They took turns blowing leads and making defensive miscues in their own rinks. And two games and 24 hours later, the Vernon Vipers and Salmon Arm SilverBacks were right where they started the holiday break, separated by five points in the BCHL’s Interior Conference.
The Vipers spotted the SilverBacks three goals Friday night at Wesbild Centre before battling back hard in a 6-4 victory before 2,153 fans. Vernon went up 2-0 the night before at the Shaw Centre and then collapsed defensively in a 7-4 loss before 1,425 fans.
Vernon holds fifth spot at 17-13-1-2, four points back of the Prince George Spruce Kings, 5-2 winners over the Trail Smoke Eaters Friday night. Salmon Arm dropped to 12-17-0-6. Only the top-four teams make the playoffs.
“We’re never happy with a loss, but it’s good to come back from that loss and pretty much take it to them in our barn,” said Viper sniper Darren Nowick, who pocketed his 23rd and 24th goals of the season and took three stitches to his lip courtesy of a high stick by Devin Muller.
“We’re not satisfied, but we’re happy to get the two points we got tonight.”
Nowick netted two beauties, first making it 4-3 Vipers in the second period when he re-directed a powerplay slap pass from d-man Brett Corkey. Nowick scooped a loose puck near centre and with Brett Knowles hard in pursuit, beat Kurt Williams with a backhander, roof daddy, to bring the house down in celebration of his shorthanded goal.
Vernon’s line of Adam Tambellini (2+1), Brendan Persley (1+1) and Colton Sparrow (3A) had a fabulous night, combining for eight points and enjoying a few other scoring chances while working the puck well down low.
Corkey, with a wrister from the point which slid past Williams off the left post, completed the Viper offence.
Myles McCauley, who once skated on a line with Tyler Seguin (Boston Bruins) with the major junior Plymouth Whalers, beat starting Vernon goalie Danny Todoyschuk on a wrister from the right slot 95 seconds into the game. McCauley went top shelf from the mid slot eight minutes later on a powerplay.
Vernon product Alex Gillies fooled Todosychuk with a high wrister from the left wing, to make it 3-0 SilverBacks 1:23 later, chasing Todosychuk, who the night before had replaced starter Kirby Halcrow.
”Öbviously, we would have liked the four points,but tonight was a good effort by all the guys,” said Viper centre Dylan Walchuk, robbed in tight by a Williams’glove save in the final minutes. ‘’We came out with a bit of a slow start and kind of let Danny hang out to dry there for a couple. Luckily, we came back and regrouped from the first period and played a solid 40 minutes and were able to score some goals. The crowd was loud and gave us more energy and got the guys excited.”
The SilverBacks, who closed to within one when Morgan Zulinick finished off a bang-bang play with 8;57 left, took a too many men penalty a few minutes later and Tambellini converted with 22 seconds left in the minor.
‘’This is a tough pill to swallow because if we win this one, we’re three points back of them so we didn’t make any ground up on the weekend,’’ said Salmon Arm 21-year-old assistant coach Jayson Reardon, of Lumby. ‘’We have a really good team in there and it’s a matter of finding the pieces and guys finding their roles. It’s a tough loss because we’re a young team.”
The Vipers lost centre Ben Gamache after he went down after a knee-on-knee hit by Taylor Love in the second period. Gamache did not return.