Malcolm Lyles was determined to make something happen out of nothing as the Vernon Vipers struggled against the stubborn Nanaimo Clippers Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.
It was pretty much a mattress sale (yawner, sleeper) most of the night before 1,400 fans who made the most noise when councillor Jack Gilroy drained a 100-foot putt during the first-intermission frolicks.
The Vipers didn’t find the net until 15:13 of the third period when captain David Robinson – Gilroy’s nephew – tapped in a rebound past Nanaimo goalie Charles-Andre Pelletier.
Lyles, a gyrating, natural-born thriller, brought the small house down with 1.1 seconds left in the first overtime as the Vipers escaped with a 2-1 B.C. Hockey League victory. It was the 19th time Vernon has gone to extra time this season.
“Earlier in the game, the goalie gave me the entire left side open so I took it again when I saw it,” smiled Lyles, who went coast to coast, dished to Kyle Murphy at the Clipper blueline, waltzed around a defender, took a return feed, and shot low from the right side.
The Clippers, who sorely missed injured veteran forward and captain Colton Cyr, and three other regulars, played a smart road game, skating with the Vipers and containing them outside.
David Domsodi scored his 17th of the season with 6:34 left in the second period, beating Vernon tender Blake Voth in tight on a rebound. Brodie Jamieson and Victor Newell drew the assists.
The Vipers dominated an early powerplay with Murphy striking iron and getting stymied by Pelletier, who slid cross crease for the save of the night.
“They came out with a lot of jump, credit to them,” said Lyles. “We don’t come in thinking any team’s gonna be a cakewalk, but they definitely surprised us with how much jump they had. We pulled it off, sticking to our systems.”
Robinson connected for his 28th of the year after Bryce Kakoske drove down the middle, had a shot blocked, retrieved the puck and shot again. Murphy deflected the wrister off Pelletier’s pad and Robinson cashed in the rebound.
“You have give them credit I guess,” said Robinson. “They played well and they cracked down defensively and it was a bit frustrating for us. We didn’t get as many shots as we’d like. It took us a while and eventually I got a greasy one there at the end which was nice and got us rolling.”
The Vipers improved to 31-10-4-8, four points ahead of the Penticton Vees atop the Interior Conference. Vernon hosts the Vees Saturday night, 24 hours before entertaining the Alberni Bulldogs.
The Clippers, who were outshot 36-24, went to 25-22-1-6, leaving them fifth in the Coastal loop, two points behind the Victoria Grizzlies.
“We know we played a good game,” said Nanaimo centre and top pointgetter Andrew Gladiuk. “We made some mistakes there, breakdowns on backchecks and stuff, and they capitalized a couple of times. Everybody played good and our goalie played really well to keep us in it.”
The Shipmen, who stuffed the Merritt Centennials 6-1 to open their road trip Tuesday night, also face the lowly Prince George Spruce Kings and Quesnel Millionaires.
“We’re hoping to jump one or two spots out there so hopefully we can get some points on this northern road trip,” said Gladiuk.
Nanaimo head coach Bill Bestwick, who had his 20 per cent team ownership bought by a trio, including hockey broadcaster Kelly Hrudey, on Wednesday, felt his club played their hearts out. He was watching video 20 minutes after the game, trying to figure out how the Vipers rallied for the win.
“We did a lot of things right for 55 minutes,” said Bestwick, whose son Brett, an ex-Clipper, is an assistant with the Clippers. “The first goal (by Robinson) was very disappointing and we got through that, and we were a second away from maybe going into the next overtime period.
“I think our kids maybe let their foot off the gas with an offensive zone faceoff with 13 seconds remaining and didn’t think anything could possibly happen and of course it did. Kudos to Vernon. They’re obviously a real, real good hockey team and I’m really proud of our kids to be able to play here tonight and come out with a very valuable point.”
SNAKE BITES: Gladiuk’s snap shot bounced off Voth’s shoulder and was rolling on the goal-line before being cleared by a Viper defender with 30 seconds left in regulation…Patrick McGillis wired a shot off the back glass and went wide on a great feed by Dylan Walchuk, both during the second period…On Vipers’ injured reserve were d-man Adam Thompson and forwards Mike Zalewsky and Zach McPhee…Junior B call-up Brent Baltus (Oceanside Generals of Parksville) got a regular shift and had a couple of scoring chances for the Clippers…Bestwick sent out the Fitzgerald triplets – Leo, Myles and Gerry – as a unit a few times early in the game. The Port Alberni trio are all 5-foot-7 with good speed and hands…Viper grad Mike Collins is the Hockey East Player of the Month. He garnered 11 points in January with the Merrimack College Warriors.