Liam Coughlin shoots like he’s a member of the North Okanagan Trap and Skeet Club. Problem is he’s been slightly off the mark in his past few B.C. Hockey League tilts.
The South Boston product hit the bull’s-eye Friday night at Kal Tire Place, squeaking a five-hole blast past Angus Redmond on a late third-period rush as the Vernon Vipers shaded the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-2 in front of 1,700 fans.
“You get nine shots a game, one of them has to go in, right?” grinned Coughlin, drafted this summer by the Edmonton Oilers (5th round, 130th overall).
“The last couple of games I’ve been snake-bitten. I’ve had a lot of chances and finally one trickled in for me.”
Vernon, now 4-3-0-1, entertained the 5-1 Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday at the Big Wheel. The Silverbacks, losers of four straight, dipped to 3-3-0-2, one point back of Vernon.
Anthony Latina, with his team-leading fourth goal, jumpstarted Vernon’s attack in the first period after some good hustle by linemate Luke Voltin, who drove to the net and was pokechecked by Angus Redmond (27 saves). The rebound went straight out to Latina, 20, who had no problem burying it in a wide open net at 8:24.
The ‘Backs equalized at 11:48 as Taro Hirose took feed from Taylor Maruya, drove up the middle and finished with a slick backhander, top shelf.
Salmon Arm failed to convert on an early 5-on-3 in the second period, but with 1:13 remaining in the second penalty, a cross-checking minor to Trevor Fidler, Chase Priskie threaded a point shot through traffic, going post-and-in behind a screened Jarrod Schamerhorn (21 saves).
Vernon got into penalty trouble again in the second period, sending Salmon Arm on another 5-on-3. Viper forward Thomas Aldworth, who took the original penalty, came out of the box, took a feed from Fidler and used his wheels to earn a shorthanded breakaway. He deftly beat Redmond with a forehand-backhand deke to make it 2-2 before the ice clean.
“I saw an opportunity when the puck got turned over and Fidler made a good play,” said Aldworth, a Texan who played prep school hockey in Massachusetts.
“We were just really focussed tonight and we had a lot of energy as well. Our team just wanted it more; we were working really hard all night.”
Aldworth, named first star, nearly had the go-ahead goal in the opening minute of period three, but he flicked his shot off the crossbar after taking a shovel pass from TJ Dumonceux.
The Vipers weathered an early penalty kill early in the third period, then used their speed to smother Salmon Arm. They held the visitors to just one shot before the ‘Backs finally started getting pucks on Schamerhorn in the final minutes.
“We didn’t have the third period we were looking for,” said Salmon Arm head coach Brandon West. “We broke down a couple times and we didn’t get the puck to the net, but we were never out of it.”
Logan Mick, a former Viper who is enjoying a larger role since landing in Salmon Arm this season, said it’s just a matter of time before the ‘Backs put it all together.
“We could have been a lot better tonight, but it’s just one of those things where pucks weren’t going our way,” said Mick, 18.
“Our work ethic is there, we’ve just got to work smarter and develop our systems a little more. Once we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”
Friday night was the Viper debut for a trio of defencemen – Luke Shiplo, returning from a broken hand, and Brandon Egli and Mitch Meek, both acquired this week in a trade with the Victoria Grizzlies.
At one point, Meek and Egli, perhaps a little too eager to put on a show, abandoned their defensive posts to join the forecheck.
Vernon head coach Mark Ferner chuckled about it after.
“Two defencemen with no name bars and they’re both forechecking? They wanted to come in and make an impression.
“I’m sure they’re a little bit nervous, regardless of their experience, of coming to a new team. Once they settle in, they’ll be fine.”
SNAKE BITES: The anthem singer needed a little vocal support from the crowd as she bungled O Canada twice during the pregame ceremony…Coughlin and Hirose were named second and third star, respectively.