Some major team bonding on a long bus ride home and a 6-0 shutout win over the Prince George Spruce Kings in a Sunday matinee capped a solid weekend for the Vernon Vipers.
The Vipers, who got to Wesbild Centre just after 1 a.m. Monday, grounded the Quesnel Millionaires 5-2 Saturday night at The Vault. Vernon is 4-3-0-1 and with 14 new players on their roster, captain David Robinson says the team is growing together nicely.
“It was good to get on the bus early in the season and find out what everybody’s about,” said Robinson. “Surprisingly, all is good in the dressing room. Everyone’s learning to get on the same page, and learning the new systems. We’re all buddies and getting along which makes it easier for us older guys because we don’t have to deal with any problems.”
Three newbies registered their first B.C. Hockey League goals on the final two days of the trip which began with a 3-1 loss Friday night in Prince George. Kyle Murphy kept the puck after the Vipers’ final goal in Quesnel, while defenceman Malcolm Lyles and forward Todd Skirving each netted their first G-notes Sunday.
“We definitely played a lot better on Saturday and Sunday,” said Robinson. “We found a way to put the puck in the net. It was nice to see some of the new guys score. The new kids have so much talent it was only a matter of time before they started scoring.”
First star Trevor Fitzgerald, a Vernon product, scored a pair of solo goals Sunday, one on a breakaway and one shorthanded. His linemates Skirving and Colton Sparrow did some fine forechecking to create his first goal. Skirving outraced a couple of defenders to score on another breakaway, while leading Viper sniper Dylan Walchuk (6th) and Murphy completed the offence in front of Blake Voth (16 saves).
Rookie goaltender Kirk Thompson turned aside 34 saves in the loss. The Spruce Kings dropped to 1-5 before 525 fans at the Coliseum.
The Vipers went 4-for-9 on the powerplay while holding the Mills to nothing on eight chances before 660 fans.
Michael Zalewski, Bryce Kakoske, d-man Stevie Weinstein (first star) and Murphy supplied powerplay tallies, while Fitzgerald had the lone even-strength goal. Skirving drew two helpers.
The Vipers held period leads of 2-0 and 3-0 and went in front 4-0 just 41 seconds into the third period before Justin Hogan responded for the Mills 70 seconds later.
Murphy made it 5-1 with seven minutes left to play, while Derek Huisman beat Voth with 5:34 to go. Vernon outshot Quesnel 35-15 with Kirby Halcrow taking the loss while also drawing a pair of roughing minors midway through the third.
Halcrow also cut Robinson in the mouth for three stitches, a swing that was undetected by referee Justin Neufeld.
“He got me with his stick in the face and he meant to,” said Robinson. “It wasn’t vicious but he was trying to hit me. I gave him a little whack when I went by him.”
Devin Balness of the Mills took a run at Voth at the buzzer and Viper d-man Elliot Richardson took on Balness. The Vipers visit the Trail Smoke Eaters (6-3) Friday night before hosting the Cowichan Valley Capitals (2-4) Saturday night.