Coaches Mark Ferner and Jason Williamson pushed the Vernon Vipers pretty hard at practice this week.
It wasn’t meant as punishment for losing their opening B.C. Hockey League games last weekend, but rather an opportunity to learn and improve.
The Snakes responded with their first win of the season Friday night at South Okanagan Events Centre, clipping the Penticton Vees 3-2 before 1,423 fans.
“It’s good for our guys confidence-wise. We talked about the fact we had a tough couple games… and probably deserved a better fate,” said Williamson.
“We’re grooming these kids to be how we want them to be each and every shift, every time they jump over the boards.”
John Knisley, a Pittsford, NY product who is committed to Cornell University, opened the scoring for Vernon at 6:57 of the first period.
“He just took the puck at the neutral zone and didn’t stop moving his feet until the puck went in the net,” said Williamson.
“He’s a young kid, but he’s put together for a small guy, and he doesn’t back away.”
Trevor Fitzgerald made it 2-0 less than a minute later, banging home a greasy goal during a scramble in front of netminder Joel Rumpel (20 saves).
Joey Holka connected on the powerplay later in the period to pull Penticton within a goal.
After a scoreless second period, Vernon’s Dylan Walchuk struck early in the third, tapping in a backdoor feed from Marcus Basara for his second of the season.
Vernon’s Adam Thompson and Kyle Murphy, both 20, returned from injury reserve Friday night.
“Adam has been here three years and knows how he’s got to be and we can rely on him to take some heavy minutes,” said Williamson. “Murph is going to be very good for us. He’s a kid that played the game at a high level. He was a difference maker last night.”
Defenceman Malcolm Lyles, 20, sat out with an upper-body injury. Taylor Love dressed in his place and responded with some solid hits.
The Vees pulled Rumpel for an extra attacker late in the game, scoring on Blake Voth (23 saves) with six seconds remaining.
Referee Nick Swaine called just four penalties all game, handing each team two minors.
The Vipers completed their home-and-home with the Vees Saturday night at Wesbild. Vernon hosts the Merritt Centennials Tuesday night at Wesbild before heading out on a four-game road schedule.