Jarryd TenVaanholt recorded the overtime winner with 90 seconds to play as the Vernon Vipers shaded the Westside Warriors 5-4 in B.C. Hockey League exhibition play Tuesday afternoon at Royal LePage Place.
The rink was packed with hundreds of screaming students as part of the Warriors school game.
“I am deaf right now; non-stop yelling all game,” chuckled Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson, whose lineup was depleted because of various injuries and six players away at the Canada West evaluation camp for the World Junior A Challenge.
Vernon’s Alex Hagen opened the scoring after taking a feed from captain Patrick McGillis behind the net.
Phil Bamber, deflecting a Corson Johnstone point shot, made it 2-1 Vernon after 20 minutes.
After losing forward Colton Sparrow to injury early in the game, the Viper forward corps took another blow when John Knisley was ejected for a scrap in the second frame. Vernon played the remainder with just eight forwards.
Westside took its first lead with a pair of goals in the second period, but Tanner Burns responded for the Vipers with a powerplay goal in the third period.
McGillis completed Vernon’s offence on a one-timer set up by Marc Hetnik.
“We battled our way back. It was ugly, but we found a way,” said Williamson.
“We have those guys at camp, and we have some injuries. It’s 10 or 11 guys who would have been playing for us, but they’re not. You’ve got to give some credit to the guys who filled in. They’re working hard.”
In exhibition play Saturday night in Merritt, the Vipers bowed 3-2 to the Centennials at Nicola Valley Arena.
Alex Hagen took a great feed from Colton Sparrow to go in on a partial breakaway and deked Cents’ netminder Russell Sanderson to put Vernon on the board less than two minutes into the game.
The Vipers then fell into penalty troubles, but Merritt failed to capitalize despite outshooting Vernon 12-9 in the first frame.
Unable to convert on a 5-on-3 in the second period, the Cents finally got on the board late on a powerplay as rookie Noah Dolinajek scored on a goal-mouth flurry.
Williamson’s decision to put veterans Mike Zalewski, Johnny Knisley and Darren Nowick on a line paid off early in the third period. After some steady pressure in Merritt’s zone, Nowick pounced on a puck fumbled by netminder Tyler Steel, a Vernon native in his second season with the Cents.
Goals by Merritt’s Evan Stack and Dylan Playfair, recording the winner with 3:47 to play, completed the offence.
Zalewski and Merritt’s Jacob Reichert ended the game with a minor skirmish.
Not convinced of his backup goaltending situation after main camp, Williamson decided to bring in a pair of Albertan prospects – Lethbridge’s Alex Wakaluk, the son of former NHLer Darcy Wakaluk, and Sherwood Park’s Mike Gudmanson – for an exhibition audition.
However, Williamson’s decision came before Vernon’s Danny Todosychuk showcased himself well in the Vipers’ 2-1 overtime win over Westside Friday night at Wesbild.
“Before the weekend, I wasn’t too happy with it (goaltending situation), but then Danny started playing really well,” said Williamson.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s Stefan Schneider was a plus-2 with four shots on net as the Vancouver Canucks iced the Calgary Flames 4-3 at the NHL Young Stars Tournament Monday in Penticton. The Canucks’ Nathan Longpre recorded two goals and assisted on Antoine Roussel’s OT winner just 16 seconds into the extra frame. Vancouver fell 7-2 to the Edmonton Oilers prospects in their tourney opener Sunday night…Former Viper Chad Brownlee, a Kelowna native, won the Rising Star Award at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Hamilton, Ont. Browlee, 27, played two seasons with Vernon in 2001-03…The Centennials are 4-0 in BCHL exhibition play so far. In addition to Saturday’s win over the Vipers, the Cents also iced the Simon Fraser University Clan men’s team (3-1), Warriors (2-1 in OT) and Prince George Spruce Kings (5-3). Merritt, coached by former Viper Luke Pierce, wraps up the preseason with a home-and-home with the relaunched Chilliwack Chiefs Friday and Saturday night.