Prince George star Paul DeJersey resembled a player trying to dissect a Game 7 loss as he sat, in full equipment, outside the Spruce Kings’ dressing room Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
About 15 minutes had passed since the big winger’s hat trick went for naught as he witnessed one of the most dramatic comebacks in Vernon Vipers’ history. Vernon (4-0) hosts the 4-1 Westside Warriors tonight.
The Vipers reeled off three gorgeous snipes in 86 seconds late in the third period, and then got a superb goal from Adam Tambellini, 1:46 into overtime, in a 5-4 win before just 1,400 fans, most of whom were thinking about asking for their money back before the unbelievable rally.
“We’re a young team so I think we gotta learn how to clutch up,” said the classy DeJersey, who leads the BCHL with 7-2-9 playing alongside 17-year-old superstar Jujhar Khaira.
“I had a feeling they weren’t going to go away, obviously because they’ve been champs three years in a row and they know how to come back. We’re a young team so we’ve gotta take notes and just know this can’t ever happen again because you can’t afford to lose games like that.”
The 19-year-old DeJersey, who scored some big goals here with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, wasn’t considering the single point worthy of much.
“It feels like we just got knocked out of the playoffs or something. I don’t even think about it as we got a point. We should have got two or otherwise it’s nothing.
“We played better than last night (9-3 loss in Penticton). I don’t mean to sound negative but I’m not taking any positives from this game. I don’t care if we played good the whole game, 65 minutes, we gotta learn how to close teams out.”
The Vipers, meanwhile, lulled the crowd to sleep as they got outworked by the smooth-skating Kings for most of the tilt. Prince George got solid netminding from rookie Marcus Beesley and actually held a 22-10 shot advantage midway through the game until the Vipers racked up seven shots on a failed powerplay.
With the Kings up 4-1 and 2:27 left to play, captain Patrick McGillis beat Beesley with a backhander after a beautiful passing play started on the side wall by Colton Sparrow to Marcus Basara in the high slot. It was McGillis’ second of the night.
Just 30 seconds later, Aaron Hadley finished a bing-bang-boom play involving Mike Zalewski and Darren Nowick. The Vipers equalized 56 seconds later when Hadley took a feed from d-man Brett Corkey and fed Zalewski backdoor.
Tambellini picked off a poor two-foot Kings pass at the blueline, cruised in alone and went roof daddy, left side, sending his teammates and fans into a frenzy.
“It wasn’t our best effort tonight, obviously,” said McGillis. “We weren’t the team we wanted to be for the first two periods but credit to the guys battling back in the third and the last five minutes in the third, we really poured it on and beared down on our chances.
“Their goalie played really well. He was getting all the bounces for the first two-and-a-half periods and then right there at the end of the third, we started getting the bounces our way and they started going in.”
Vernon (4-0) received a solid 28-save showing from local product Danny Todosychuk in his BCHL debut. The Vipers blew coverage on three of the goals with one slipping through the five-hole.
“He looked a little nervous at the start but he definitely was calm and smooth throughout the game and he’s definitely gonna be a good goalie this year and the next years to come in this league,” said McGillis of the 17-year-old net detective.
Tododsychuk, who played Midget Tier 1 in Vernon last year, was especially active in the first period as the Sprucies outshot the Vipers 15-8.
“It was a bit of a back-and-forth game,” said Tododsychuk. “We kind of came out a little slower than we would have liked, but at the end we got it done.”
Asked if he had some butterflies in his first start, he replied: “Yah, starting in front of the hometown crowd, there were obviously a couple. But after the first shot, the nerves kind of go away and you just kind of go from there.
“I let in a couple of questionable goals, but the guys kept battling the whole game and they pulled it off and it only took us five minutes. It feels good to get the first win out of the way.”
Meanwhile, the Vipers chose Logan Mick and Steve Alldridge, both of the Pursuit of Excellent Midgets in Kelowna, in the BCHL’s first affiliate draft Monday. Both players remain Viper property for this season only.