For the second straight game the Vernon Vipers gave up an early lead, and for the second straight game the Penticton Vees made them pay.
The Vees struck three times in the first period en route to a 6-2 B.C. Hockey League thumping of the host Vipers in front of nearly 2,000 fans Friday night at Wesbild Centre.
With Viper forward John Knisley serving a high sticking penalty, the Vees’ Joey Benik skated in from the sidewall unchecked and deposited a loose puck behind a fallen Kirby Halcrow to open the scoring early on the powerplay.
Penticton (8-2-0-1) struck again just as Brett Corkey stepped on the ice from serving a questionable kneeing minor. After some snappy puck movement, Mike Reilly appeared to bank a chip shot off Vernon defenceman Geoff Crisfield and past Halcrow (29 saves) at 17:12.
Vees’ forward Curtis Loik ripped a shot from the top of the circle with 48 seconds left in the frame to make it 3-0.
“I really like the way we work. We’re not a perimeter team, we battled hard and we capitalized on our chances when we had to. It feels good getting out of here with a win,” said Vees’ head coach Fred Harbinson.
Of Penticton’s six goals Friday night, only the last one didn’t feature the name “Reilly” on the scoresheet. The Minnesota-born Reilly brothers – fraternal twins Ryan and Connor, both forwards, and younger sibling Mike, a d-man – combined for five points.
Ryan and Connor, both 20-year-olds, started the year on the same line, but Harbinson chose to break them up to balance the lineup.
“We grew up playing together but for right now it’s best for the team not to be playing together. Anything to help the team,” said Connor, who already has a pretty good handle on the Penticton-Vernon rivalry.
“I heard coming in this was the team to beat and it’s been fun playing against them. And from now on, every game we play against them is going to be a war.”
Mike Zalewski (second star) recorded both of Vernon’s goals. The power forward buried the first one in the opening minute of the second period, firing a quick shot past Michael Garteig (31 saves), far side. The second, his team-leading eighth goal, was a powerplay marker midway through the third period.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play. We weren’t ready from the drop of the puck,” said the New Harford, N.Y. native. “We’ve just got to make harder plays all around the ice. They made a couple good reads and blocked some passes and they’re quick at closing down lanes.”
The Vipers (7-3) weren’t without their chances – Colton Sparrow, Ryan Renz and Jedd Soleway were either unable to convert or were stymied by Garteig on some prime one-timer scoring opportunities.
Said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson: “Too many passengers tonight. If you give them time and space, they’re going to make plays.”
“In spurts we were good, but against a team like that, you can’t take any shifts off.”
Goals by BCHL scoring leader Travis St. Denis (first star) and d-man Troy Stecher, cashing in on a late 5-on-3, completed the scoring.
Sparrow, Renz and Penticton’s Kyle Beaulieu, Mark McLennan and Cody DePourcq earned misconducts when tempers boiled over into a scrum in the final minute.
Vernon visited the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters (2-7-1) Saturday night. They host the Prince George Spruce Kings (6-3-0-1) in a 4 p.m. tilt today (Sunday) at Wesbild.