It was starting to look like a pointless, and potentially goal-less, B.C. Hockey League weekend for the Vernon Vipers.
Still stinging from Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings, the Snakes found themselves trailing 2-0 late in the third period against the host Salmon Arm SilverBacks Saturday at the Shaw Centre.
That’s when the unimaginable happened – Vernon exploded for three goals in a 46-second span to stun the ‘Backs 3-2 in front of 923 fans.
Josh Bryan, playing in just his second game since returning from an injury on opening weekend, ripped a slap shot, high glove side, past Gorillas’ keeper Austin Clark (23 saves) for his first of the season.
Colton Sparrow and Mason Blacklock set up the play off a dump-in with 5:15 left in regulation.
Logan Mick, also with his first goal, capped a gorgeous three-way passing sequence with Dexter Dancs and Michael McNicholas after a turnover in Salmon Arm’s zone.
Off the next faceoff, Vernon worked the puck into Salmon Arm’s end where McNicholas (3rd goal) faked out Clark and went backhand for the winner. The win snapped an eight-game skid against the ‘Backs dating back to Sept. 15, 2012.
Vernon (4-4-1-2) is tied with Salmon Arm (5-5-0-1) for fourth in the Interior Division, six points back of the first-place West Kelowna Warriors (8-2-0-1).
“It was one shift of hockey and we scored three goals,” said Williamson, who was impressed by how the Vipers rebounded from a dismal effort Friday.
“It was good to see after we had battled some adversity. It was good for them to have some success in a rink we haven’t had a lot of success in.”
The Vipers’ misfortune started when netminder Austin Smith left the game with a suspected groin injury 4:45 into the first period. Coming in cold, Danny Todosychuk gave up a shorthanded goal to the SilverBacks’ Taylor Maruya late in the period, but was rock-solid after that, recording 25 saves for first star.
“I was pretty proud of our effort for the majority of the game,” said Williamson. “Smitty gets hurt five minutes in and Danny comes in and that’s tough. It (shorthanded goal) could have took the wind out of our sails but they kept working.”
Alex Gillies, a Vernon product, collected his sixth goal in three games against the Vipers (half of his league-leading 12 goals are against his hometown team) during a second-period powerplay.
Aside from Gillies’ goal, Vernon’s penalty kill has been airtight of late. The Snakes gained huge momentum in the third period after killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage. TJ Dumonceaux earned a major and game misconduct for a check from behind at 13:55, followed by a Demico Hannoun tripping minor at 15:39. Hannoun picked up an extra misconduct for chirping referee Nick Swaine.
“Our penalty kill has been unbelievable lately,” said Williamson. “We haven’t given up a lot of opportunities.”
Vernon begins a home-and-home series against the Chilliwack Chiefs (1-6-1) Friday at Kal Tire Place, with the second leg going Saturday at Prospera Centre.
SNAKE BITES: D-man Mark Hamilton missed Saturday’s game serving the first of a two-game suspension earned in Friday’s tilt in Prince George. Former Viper forward Craig Martin has goals in each of his first three games since being traded to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last week. Alberni went 0-2-1 in weekend action.