The Vernon Vipers looked to their back end for offence in a 6-3 win over the Trail Smoke Eaters in a Sunday matinee before 1,300 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Riley Guenther led the dee core with 1+2 for first star as the Vipers improved to 16-7-3-4 atop the B.C. Hockey League Interior Division. They will be there at least until Wednesday night when the second-place Penticton Vees (one point back) visit the third-place Merritt Centennials (four points behind Vernon).
Josh Bryan, with a soft wrister in the mid slot, and Jason Bird, with a bomb from the point, also supplied goals from the Vipers’ defence. Forwards TJ Dumonceaux, Dexter Dancs and Chase McMurphy, with an empty netter in the final minute, completed the Snakes’ offence against the last-place Smoke Eaters. Dumonceaux and Guenther netted goals three minutes apart early in the first period to jumpstart the Vipers.
Trail, who gave up an empty-netter in a 3-1 loss to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks the night before, dropped to 7-20-2-1, tied for last overall with the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Affiliate Colby Livingstone, with a deuce and Joel Webb, countered for the Smokies, who battled the Vipers hard most of the way. Livingstone struck the post with a shot in the dying minutes and Trail down by one goal.
Viper centre Mike McNicholas earned three assists and moved into sole possession of seventh spot in the BCHL points derby with 12 goals and 37 points. Dumonceaux also pocketed two assists and took second star with Bryan picking up one helper and third star. Michael Statchuk, a d-man-turned-winger, skated miles and was named the Fortis B.C. Energy Player of the Game.
The Vipers outshot the Smokies 35-28 with Austin Smith improving to 7-4-3 and Adam Todd dipping to 1-4.
Vernon begins a three-game road swing Friday night in Victoria against the Grizzlies (19-7-3-1). The Vipers face the Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday night in Duncan and meet the Coquitlam Express Sunday afternoon. Vernon’s next home date is Friday, Dec. 13 versus Trail.
The Smokies earlier Saturday traded Vernon’s Michael Roberts to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks for future considerations.
Salmon Arm also re-assigned former Viper forward Riley Hunt to a yet-to-be determined KIJHL franchise where he will AP with the ‘Backs with the remainder
Roberts, 18, spent 53 games with the Vipers last season, posting four goals and 10 points before a trade that sent him to the Surrey Eagles, where he began this season, before a subsequent trade to the Smoke Eaters.
‘Backs GM Troy Mick says Roberts has shown that he can be an effective forward in the BCHL, and that his numbers in the KIJHL show that there’s room for growth.
“I watched as he posted 49 points a few years ago with Revelstoke in the KIJHL, and I had previously coached him at the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy, and after another year of watching him play in Vernon, we decided he could be a productive player on our roster as we push towards the playoffs.”
Mick says Roberts first game as a SilverBack, on Saturday, was a good start.
“I felt he was one of the better players on the ice that evening. It’s good to see him gel with our group so quickly and we’re really looking forward to seeing how he builds chemistry with some of our other forwards.”
As for Hunt, Mick says he hopes the opportunity for added ice time in the KIJHL will benefit his game.
“Riley has come back from major surgery and he needs more ice to get his game back to where it should be. There is no question he will be able to do this, but he needs time special teams minutes which he was not getting here at the moment.”
The Smokies also acquired, at the Dec. 1 carding deadline, F Mitch Ball and D Rylan Ball from the Capitals in exchange for D Vailk Chichkin and futures.
The Caps grabbed speedy F Ambrose Firkus from the West Kelowna Warriors for D Taki Pantziris, while Penticton got D Matthew Berry-Lamontagne from Coquitlam for futures.
For further coverage, please see Wednesday’s Vernon Morning Star.