Will the real Vernon Vipers please stand up.
Is it the team that pummeled the Trail Smoke Eaters 9-2 a week ago in the Kootenays, or is it the one that fell 2-1 to the Smokies in a lacklustre overtime defeat in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night at Wesbild Centre?
Fortunate to be up 1-0 after 40 minutes, Vernon gave up an early goal in the third period, and watched as Jesse Knowler buried the winner 28 seconds into double OT on a rebound from a Braden Pears shot.
The loss snapped Vernon’s three-game win streak, however, they have points in six straight games. The Vipers are 6-7-0-6, one point back of the 9-12-0-1 Smoke Eaters.
“No matter what we said to them, there were just standing around watching the puck tonight, and not doing the things that made us have success during this last little stretch here,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson.
“When you only have a couple guys going, that’s trouble. You can’t take nights off in this league, and there’s definitely been a message sent to these guys.”
Knowler said the win will do wonders for Trail’s confidence.
“It was a tough game last weekend and we just wanted to show them we had a bad game and that we could beat them on home ice,” said the former Prince Albert Raider.
“Last game, I don’t know what we were doing; we just didn’t show up to play.”
Vernon hosted the Surrey Eagles (12-6-0-1) Saturday at Wesbild. The Eagles iced the Salmon Arm SilverBacks 3-2 in OT Friday at the Sunwave Centre.
The Snakes appeared primed for a repeat of last week’s lopsided victory, out-skating Trail in the opening 10 minutes, but settled for mediocrity after that.
TJ Dumonceaux (5th goal), one of the few bright spots on the Viper roster, opened the scoring on a spectacular solo effort. The Kelowna native pounced on a turnover in the neutral zone, attacked the blueline at speed and faked out a defender before solving netminder Lyndon Stanwood with a backhand-forehand.
“We were moving; just couldn’t get any more bounces and we weren’t scoring any more goals so it just kind of went downhill after 10 minutes,” said Dumonceaux, second star.
Asked if the Vipers thought it would be easy after last week’s result, he responded: “I guess some guys can get that mixed up, but it felt like we had the same mind set at the beginning of the game. We just didn’t have it all there tonight.
“We need a bigger forecheck and guys wanting the puck more.”
Trail head coach Bill Birks apologized to Smoke Eaters’ fans for his team’s effort the last time these teams tangled. He was impressed by how his players responded.
“We’ve been playing pretty good hockey the last month, and to get rewarded with this is huge,” said Birks.
“If we keep teams to 30 shots and under, we’ve got a good chance to win. Tonight was proof of that.”
Brent Baltus (14th, third star), who looked sharp on a line with captain Garrett McMullen and Scott Davidson, supplied Trail’s regulation goal, jamming home a rebound on an odd-man rush four minutes into the third period.
Stanwood recorded 24 saves for his eighth win. Austin Smith was solid in making 28 saves for Vernon.
n Team Canada West will defend its gold medal against the U.S. today in Yarmouth, N.S. after defeating Canada East 1-0 in the World Junior A Challenge semifinals Friday night.
Seb Lloyd’s deflection goal off a James De Haas point shot was the only tally of the night and Jonah Imoo turned aside 17 shots for his second shutout of the tournament.
The U.S. qualified for the final with a 7-4 win over Switzerland.
The gold-medal game will be televised live on TSN2 beginning at 3:30 p.m. Pacific.