Their folks are in town for parents weekend, but they weren’t the ones giving the Vernon Vipers a stern talking to Wednesday night.
Following the Snakes’ fourth straight loss, a lacklustre 6-1 decision to the high-flying Penticton Vees at Wesbild Centre, coaches Jason Williamson and Chris Shaw sat the players down for a lengthy post-game meeting to discuss their current funk.
Vernon still clings to third place in the Interior Conference at 13-9, and will look to snap their B.C. Hockey League skid tonight against the 6-12-0-5 Salmon Arm SilverBacks at Wesbild.
As part of the league’s 50th anniversary weekend celebration, they will complete a home-and-home series Saturday night at the Sunwave Centre in Salmon Arm.
“Penticton’s got a pretty strong hockey club and at the end of the day it’s pretty simple – they came ready to play and we didn’t,” said Shaw.
“It’s a lack of focus and a lack of effort. We’re waiting for the play to come to us as opposed to dictating the play. We could be a lot stronger on the forecheck and better with our communication on the ice.
“It’s definitely not a lack of speed or skill on our team, it’s playing smarter.”
Fred Harbinson’s Vees (19-3-0-2), winners of seven straight, punished the Vipers for their undisciplined play, clicking three times on nine powerplays. They lead the league with a sparkling 32.65 per cent conversion rate with the man advantage.
“I’m sure the fans weren’t too happy with how many powerplays we got, but I felt we earned a lot of them,” said Harbinson. “The boys played a real solid two-way game, didn’t take many shortcuts.”
Vees’ forward Bryce Gervais, acquired from Salmon Arm last week, already has six goals in three games with his new team and looks to have made a seamless transition on a line with Steven Fogarty and captain Joey Benik. The Battlefords, Sask. product fired a pair of goals to earn first star.
“It was definitely a surprise, but I came to the best team in the BCHL right now, so I was thankful for that and hopefully we came make a big run here,” said Gervais of the trade.
“There’s a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net and pass it. That’s why the goals are coming so easy to me right now. I just find the open ice and guys find me.”
Benik, who earned second star with a goal and two assists, and Mike Reilly, Mario Lucia (third star) and Fogarty, each with a goal and assist, completed the Penticton offence.
The Vipers’ lone goal came in the final minute as Jedd Soleway, firing his fourth of the season, denied Michael Garteig his first shutout of the season with a top-corner snipe from the slot. Max Mowat drew the assist.
Soleway, a Vernon native, started the play with a solid check on a Penticton defender into the end boards.
“We get down by three goals after the first and it deflates the guys. We just weren’t able to bounce back from the mental part of it,” said Shaw.
Garteig, who recorded a league-best seven shutouts last season with the Powell River Kings, made 19 stops for the win. Kirby Halcrow had 29 saves in the loss.
SNAKE BITES: Vipers’ owner Duncan Wray and new Vernon mayor-elect Rob Sawatsky presented the Vipers’ Aaron Hadley, Brett Corkey and Luke Juha, and the Vees’ Travis St. Denis, Curtis Loik and Troy Stetcher with framed team photos of Canada West. They helped Canada West win gold at the recent World Junior A Challenge in Langley…Vernon d-man Ryan Renz was taken to hospital for observation after he tumbled headlong into the boards early in the first period. Williamson said he is suffering from whiplash, but did not say how long he would be out.