The Vernon Vipers are banged up plenty, but they won’t have time to lick their wounds after three consecutive B.C. Hockey League road losses.
Ending a trio of Lower Mainland tilts with a 5-2 loss against the Langley Rivermen Saturday night, the Snakes, who have injuries to four key players, are right back at it tonight at Wesbild Centre against the first-place Penticton Vees.
Vernon, third in the Interior Conference at 13-8, will be without forwards Colton Sparrow and captain Pat McGillis. Defenceman Luke Juha hasn’t dressed since the World Junior A Challenge, and forward John Knisley is questionable for tonight’s game.
Meanwhle, the Vees (18-3-0-2) are winners of their last five and enter tonight with a league-best 5.35 goals per game average.
“(They will be) all wound up and ready to get at ‘er. It’ll be a good test to say the least,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson of the Vees.
“It’s going to take some big efforts from some people that aren’t used to them. Some guys are going to have to step up and we’re going to have to play a good team game.
“It’s adversity and it’s good to have it at some point and we’re going to have it right now.”
Williamson was hoping to call up Cole Sanford from the KIJHL Revelstoke Grizzlies for tonight’s tilt.
The Vipers came out flying Saturday night. Forward Mike Zalewski (third star) squeaked a shot past netminder Jim Kruger and Aaron Hadley, burying his third goal, was there to bang home the loose puck on an early powerplay.
First star Darnell Dyck, cashing in the first of two goals, both rebounds off powerplay point shots, answered for the Rivermen.
Midway through the second period, Zalewski hit Ryan Renz with a pass from the corner, and the workhorse defenceman wired a nice shot from the slot for his first goal of the season to put Vernon up 2-1.
Dyck, from Mike Tebbutt and Ryan Bakken, equalized later in the period.
Things fell apart for Vernon in the third frame when the Rivermen, last in the Coastal Conference at 8-13, scored twice in just nine seconds.
Tebbutt (6th) fired the winner at 9:20, and on the next play, Vernon d-man Max Mowat bobbled the puck as he skated behind his net, resulting in Patrick Martens’ second goal of the season.
Thomas Nitsche (2nd) capped the scoring with a long shot netminder Danny Todosychuk (32 saves) would have liked back.
Williamson said the Vipers’ youth, combined with the injuries to key veterans, is starting to wear on the team.
“It all came down on us last game. It was a good game until the third,” he said.
“We’re a young hockey team that has some injuries right now and we need some guys to step up.
“No matter who we play we’re going to get their best effort with a big target painted on our back.”
To celebrate the BCHL’s 50th anniversary weekend, the Vipers will entertain the 6-12-0-5 Salmon Arm SilverBacks in the first game of a home-and-home series Friday night at Wesbild.
The game will include a KidSport fundraiser and the Vipers are also tying the event in with parents weekend.
There will be a silent suction, including a pair of Canucks tickets and a Vipers jersey up for grabs.
As part of the KidSport fundraiser, group tickets for sections H, J or K can be purchased at front desk of Vernon Rec Centre, or from Ann Holmes at 250-308-1558.
There is a fan bus going to the Vipers’ Saturday game in Salmon Arm. The $20 ticket includes bus fare, food and a ticket to the game. The bus departs from Wesbild at 5:15 p.m. that night.
SNAKE BITES: Penticton forward Bryce Gervais, acquired from the SilverBacks last week, has made an impression on Penticton’s already-potent offence, scoring five points (4+1) in his first two games. The Saskatchewan product collected first star for his 2+1 performance in his Vees debut, a 4-1 win over the Merritt Centennials Saturday night.