The injection of three 19-year-olds into the lineup did wonders for the Vernon Vipers in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Colton Sparrow and Brendan Persley, both returning from injury, and Liam Board, making his Viper debut after being acquired from the Prince George Spruce Kings a day earlier, all factored in Vernon’s 2-1 win over the host Penticton Vees.
From their own end, Sparrow and d-man Brett Corkey set up a streaking Aaron Hadley with a cross-ice clearance for the game’s opening goal eight minutes into the second period. Vees’ netminder Chad Katunar came out to play the puck, but got caught in no-man’s land, leaving Hadley an open net for his eighth of the season.
Persley, working on a line with Board and Michael Roberts, drove to the net four minutes into the third period, with the puck squirting out to Ryan Renz (2nd goal), who buried the top-shelf winner through a swarm of bodies in front of Katunar.
It was Persley’s first game back after missing the last 10 with a surgically repaired broken leg.
It was Vernon’s first win against Penticton (16-7-0-2) in three attempts, improving the Vipers to fourth in the Interior at 9-9-0-6. The Snakes entertained the Vees Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
Head coach Jason Williamson called Friday’s result their biggest to date.
“Especially on their home ice. It was a complete team effort. This could be a huge turning point in our season this weekend.
“It was a great hockey game. I’m sure the (1,800) fans were treated to one of the best games they’ll see this season.”
Board had played with fellow Oakville, Ont. native Braedan Russell in Midget, and again with their hometown Junior A Blades last season. However, Williamson chose not to reunite the duo because he didn’t want to disrupt the big rig unit of Hadley, Jedd Soleway and Russell.
Louie Nanne (8th) was the lone Vee to solve first-star netminder Austin Smith (25 saves), scoring a buzzer beater in the second period. The Minnesota native took a stretch pass from Wade Murphy and got behind Vernon d-man Marc Hetnik for a partial breakaway, finishing the play with a clever flip shot over Smith’s blocker.
“He (Smith) made big saves when he had to,” said Williamson. “They had chances late and he was good when he had to be.”
Despite the gaffe, Katunar finished with 24 saves and third star.
In other BCHL action Friday night, Adam Clark recorded 28 saves for the shutout as the Salmon Arm SilverBacks blanked the host Trail Smoke Eaters 4-0 at Cominco Arena.
Vernon’s Alex Gillies led the SilverBacks with a goal and assist. Both Gillies and Jeff Kennedy, counting the opening goal, scored with the man advantage. Anthony Croston converted shorthanded and Steven Iacobellis rounded out the offence.
Armstrong’s Dylan Chanter scored once and Derek Huisman collected 2+1 as the Merritt Centennials upended the league-leading Chilliwack Chiefs 5-3 at Nicola Valley Arena. Tyler Steel, a Vernon product recorded 28 saves for his 12th win.
SNAKE BITES: The Vipers’ Landon Robin was a healthy scratch Friday night. Fellow forwards Craig Martin (broken ankle) and TJ Dumonceaux (knee) are injured…The SilverBacks named Brandon Mistal as their 13th franchise captain after they traded Bennett Hambrook to the Smoke Eaters earlier in the week.