You can be first on a Wednesday and wake up Monday morning in fifth place. So it goes in the crazy, tight B.C. Hockey League Interior Division.
With the Royal Bank Cup just 181 days away, the Vernon Vipers were, as of today, sharing the Interior penthouse with the Penticton Vees, They’ve held everything from first to last spot since opening day.
If the Salmon Arm SilverBacks defeated the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday night, then the Gorillas would grab a couch in the top suite. A Warriors’ win would leave them just two points out of first. The Vipers visit the Vees tonight.
After Game 25, the Vipers are loving life. They are 5-2-1-2 in their last 10 and are winning despite missing their premier forward – Mason Blacklock – due back soon from injured reserve.
The Vipers moved to 13-6-2-4 by posting a methodical 5-1 matinee win over the slumping Cowichan Valley Capitals before 1,750 fans Sunday at Kal Tire Place. West Kelowna visits The Big Wheel Saturday night.
Newbie Chase McMurphy, who has added big-time speed on the right side, scored his first two goals as a Viper to rate first star.
“Everyone played great today,” said McMurphy, a Calgarian. “It was a solid team effort. Once we got up by a couple, we kind of took it to ‘em, finished the game hard and got first place again today. They played three games this weekend so they were tired, but we didn’t hold back on ‘em.”
The former Calgary Mustang is stoked in Week 2 as a Viper.
“It’s great here, I love it. We’ve got an awesome identity. Great team, great coaches, great staff, we’re gonna go far this year.”
McMurphy converted in front to make it 2-0 after a sick move by Demico Hannoun. Dexter Dancs had the secondary assist. McMurphy curled from the corner and beat Francis Marotte with a wrister for the 5-1 snipe.
Laim Coughlin, who gets stronger every shift, opened the attack by going to the doorstep and burying a gorgeous pass from behind the net by Michael McNicholas, at 4:06 of the first period. Coughlin, chosen third star. has 10 goals in his rookie year. Dancs took the second helper.
The battered Caps, who have dropped four straight, showed some signs of life when Taki Pantziris buried a back-door feed from Brayden Gelsinger with 40 seconds left in the first.
Veteran 20-year-old Colton Sparrow was highly creative all afternoon, but could only laugh when Riley Guenther’s point shot bounced in off his upper body to make it 3-1 early in the second. Hannoun earned the other assist.
Guenther, the second star, added insurance just 40 seconds into the third with a wrister from the side wall that fooled Marotte. Coughlin and McNicholas drew assists.
“We’re tired,” said Caps’ assistant coach Andrew Plumb, 41, who played for 10 different minor-pro league teams after two BCHL seasons with Powell River. “It’s pretty obvious. It’s more fighting ourselves than the other team right now…We just gotta find a way to keep it simple, high-percentage plays and just stick to it. When guys try and do it themselves and veer off from the team structure, it does nothing but hurt you.”
Plumb is high on the Vipers.
“They’re a good team, I like ‘em. They seem like they’ve got a lot of skill up front, they’re fast and they work hard. It’s a perfect recipe for a winning team.”
Cowichan was without huge d-man Patrick Arnold and forward Mason Malkowich, both 20-year-olds, and forward Colton Kehler.
New Yorker Ken Citron deserved a star for another stable game on the Vipers’ back end. One of the Vipers’ unsung heroes said the game-plan was simple.
“Just outwork these guys. They’ve been on the road for a little bit, third game in two and a half days so we wanted to try and get pucks deep, work ‘em hard and throw everything on net.”
Citron, who has three assists, says the Vipers’ recent success has not come easy.
“Hard work. We’ve been turning it up a lot in practice, battling hard and taking things to a whole new level so hopefully we’ll keep building off this and keep winning.”
SNAKE BITES: The Vipers’ Logan Mick and Daniel Wanner traded bombs in a spirited fight with 6:34 remaining. Mick had his nose bloodied and left for repairs…F Steen Cooper of the Caps and Hannoun were honoured in a pre-game ceremony for helping Team Canada West gain bronze at the World Junior A Challenge…Zach Dyment of the Junior B North Okanagan Knights backed up Austin Smith in net with Danny Todoyschuk on IR.