Vees punish Vernon Vipers on powerplay

Jedd Soleway sniped the powerplay winner as the Penticton Vees grounded the Vernon Vipers 3-1 Friday night.

Jedd Soleway sniped the powerplay winner as the Penticton Vees grounded the Vernon Vipers 3-1 in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night at South Okanagan Events Centre.

Soleway, an 18-year-old Vernon product who was traded from the Viper den to Penticton in early December, added an assist on third star Wade Murphy’s insurance marker in the third period to earn first star in front of 2,400 fans.

The Vees (29-11-0-3), tied with the Victoria Grizzlies for first overall, have won five of six regular-season tilts against Vernon.

The Snakes are last in the Interior Division at 14-21-0-7 and trail the Salmon Arm SilverBacks (18-18-2-3) by six points for the final playoff berth.

Four of Vernon’s next five games are at Wesbild Centre, and assistant coach David Robinson says if they want to reach the post season they better start racking up some points.

“It’s very doable, we just have to keep playing hard and believing we can get in,” said Robinson.

“We do have some ground to make up, but they’re starting to believe in themselves. We’re trying to build an identity as a hard-working team. All the guys in the room just want to play.”

The Vipers begin their February schedule against the Coquitlam Express (17-24-1) Friday at Wesbild. The ‘Backs are in Vernon Saturday.

Cody DePourcq (8th goal) opened the scoring late in the first period, beating Austin Smith (28 saves) blocker side at 17:34. The speedy winger earned a free shot at net when Vernon d-man Bryce Eviston tumbled after stepping on a stick that was laying on the ice.

Soleway (11th) put the Vees up 2-0 in the fifth minute of the second period.

Vernon’s Mason Blacklock  (12th) continued his hot streak when he buried a slick 2-on-1 feed from Liam Board midway through the frame.

Murphy (18th) sealed the win for Chad Katunar (26 saves) early in the final period.

“It wasn’t a bad effort,” said Robinson. “The game could have gone either way.

“We turned over the puck a few times and if you do that against a team like that it’s going to come back to bite you. Top team in the league; there’s a lot of skill over there.”

SNAKE BITES: Vernon forward Craig Martin returned to the lineup for the first time since breaking his leg in a mid-November game.