The Penticton Vees will have a little extra holiday cheer as they head into the Christmas break holding the keys to the Interior Conference penthouse.
The host Vees got a 39-save, first star performance from netminder Joel Rumpel as they hung on for a 1-1 draw with the second place Vernon Vipers in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Penticton, second overall at 24-11-2-1, lead the Snakes (20-8-4-6) by a single point in the Interior. The Vees entertained the Nanaimo Clippers Saturday night.
Rumpel, a Swift Current product who is committed to the NCAA Wisconsin Badgers, stopped the Vipers’ Dylan Walchuk on a penalty shot in double overtime after teammate Joey Holka earned a slashing minor (penalties at 3-on-3 result in an automatic penalty shot) to preserve the tie. He also robbed Mike Zalewski multiple times in OT.
The Vipers probably felt a little unfortunate to end the first period scoreless as they outshot Penticton by an overwhelming 11-2 margin (40-22 overall).
“This was an important game for us. I asked our guys to focus and give us one more good effort before the break, and they did,” said Vipers head coach Mark Ferner.
“It is a well-deserved break for these kids. They get to go home and recharge their batteries.”
Ferner, however, will fly to Calgary on Boxing Day to do some scouting at the 33rd annual Mac’s Midget Tier 1 Tournament. A total of 25 teams will compete at the prestigious event.
With Vernon shorthanded to start the second period, the Vees’ fourth-ranked powerplay (25.16 per cent) went to work as Holka netted his 14th goal, assisted by Joey Laleggia and Garrett Milan.
Penticton went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, while Vernon was scoreless in four powerplay attempts.
Kyle Murphy collected his ninth goal at 7:10 of the third period to pull the Vipers even. The Fair Haven, N.J. native redirected defenceman Malcolm Lyles’ pass past Rumpel as Vernon came in on the rush.
“We stuck with our systems, got quite a few opportunities, but only one goal out of it,” said Ferner.
The Vipers’ Marcus Basara earned a game misconduct late in the second period when he earned his team’s second goaltender interference call on Rumpel. Lyles, who earned second star, had the other one.
In other Friday night BCHL action, the Westside Warriors pulled off a massive comeback, scoring six unanswered goals in the third period to upend the host Salmon Arm SilverBacks 6-4 at the Sunwave Centre.
Kyle Singleton led the Warriors with a hat trick.
In Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Friday night, the North Okanagan Knights fell 5-4 to the Kelowna Chiefs at Rutland Arena.
The Knights, third in the Doug Birks Division at 13-21-0-1, were led with 1+2 showings from veterans Shawn Holliday and Colin Minardi.
Brett Laird and Brandon Redschlag paced the Chiefs (15-16-1-2) with two goals each.
SNAKE BITES: Former Viper and Brown Bears grad Aaron Volpatti made his NHL debut Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. The hard-hitting forward has six assists and 44 penalty minutes with the AHL Manitoba Moose this season… The Vipers called up Vernon product Danny Todosychuk to back up netminder Blake Voth Friday night in Penticton. Kirby Halcrow, the Snakes’ other keeper, returned home for family reasons.