With goals in five of the last six outings, the Vernon Vipers’ powerplay is finally starting to become a factor in B.C. Hockey League games.
The Snakes went 3-for-4 on the man advantage Friday night as they torched the struggling Trail Smoke Eaters 6-3 in front of 1,675 teddy bear-wielding fans at Kal Tire Place.
Colton Sparrow brought on a deluge of stuffed animals for the KISS FM Santa’s Toy Fund as he banked Vernon’s first goal, his sixth, on a feed from third star Mason Blacklock, who spotted him lurking in the high slot at 6:54 of the first period.
Demico Hannoun (10th goal) started the powerplay parade when he redirected Jared Wilson’s slap pass from the point past former North Okanagan Knights’ netminder Dustin Nikkel (38 saves).
“The first seven or eight minutes was indicative of how it was going to be throughout,” said Vipers’ associate coach Kris Mallette. “We came out just flying.
“Things were clicking for us, but we got away from it at times.”
First star Dexter Dancs (15th, 16th) jumpstarted a two-goal, one-fight night by collecting a Jason Bird stretch pass to get behind the Smoke Eaters’ defence and beat Nikkel with a deft toe-drag chip.
Dancs turned Nikkel inside out after taking yet another heads-up feed from Bird to go in on another partial breakaway.
“He hit me up the middle and I had a little step on the d-man and made a move on the goalie. Both were from Bird; great passes,” said Dancs, who finished the night with a late third-period scrap with Bryan Basilico.
Dancs, a North Vancouver product, said it was important to get on Trail early and establish a hard tempo.
“They’re in a bit of a skid right now, but they can win any game so we’ve got to prepare just like we do for any other team.
“We weren’t happy with how we ended it with their two goals, but it was a good effort overall.”
Mallette, who coached Nikkel last season with North Okanagan, felt for his old keeper.
“That’s been the story of his year for him. The goals we scored were pretty nice goals, and that’s been the case every time he’s played against us.
“I know what he’s capable of. He wouldn’t be in this league as a 20-year-old rookie if he couldn’t play. You feel bad for him, but it can be a cruel game and we got the two points.”
Blacklock (16th), who earned third star after missing the last 16 games to injury, and Michael McNicholas (18th) each scored on the man advantage to round out Vernon’s scoring.
“Blackie’s been itching for sure,” said Mallette. “He’s been skating with us for three weeks, but it just wasn’t right. It’s good on him to be honest with himself and take his time.”
Answering with third-period goals for the Smokies were Scott Davidson (4th), Jake Kauppila (8th) and Travis Stephens (10th, powerplay).
Danny Todosychuk finished with 20 saves for his 10th win.
The Vipers, second in the Interior Division at 19-8-3-4, visited the 17-11-1-4 Salmon Arm SilverBacks Saturday night at the Shaw Centre.
The Smoke Eaters (7-25-2-1) have lost nine straight and are tied for last overall in the BCHL.
Lumby defenceman Dylan Bowen was traded to Trail on Nov. 13 from Merritt. With a new head coach (Nick Deschenes) and several players choosing not to report after being dealt to the Smokies, he said it is vital for the team to find ways to remain upbeat.
“We’re doing some stuff right, we just have to figure out some things that aren’t 100 per cent there,” said Bowen, who has been impressed by Deschenes.
“Coming here I was a bit bummed, but seeing the direction where Nick wants to go, it can only go up. He’s really hands-on, always showing us new stuff.”
Regarding Vernon, Bowen added: “You’ve got to key on certain players who can put the puck in the net with ease. You give them a little break and they’re going to score.”
Mallette praised the effort of his energy forwards TJ Dumonceaux, Tyler Povelofskie and Matty Saharchuk.
“Everybody’s contributing in the right way,” said Mallette.
Povelofskie took a hard slash from Trail’s Dylan Mascarin in front of the players’ benches in the first period, which resulted in a major and ejection for the Mascarin.
Povelofskie then battled Trail’s Sheldon Brett in a spirited all-rookie tilt early in the third period.
Meanwhile, the Penticton Vees recorded their sixth consecutive win as they stuffed the Chilliwack Chiefs 6-3 Friday night at Prospera Centre.
The Vees are first in the Interior, three points up on Vernon at 22-7-1-3, with a game in hand.
The Penticton Vees scored three goals in 2:29 in the second period as they grounded the Chiefs before 1,650 fans at Prospera Centre.
The Vees went on the goal spree just after Jake Hand and Carter Cochrane had tied the game for the Chiefs. Ben Dalpe, Steen Cooper and Mitch Newsome recorded the snipes.
Travis Blanleil, Jack Ramsey and Max Croatta also scored for Penticton, while Andeww Silard pocketed the other Chilliwack goal.
Olivier Mantha turned away 36 shots for the win.
Gerry Fitzgerald finished a natural hat trick before the Powell River Kings got on the board and it was all the Victoria Grizzlies needed in a 5-1 win before 950 fans at Bear Mountain Arena. It was the Grizzlies’ second straight win under new head coach Craig Didmon.
A flawless effort from goalie Andy Desautels and second-period goals from Jordan Masters and Matt Anholt gave the West Kelowna Warriors a 2-0 win over the Merritt Centennials in front of 925 fans at Royal LePage Place.