Vernon Vipers' Brett Corkey attempts to squeeze between Surrey Eagles Bradley McGowan and Beau Orser during Junior A hockey play Sunday afternoon at Wesbild Centre.

Vipers find answer for OT conundrum

Kevin Mitchell

Sports Editor

Used to be the Vernon Vipers dreaded going to overtime. What, with a B.C. Hockey League worst six losses on the table, they preferred finishing games in regulation.

The Vipers kissed their fears last weekend, finishing their third overtime game in as many games with a 2-1 win over the flu-ravaged Surrey Eagles Sunday before 1,462 fans at Wesbild Centre.

Captain David Robinson drove hard to the net and somehow batted in a Stevie Weinstein cross with 67 seconds left in double overtime.

The night before, Robinson converted a play involving Bryce Kakoske and Dylan Walchuk at 2:52 of the first OT as Vernon trimmed the Westside Warriors 3-2 before 872 fans at Royal LePage Place.

The Vipers, who gained a double-overtime tie with Westside on Friday night, share second place in the Interior Conference with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks at 17-8-2-6.

“We actually didn’t lose one (overtime) this weekend,” laughed Robinson as he skated with fans following Sunday’s win. “We wish we could have got one Friday (2-2 tie with Westside) so it’s really nice to see us clutch up and get the two Ws the last couple of nights.”

The Vipers and Eagles both had 40 points going into the matinee, but the Eagles had six regulars out with injury and flu. Forward Daniel Gentzler, 20, was violently ill near the end of Surrey’s game Saturday night in Salmon Arm. He was taken to hospital and diagnosed with the Norwalk Virus.

Robinson, who leads the Vipers with 17 goals, warned his teammates not to play the Eagles soft.

“I said to the guys before the game, ‘We had four dee yesterday and we managed to pull that game out.’ We weren’t taking them lightly. They battled hard and you have to give them credit.

“Their goalie (Karel St-Laurent) played well again. I don’t know if we’re making every goalie in the league look good or if we don’t have good enough hands to put the puck in the net, but it’s nice to get the win.”

Patrick McGillis, on a second-period deflection of a Brett Corkey point shot, for Vernon, and Dale Hunt on a third-period powerplay deflection of a Steve Koshey shot, for Surrey, scored in regulation.

Both teams had a number of chances in overtime with Viper goalie Blake Voth snagging a wrister by BCHL scoring ace Brad McGowan with 28 seconds left in the first OT.

St-Laurent, a big Quebec Major League (Saint John Sea Dogs) refugee, stoned Kyle Murphy and Weinstein in the second OT.

Voth had to be sharp as both McGowan and Richard Vanderhoek, who returned to Surrey after a brief stint with the WHL Vancouver Giants, showed some sick offensive moves all game. McGowan, obviously weary in overtime, took a look around, found nobody open and passed the puck back to St-Laurent before heading off for a rest.

“I thought we played a pretty good overall team game,” said Voth. “When you get 50 shots, you’re usually going to win it but their goalie played well, but in the end we came out on top.”

Surrey head coach Matt Erhart, a Quinnipiac Bobcat grad who won the 1998 Royal Bank Cup with the Eagles, was impressed as his team gutted it out in their fourth game in five days.

“The guys played hard and we knew we were going to get outshot so we kept things to the outside and maybe we’ll get a powerplay goal or two and see what happens,” said Erhart. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more in terms of effort, and obviously we got a great performance by our goalie, which was what we needed.”

The Eagles pretty much matched the Vipers in speed and kept them to the perimeter as much as possible while St-Laurent did his thing.

“Vernon’s been the model franchise especially the last five years with their professionalism and we’re trying to model our team after them,” said Erhart. “When we have a full lineup, we play a pretty good puck possession game and we had a good battle last time they were down in Surrey, it was a 2-1 game as well. We knew it would be tough today.”

Kirby Halcrow, obtained in last week’s trade with the Quesnel Millionaires, made his Viper debut in Westside and registered 21 saves, giving up just one five-on-five goal by Brett Mckinnon.

“Trades are always tough,” said Voth. “We lost two really nice guys (goalie Bryton Udy and d-man Elliott Richardson) but I’ve talked to Kirby and he seems like an awesome guy too and I think we’ll be a good tandem.”

Added Robinson: “It’s always tough to see guys go. Richie and Udy are both great guys and they’ll be friends of all of ours forever. We’re excited to have Kirby though. He’s been kind of a pain in the side for us the last couple of years. Especially the guys who were here last year know what he can do. He took us to six games so we’re definitely excited to have him here.”

Udy made 36 saves and earned second star as the Mills trimmed the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-2 Saturday night.

Walchuk and Kakoske netted powerplay goals Saturday night. Max French clicked on a powerplay for the 17-10-2-3 Warriors, who are three points back of Vernon.

The Vipers begin a four-game tour of Vancouver Island tonight in Duncan versus the Capitals. They play the Victoria Grizzlies Friday night.

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