Kenny Citron (left) of the Vernon Vipers knocks Jesse Neher of the Cowichan Valley Capitals off his skates in BCHL action Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

Vernon Vipers snap three-game skid

Vernon Vipers outlast Cowichan Valley Capitals 2-1 to record first home win of the early BCHL season.

Backed by a rebound performance from Jarrod Schamerhorn, the Vernon Vipers outlasted the Cowichan Valley Capitals 2-1 in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

After getting shelled for four goals on 22 shots Friday in Merritt, a 4-0 loss, the 19-year-old net detective turned in a 34-save showing against the Caps. The Kelowna native was 63 seconds away from his first-ever BCHL shutout when a defensive lapse off a faceoff led to Cowichan forward Jesse Neher converting into a wide open net from the hashmarks.

“Schamerhorn was very good for us tonight, especially after a tough one in Merritt,” said Vipers’ assistant coach Kevin Kraus. “That’s the job he’s chosen to do – to be a goalie – and he bounced back and showed he’s a veteran.”

Saturday was Vernon’s first home win, and, more importantly, it snapped a three-game skid. The 3-3-0-1 Snakes play the second leg of a four-game homestand against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (3-2-0-1) Friday at the Big Wheel. The Chilliwack Chiefs (5-1) are in town Saturday.

With just 11 returnees between them, the Vipers and Capitals both have plenty of fresh faces. It resulted in some stints of sloppy neutral-zone play and shaky transitions, with Vernon carrying the play in the first period, and Cowichan coming on strong in the second.

Anthony Latina, with his third of the season, opened the scoring for Vernon when he drove to the net from the right side and jammed his own rebound, five-hole, past netminder Matthew Zentner (36 saves).

Cowichan started using its speed in the second period and began running up the shot count. Schamerhorn had to be sharp when rookie blueliner Ryley Booth’s dee-to-dee pass was well read by Caps’ forward Brayden Gelsinger, who intercepted and went in on a breakaway.

Branden Wagner, captain of the Okanagan Rockets last season, pocketed his first goal as a Viper (he scored for West Kelowna as a call-up last season) later in the frame when he swatted home the rebound off of Riley Brandt’s shot from the sidewall at 14:44.

“It felt pretty good to get the first one,” said Wagner, who plays alongside buzzsaw Brandt and Blaine Caton.

Vernon went into shutdown mode in the final frame, and looked to be well in control until the final minute. After cutting the lead to one, the Caps pressed in the final minute, but couldn’t collect the equalizer. TJ Dumonceaux won a couple of key faceoffs late to keep the Caps at bay.

“We’re really looking for the two points, night in and night out,” said Capitals’ captain Kyle Horsman, who assisted on Neher’s snipe. “We really picked it up at the end there, but we’ve got to play a full 60 and everyone has to do their jobs.”

Both teams were left short-benched late in the second period when two fights broke out after a skirmish behind Vernon’s net. The Vipers’ Thomas Aldworth tangled with Thomas Gobeil, and 5-foot-6, 160-pound Linden Hora traded a few jabs with 6-foot-4, 215-pound Charlie Pelnik and then surprised the big man by earning a quick takedown.

Wagner welcomed the extra minutes as all four players were ejected as a result of the one-fight rule being implemented this season.

“It gets you a bit more into the game that way,” he said. “It’s a bit more ice for everyone. You can mix it up and maybe spark something new.”

The Capitals bowed 5-3 to the Interior co-leading West Kelowna Warriors (5-2) Sunday.

SNAKE BITES: Ex-Viper Demico Hannoun scored on a penalty shot in double-overtime as the Penticton Vees brushed off the Silverbacks 5-4 Saturday night at the Shaw Centre…Vernon’s Curtis Lazar has been named to the Ottawa Senators’ final 23-man roster to start the coming NHL season. The Sens will have nine games to decide whether they keep him or send the 19-year-old power forward back to the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings.

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