The Vernon Vipers snuffed out the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-3 in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,300 fans Tuesday night at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon won its fourth straight by exploding with four goals early in the third period, including three in just 88 seconds. Trail lost its fifth in a row.
Defenceman Riley Guenther scored on a wrister from the right point, 2:19 into the third, for the 2-2 equalizer. Colton Sparrow, who lost a tooth and a half after taking a Joel Webb clearance in the mouth late in the first period, made it 3-2 three minutes later after some sweet pitch and catch with Demico Hannoun. Sparrow finished the game wearing a full cage.
Just 20 seconds after the go-ahead snipe, Mason Blacklock scored another beauty, his second of the night and 14th of the season, on a feed from Hannoun. Michael McNicholas finished the snipe show 68 seconds later on a gorgeous back-door play from Logan Mick. Blacklock pushed it to 6–2 two minutes later on a gorgeous bang-bang play with Hannoun and Sparrow. The line of Blacklock (2+2), Hannoun (1+3) and Sparrow (1+1) clicked for 10 points.
The 7-4-1-2 Vipers moved past the Salmon Arm SilverBacks into third place in the Interior Division, three points back of the second-place Penticton Vees. West Kelowna Warriors are one point ahead of the Vees.
Hannoun, on a rebound of a Jason Bird point shot, and Jake Kauppila of the Smokies, on a wrap-around, swapped first-period goals in a pretty fast-paced opening period for a week-night tilt. Tyson Witala of the Smokies (4-9-1-1) scored with 43 seconds left in the second period off a pass from Travis Stephens, who chased down a bad cross-ice offering by Bird intended for defensive partner Jared Wilson, with the teams playing four-on-four.
Viper goalie Danny Todosychuk made a huge left pad stop on Witala’s shot from the low slot, but the puck bounced off his side and trickled into the net.
The Smokies completed the offence witrh two seconds remaining when Trail product Jake Lucchini stepped out the penalty box, took a long stretch pass from Webb and beat Todosychuk with a slap shot from the mid slot.
Vernon outshot Trail 38-28 with North Okanagan Knights’ grad Dustin Nikkel (3-7-1) suffering the loss. He had little chance on the Vipers’ final four goals.
The Vipers open a three-game road swing Friday night in Powell River against the league-leading Kings (10-1-0-1). Please see Friday’s Morning Star for further Viper coverage.