Head coach Jason Williamson thought the final tilt would be the Vernon Vipers’ biggest challenge of a three-game B.C. Hockey League road weekend.
It ended up being their only win of the bunch as Vernon parlayed a six-point night by centre Adam Tambellini into a 7-5 win over the Coquitlam Express Sunday afternoon at the Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.
The road swing must have felt a little like Planes, Trains & Automobiles for Williamson’s crew, who were delayed twice Saturday – once by the ferry crossing from Powell River to Vancouver Island, and again by a highway accident – only to fall 2-0 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs that night.
“It’s definitely an interesting weekend,” said Williamson, noting the 8-9-0-6 Vipers didn’t roll into the hotel in Parksville until midnight after facing the 12-9-0-4 Dawgs. They had to rise at 6:30 a.m. to get back to the Mainland for the matinee.
“I thought Sunday might be the toughest one to win.”
Tambellini scored the first of his three goals – he is second in league scoring with 15-15-30 in 23 games – on the game’s first shot against the 11-11-1 Express. However, Coquitlam also scored on their first shot on Austin Smith by John Siemer (12th goal), and pulled ahead on their sixth, a powerplay marker by Philip Zielonka (8th) at 7:10.
“From their sixth shot on goal that went in the net, they didn’t have one shot for 29 minutes and seven seconds,” said Williamson. “When you don’t give up a shot in 29 minutes, that’s a pretty good team effort.”
Aaron Hadley (7th), who ended the night with 1+2, counted the first of four straight man-advantage goals for the Snakes at 11:13. Tambellini and Pearce Eviston, with two, had the others.
“We tweaked it (powerplay) a bit going into Sunday’s game and they made some plays,” said Williamson. “They (Tambellini and Eviston) were always setting each other up.”
Smith’s save percentage then took a beating as the Express converted their seventh, eighth and ninth shots – Mitchell Frye (3rd), Brandon Morley (1st) and Alex Kerfoot (7th) – to tie the game 30 seconds into the third period.
Tambellini restored the lead at 2:22, and Eviston (8th) buried an empty-netter to give Smith (14 saves) his sixth win. Cole Huggins (18 saves) was relieved by Daniel Urbani (19 saves) early in the second period.
Tryg Strand, scoring on a second-period powerplay goal, and Ryan Lough provided the offence for Alberni Valley in Saturday night’s game, which was delayed 45 minutes due to the Vipers’ travel mishaps.
Jay Deo recorded 39 saves for his first shutout of the season and first star, while Vernon’s Danny Todosychuk took third star for his 34-save showing.
“Danny’s been good since we brought him back (from KIJHL Golden Rockets),” said Williamson.
“It might have been the best thing for him, a little bit of a wake-up call. He was getting his game focussed and he was itching to get back here, so good thing we brought him back when we did.”
It was Vernon’s second straight shutout loss as they fell 3-0 to the Powell River Kings Friday.
“I didn’t think we were horrible in either game,” said Williamson. “Playing on the road, sometimes travel is tough on your guys.”
Sunday’s win should provide a confidence boost for the Snakes, who battle the second-place Penticton Vees in a home-and-home this weekend, starting Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Fred Harbinson’s Vees (15-6-0-2) visit Wesbild Centre Saturday night. They fell 5-3 to the host Trail Smoke Eaters (11-13-0-1) Saturday night at Cominco Arena, and are 5-4-0-1 in their last 10.
“Big weekend,” said Williamson. “We usually play well against Pentiction; they bring out the best in us, and we bring out the best in them. Our guys will be excited.”
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s Curtis Lazar, a centre with the Edmonton Oil Kings, is ranked No. 8 overall for WHL skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s November rankings…Tambellini tops a list of 14 BCHLers on. The 6-foot-4 forward was the only one to receive a B Rating (second- or third-round candidate), while rookie Viper d-man Kevin Guiltinan earned a C billing (rounds fourth to sixth)…Former Viper Marcus Basara is a point ahead of Tambellini in the BCHL scoring race with 15-16-31 in 22 games…Salmon Arm has traded captain Bennett Hambrook, a former Viper, to the Trail Smoke Eaters for future considerations.