As if Friday night’s 3-0 loss to the Powell River Kings wasn’t bad enough, Vernon Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson was in a panic Saturday morning, wondering if the ferry would deliver his team to Vancouver Island for a tilt that night with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
High winds threatened to strand the Snakes on the Sunshine Coast, but by mid-morning Williamson said it was likely they would make the crossing to Comox for their B.C. Hockey League date with the 11-9-0-4 Dawgs at Weyerhaeuser Arena.
Vernon, second last in the Interior Division at 7-8-0-6, are back on the Lower Mainland today for a 2 p.m. matinee with the 11-9-1 Coquitlam Express at Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.
Special teams and the stellar netminding by the Kings’ Jonah Imoo proved the difference Friday at Hap Parker Arena.
Imoo, named an all-star at last week’s World Junior A Challenge for backstopping Team Canada West to a silver medal, recorded 26 saves for the shutout. He was exceptional in fending off Vernon in the first period as the 10-12-0-3 Kings were outshot 8-4.
“We knew he’s a good goalie,” said Williamson. “Going into it you know you’ve got to make it hard on him.”
Each of Powell River’s goals came on the powerplay, starting midway through the second period when Jordan Burns fired his third goal of the season off a wrister that beat Austin Smith through a screen.
Burns, a Vernon product, assisted on Evan Richardson’s man-advantage marker two minutes into the third period. He leads the Kings in scoring with 3-12-15 in 23 games.
Drew Dorantes completed the Powell River offence in front of 700 fans, burying a 2-on-1 feed from first star Richardson at 6:18.
Vernon’s penalty kill is the second worst in the BCHL, operating at 76.53 per cent.
Their powerplay, which went 0-for-4 Friday, is third last at 16.05 per cent.
“They got some good bounces on their powerplay, but we’ve got to find a way to kill those,” said Williamson.
“We’ve just got to be a little more desperate in killing penalties.
“Their goalie made some stops and they capitalized on their powerplay and that was the difference in the game. The game was right there; we had our chances to score early and we just didn’t bear down.”
Viper defenceman Geoff Crisfield got into a couple scraps, dropping the gloves with JP Villeneuve 80 seconds into the game, and again in the third period with Luke Nogard. Crisfield earned the instigator for the second tilt as he retaliated after getting clipped by a high stick by Nogard.
In other Friday action, the Bulldogs fell 5-4 to the Victoria Grizzlies in overtime.
Myles Fitzgerald, who is on a 10-game point streak, paced the 14-7-0-1 Grizz with two goals and an assist, including the OT winner.
Brent Baltus pocketed a goal and three assists as the host Trail Smoke Eaters outgunned the Prince George Spruce Kings 8-7 in double OT at Cominco Arena. Valik Chichkin supplied the winner with 2:47 to play.
The Penticton Vees nearly blew a three-goal lead, edging the Salmon Arm SilverBacks 3-2 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Vees went up 3-0 on first-period goals by Troy Stetcher, Wade Murphy and Brad McClure, but the ‘Backs battled back with a second-period tally by Bryden Marsh in the second period.
Vernon’s Alex Jewell, making his SilverBacks’ debut after being dealt to Salmon Arm by Penticton earlier in the week, assisted on Evan Anderson’s goal with six minutes to play.
Former Viper Marcus Basara collected the winner as the West Kelowna Warriors upended the Merritt Centennials 3-2 at Royal LePage Place.
Basara also potted the equalizer late in the second period after Merritt had built a 2-0 lead. He is second in league scoring with 14-14-28 in 21 games.