The Vernon Vipers have a lot of ground to make up, and with four Interior Division games before the Christmas break, they may not get a better opportunity to get back in the B.C. Hockey League playoff race.
Five points separate the second-place Merritt Centennials (15-10-1-1) from the last-place Snakes (10-13-0-7), however Vernon will need a monumental turnaround to climb the standings. The Vipers dropped their third straight game Saturday night, falling 4-3 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in front of 1,600 fans at Wesbild Centre.
Vernon entertains the first-place Penticton Vees (20-7-0-3) Friday at Wesbild before heading to the Kootenays Saturday to tangle with the Trail Smoke Eaters (14-18-0-1) at Cominco Arena.
“We’ve lost a lot of one-goal hockey games and we need to change that,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson.
“It’s tight. We’ve just got to get in (to playoffs), and I have faith that we will.”
Williamson had less faith in the officiating Saturday.
The 16-11-1-4 Bulldogs’ Jon Brumwell, with his second of the season, scored the winner on the powerplay off a goal-mouth scramble with 2:26 to play. The man advantage came after a marginal goalie interference call by referee Ward Pateman on Vernon’s Mitch McAllister.
“He screwed it up,” said Williamson.
“That just seems to be the way things are going right now. We can’t afford to have the ref be the difference in the game.
“We put ourselves in a bad spot being down 3-1 early, but we should have at least sent it to overtime.”
The Vipers’ three most recent recruits – Liam Board (7th goal), second star Dexter Dancs (3rd) and Andrew Tegeler (1st) – handled Vernon’s scoring against the Dawgs.
Ryan Lough, pocketing his 13th and 14th goals, and Matthew Hansen, with his sixth, pegged Alberni to a two-goal lead after one period.
“The new players have brought some life and jump into our lineup,” said Williamson. “They’ve bought into what we’re trying to do here.
Taking a line from Janet Jackson’s 1986 pop classic What Have You Done For Me Lately?, Williamson added: “We’ve had some underachievers and if the new guys are going to come in and take the jobs of the guys that have been here, then so be it.”
Dancs’ play has earned him a shot on Vernon’s top line with Adam Tambellini and Pearce Eviston; Williamson’s other units include Board, Aaron Hadley and Tegeler; Colton Sparrow, Brendan Persley and Braedan Russell; and Logan Mick, McAllister and Michael Roberts.
SNAKE BITES: Former Viper forward Jedd Soleway had four points in two games since being traded to the Vees last week. After collecting an assist in his debut, a 7-1 win over the Centennials Friday night, Soleway had a goal and two helpers and was named first star as the Vees iced the Langley Rivermen 5-1 Saturday…Vernon forward TJ Dumonceaux has missed the last three games with a knee injury, and Craig Martin is still recovering from a broken ankle.