Michael McNicholas of the Vernon Vipers tries to get a handle on the puck in front of the West Kelowna Warriors' net and player Matt Anholt Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.

Michael McNicholas of the Vernon Vipers tries to get a handle on the puck in front of the West Kelowna Warriors' net and player Matt Anholt Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.

Vernon Vipers stop Warriors

The Vernon Vipers stopped the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1 in B.C. Hockey League play before 2,300 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.

Austin Smith recorded 37 saves and came within 21 seconds of a shutout as the Vernon Vipers stopped the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1 in B.C. Hockey League play before 2,300 fans Wednesday night at Kal Tire Place.

Demico Hannoun scored once and unselfishly fed linemate Michael McNicholas for an empty-netter with 52 seconds remaining as the Vipers improved to 20-9-3-4 in the Interior Conference. Mason Blacklock also scored for Vernon, while Jason Cotton replied for West Kelowna on a cheeky shot from the corner which bounced in off Smith’s rib cage.

The Warriors, who had won three straight, dipped to 18-12-1-2, good for a share of fourth spot in the wild Interior with the Merritt Centennials. The fast-paced, tight-checking affair was scoreless after 20 minutes. Hannoun got the only goal of the second period. Warriors’ goalie Andy Desautels was also solid, making 25 saves.

The Vipers are five points back of the first-place Penticton Vees and five ahead of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Vernon entertains the Powell River Kings (22-7-2-2) Saturday night before taking the Christmas break.

Please see Friday’s Morning Star for further Viper coverage.