Players from both sides called it the craziest B.C. Hockey League game they have been a part of. And not just the rookies.
But after all the fireworks and bizarre twists Saturday night at Kal Tire Place, the Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings settled for a 4-4 draw in front of nearly 1,800 fans.
The hard-hitting tilt featured a hat-trick performance by the Kings’ Chad Staley, a one-hour delay to replace a broken pane of glass on the end board, and Vipers’ forward TJ Dumonceaux inadvertently one-punching linesman Ryan Dawson while he jostled with the Spruce Kings’ defenceman Christian Weidauer during a skirmish with 5:32 remaining in regulation.
Dumonceaux earned a game misconduct for the incident, but received no further discipline from the BCHL head office.
Staley (10th goal), named first star, jumpstarted the Prince George attack with a shorthanded breakaway effort in the first period. Vernon d-man Mark Hamilton bobbled a pass at the point, allowing the speedy Kennewick, Wash. product to go in alone for a top-shelf snipe on Austin Smith, who returned after missing 11 games to injury.
With five minutes remaining in period one, Vipers’ d-man Riley Guenther collided with the Spruce Kings’ Braiden Epp into the end boards, breaking the glass. The rink crew scrambled to replace it, but installed the wrong size, causing further delays. The crowd erupted in a sarcastic cheers when they finally got it right.
The layover affected Prince George (13-7-2-2) more than it did Vernon (11-6-2-4), as the Kings arrived in town at 4 a.m. after riding overnight from Trail, where they beat the host Smoke Eaters 5-2 Friday.
“You can get them rallied up to play a 7 o’clock game, but that hour-long break really hurt us,” said Prince George head coach Dave Dupas. “You could see when we came back after that break our feet weren’t moving.
“But they kept battling through it. It’s a testament to the guys – they just keep going.”
Five minutes into the second period, Staley (11th) lifted a nifty backhander over a sprawled Smith during a powerplay for the 2-0 snipe.
Staley wasn’t surprised to see the intensity level ramped up between the teams after Hamilton took out the Kings’ Jake LeBrun with a hard hit in their first meeting. However, he said they couldn’t afford to let redemption interfere with the game-plan.
“We didn’t want to get running around,” he said. “They’re a lot bigger than us and that’s not really our game. We just want to stick to our skills.
“It was a crazy game. We’re a little shorthanded right now, but we battled hard.
Vernon’s Liam Coughlin (8th), with a highlight-reel backhander over Alex Murray, and Tyler Povelofskie, with his first-ever BCHL goal on a tremendous solo effort, equalized later in the second frame.
Coughlin (third star), playing on a line with Michael McNicholas (second star) and Dexter Dancs, thrived in the carnival-like atmosphere at Kal Tire Place.
“It was a great game to play in,” beamed the South Boston product. “It’s exhilarating. Every shift you just want the puck, you want to take it to the net and make a play with it. It’s all eyes on you, so it’s exciting.”
Povelofskie, a grinder from Williams Lake, was equally ecstatic to record his first goal, and to see Vernon erase a pair of two-goal deficits.
“It definitely wasn’t how I imagined it, but I’ll take it,” he grinned. “They say the first one’s the hardest to get.
“It shows character we could bring it back from 2-0, and get it to 4-4 to finish it. We were effective in getting the momentum and keeping it throughout the game.”
Weidauer (5th), creeping in from the point, took a feed from Jeremiah Luedke to restore Prince George’s lead 4:37 into period three. Staley capped the special teams hatty at 12:12, sliding a puck just inside the post from Smith’s doorstep.
Vernon salvaged a point on yet another third-period comeback, this one led by McNicholas (11th, 12th), who connected twice. His second was a textbook one-timer from the slot off a feed from Coughlin.
“In spurts, we’re playing the right way for sure,” said Mallette.
“To battle back to tie the game late shows a lot of resilience. We’re hopefully on the upswing, I just wish we could get the full 60 (minutes).”
Murray finished with 37 saves, Smith 24. Both tenders were stellar in OT.
The game took nearly 3.5 hours to complete.
The Vipers are one point back of the Merritt Centennials (14-9-1) for first place in the Interior. The teams meet Friday night at Nicola Valley Arena.
Vernon entertains the Cowichan Valley Capitals (11-11-0-1) in a 2 p.m. matinee next Sunday at Kal Tire Place.
SNAKE BITES: It took seven minutes before either team registered a shot Saturday night… The U.S grounded Russia 4-1 to claim gold at the World Junior A Challenge Sunday in Yarmouth, N.S. Team Canada West settled for bronze after grounding Switzerland 5-3 in the 3 vs 4 game Saturday.