal of the season. Defenceman Marc Hetnik drew an assist.
After that, it was all Chilliwack as they scored four unanswered goals to hand the 7-1 Vipers their first loss.
Kit Sitterley, who leads the 4-1 Chiefs with 3-4-7, equalized less than two minutes after Nowick’s marker. Tyler Miller recorded the winner on the powerplay at 7:03.
David Bondra, the son of former NHL sniper Peter Bondra, and Jaret Babych, the son of long-time Vancouver Canuck d-man Dave Babych, completed the Chilliwack attack, each with their first goals of the season.
“We stood around a lot,” said an unimpressed Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson. “We didn’t win a lot of races or many puck battles. We scored one goal and then shut ‘er down.”
Friday night was the first game Vernon failed to convert at least once on the powerplay. They went 0-for-6, while the Chiefs capitalized once on three tries.
Gillam ended with 24 saves, while Kirby Halcrow recorded 30 stops in the loss.
Williamson suggested the Vipers may have been guilty of looking past Chilliwack to Saturday night’s tilt with the host Penticton Vees, who are a point behind Vernon at 6-1-0-1.
“They might have been looking ahead a little to that game, but no excuses. They (Chiefs) competed and wanted it more than us,” he said.
In other Interior Conference action Friday night, the host Merritt Centennials doubled the Salmon Arm SilverBacks 4-2 at Nicola Valley Arena; the host Prince George Spruce Kings thumped the Trail Smoke Eaters 8-0 at the Coliseum; and the red-hot Vees hammered the host Westside Warriors 8-3 at Royal LePage Place.