With a few high-profile NHL celebrities in the house, TJ Dumonceaux joined the VIP guest list by wiring his signature slapshot for the double overtime winner Friday night.
The 18-year-old speedster beat Nanaimo Clippers’ goalie Jayson Argue top shelf with 2:28 left in double OT as the Vernon Vipers edged the Shipmen 4-3 in B.C. Hockey League action before 1,750 fans.
Defencemen Ryan Renz and Brett Corkey drew assists on the winner, which came with the teams playing three-on-three.
“I was trying to get it on net and saw my other guy coming down the wing so I was just kind of shooting for a rebound but it just kind of worked out,” said Dumonceaux, who made a few sick moves on offence earlier while playing with Mitch Van Teeling and Mitch McAllister on the first line.
Dumonceaux, who recorded 18 goals and 50 points with the KIJHL losing finalist Kelowna Chiefs last season, has four goals as a Viper rookie and is feeling more at home with increased responsibility.
“It’s good, I really enjoy it here, it’s been a lot of fun so far, a lot better than I expected, actually,” said the Kelowna product. “My billets are great, team’s great, it’s a lot of fun. I’m just trying to move my feet out there and I gain more confidence if I do that. It’s working for me.”
Adam Tambellini scored his team-high ninth and 10th goals of the year, while Craig Martin had a single for the Vipers. Tambellini netted carbon-copy powerplay snipes on cross-crease feeds by Jedd Soleway. Argue had no chance as Tambellini showed lightning hands for pro-like finish.
“This (two big wins in a row) brings a lot of confidence to our room,” said Tambellini, who was flanked by Logan Mick and Pearce Eviston. “Obviously, we had a five-game slide there where we weren’t playing our system but we’ve been real good in our last two wins, sticking to what we know.”
Tambellini said the Vipers’ strategy was to keep getting pucks on Argue in the hopes he would tire and bobble some shots as the scrambly game wore on.
Tambellini, a projected mid-rounder in the 2013 NHL entry draft, is working hard to refine his game. He was cut by Team West Thursday following tryouts in Calgary.
“I’m feeling good. The confidence is there. I just gotta bring it for the team every night and take a big offensive role. I played alright (at West camp), but obviously not well enough to crack the team so it was disappointing, but you kind of use that as motivation moving forward with these guys and focus on them.”
Luke Gordon of the Clippers and Tambellini swapped first-period goals before a listless second period which saw both teams register six shots.
Tambellini put Vernon in front before Greg Fraser equalized from a sharp angle. Martin then scored a beauty 10 minutes later, streaking down the right side, cutting hard to the net and burying his own rebound.
D-man Josh Bryan’s floater from the point was muffed by Viper goalie Austin Smith, forcing overtime with 2:54 remaining. Vernon outshot Nanaimo 40-29 with Argue showing incredible athleticism on eight or nine solid scoring chances. He stoned Soleway twice with leg saves, robbed Van Teeling despite losing his balance and stymied Dumoneaux on a slot rocket.
Smith made a handful of clutch stops on winger Reid Sturos (Michigan Tech bound), the most effective Clipper forward on the night. Smith, who has been extraordinary all season, received a mulligan from head coach Jason Williamson.
“They were competing and working hard, and good things happen when you do that,” said Williamson.
“Things start to click when you get on a roll. Tamby scores some goals, TJ Dumonceaux is throwing pucks on net and even Smitty didn’t have his best game tonight and we still find a way to win it. We’ve been relying on him a lot and if we can pick him up on a night like that, it just adds to our confidence.”
Vernon improved to 5-7-0-5, good for fifth spot in the Interior Division, while Nanaimo fell to 8-6-0-2, leaving them second in the Island Division.
The Clippers, whose head coach Mike Vandekamp won a BCHL title with the Vipers, are a typical Vandy team which goes hard every shift and finishes checks.
“We didn’t have great legs tonight; we were a little sluggish,” said Vandekamp, moments before discussing things with Clipper part-owner Kelly Hrudey, of Hockey Night in Canada fame. “I thought we could have punched them out early had we had a little more killer instinct.
“It was a big goal for us to score late and be able to get a point out of the deal, but we didn’t come here for one point, we came here for two points and we feel we didn’t play as well as needed to win on the road.
Vandekamp, who is very pleased with the leadership of former Viper Trevor Fitzgerald and the steady play of Vernon product Colten Dahlen on the back end, felt the Clippers created too many turnovers in the start of a three-game Interior swing.
Fitzgerald, the Clipper captain, had a few good scoring chances but wasn’t happy with his execution.
“We came out strong and then got into penalty trouble which kind of killed our momentum and we didn’t play our game the rest of the way and didn’t get any bounces,” said Fitzgerald, who has 5-7-12 and 30 penalty minutes.
Best hit of the night was an open-ice smack by Renz on Greg Trichilo, seconds after Renz giftwrapped the puck to Trichilo at the blue line.
Detroit Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland and retired NHLers Brent Gilchrist and Eddie Johnstone handled the ceremonial face-off. The Vernon minor hockey grads were earlier in the day inducted into the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame.
Said Holland on the NHL cancelling the New Year’s Day Winter Classic scheduled for Michigan Stadium in Detroit between the Wings and Leafs: “It’s disappointing obviously. It was a league decision and I believe they’ve announced we’re getting the Winter Classic next year.”