Tyler Steel recorded 29 saves for first star as the Merritt Centennials iced the Vernon Vipers 5-0 in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night before 650 fans at the Nicola Valley Arena.
Dane Birks scored with 27 seconds left in the first period and the Cents then exploded for three third-period snipes in 1:36 before Jeff Wight completed the offence with 64 seconds remaining. Regan Soquila, Brent Fletcher and Silvan Harper had the other goals as the Cents improved to 19-11-1-1, good for second place in the Interior Division.
Danny Todosychuk made 39 saves for the Vipers, who will spend Christmas in last place, at 11-16-0-7.
“The first two periods, I thought went pretty well,” said Viper veteran forward Colton Sparrow. “We were short on the back end and we missed Corks (captain Brett Corkey), but the ice wasn’t titled at all. We had our chances and so did they. We had some costly turnovers and breakdowns in the third and they scored four quick ones.”
The Vipers are 11-16-0-7 and just four points back of the Trail Smoke Eaters and West Kelowna Warriors. They are five points back of the third-place Salmon Arm SilverBacks. The top-four teams make the playoffs and Vernon has 22 games left after the break, starting with a road game, Friday, Jan. 4 at Salmon Arm.
The Vipers and SilverBacks have managed just 82 goals, one less than the Cowichan Valley Capitals, who are the league’s lowest-scoring team.
Sparrow figures head coach/GM Jason Williamson will make some serious roster moves before the Jan. 10 deadline.
“Like Willy said, the break is well needed,” said Sparrow, a Vernon minor hockey product. “We have go home, rest and then regroup. There has to be, and I think there will be, changes made before the deadline. I don’t know if Willy has plans to make some, but we’ve made enough small changes, we need to make some big changes.”
Please see Friday’s Morning Star for more Viper coverage