After snapping a nine-game winless streak Thursday, the Vernon Vipers looked to have all the momentum heading into their Friday-night B.C. Hockey League tilt at Royal LePage Place.
The host Westside Warriors snuffed it out with a quick three-goal burst in the second period, going on to earn a 5-2 win before 867 fans.
Down by one after Jedd Soleway (6th goal) scored for Vernon in the first period, the Warriors, now 10-14-0-5, fired three goals past Kirby Halcrow in just over a minute.
Max French (9th) started the spree on the powerplay at 5:19, followed by singles from Vernon product Devon Hascarl (3rd) and Connor Dempsey (10th), who scored again later in the period to make it 4-1 for the hosts.
“We started the game well, we just had a five-minute lapse,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson. “We missed some assignments and they got some bounces. They have to realize they can’t take time off like that.”
Williamson pulled Halcrow (17 saves) after the fourth goal to try and spark the team. Danny Todosychuk stopped 10 shots in relief.
Rookie forward Adam Tambellini (14th), playing the point on the powerplay, walked to the top of the circle before beating Dwayne Rodrigue (31 saves) early in the third period.
Westside’s Reid Simmonds (6th) added an empty-netter in the final minute.
The loss came a night after the Vipers (14-12-1-2) recorded a season-high offensive output in an 8-3 win over the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters at Wesbild Centre.
The win snapped a nine-game winless streak dating back to mid-November
Vernon’s Ben Gamache and Tambellini, second and third star respectively, led the Vipers with a goal and three assists. First star Mike Zalewski finished with 2+1, while Darren Nowick displayed his trademark puck pursuit in adding three helpers.
Gamache, who was the second leading scorer in the AJHL (Okotoks Oilers) before coming to Vernon, had just one goal in three games prior to Thursday.
“Finally got that monkey off my back. Coming to a new team, new league and a different style, I needed this and I just worked hard to get it,” he said.
Zalewski, scoring his 14th and 15th goals of the season three minutes apart in the first period, pegged the Vipers to an early lead.
Singles by Gamache (2nd), Tambellini (13th) and Aaron Hadley (5th) made it 5-0 Vernon by the eight-minute mark of the second frame. Shortly after, Trail starter Lynden Stanwood, recently promoted from the KIJHL Kamloops Storm, was relieved by James D’Andrea after he allowed five goals on 22 shots. D’Andrea recorded 22 saves, while Halcrow made 26 stops for his 11th win.
“Lynden has been good, but he didn’t have anyone in front of him helping tonight,” said Trail assistant coach Bob Dever, a former Vipers’ assistant during the Mike Vandekamp era in the early 2000s.
“Our compete level wasn’t even close to where it needs to be. That was probably the softest we’ve played all season. We’ve been in some games where the scoreboard has been a lopsided affair, but we still competed hard. That’s what’s disappointing about tonight.”
Trying to spark his team, Trail rookie Kyle Horsman challenged Viper d-man Turner Lawson to a scrap. Lawson buckled his 6-foot-4 opponent with a succession of rights.
The 1,265 fans were treated to a second tilt when Vernon blueliner Ryan Renz went into beast mode, pummeling the Smokies’ Tanner Clarkson in a short-lived tilt after Clarkson drove Zalewski hard into the corner.
“We’re just trying to play with emotion. This is the squad we’ve got now, these are the guys we’ve been playing with for a few months now and it’s time to stand up for them and show intensity,” said Renz.
“Our guys went through a tough stretch there and we don’t want to feel that again. All the guys were starting to grip their sticks tight, and just to get the puck in the net a few extra times was a good feeling and helps motivate the guys for getting a few more wins here before Christmas.”
The Smokies got on the board with back-to-back goals by Shane Poulsen and d-man Marley Keca (4th).
“We just came out flat and got out-competed. Vernon is a skilled team and we had some breakdowns in our zone and they capitalized,” said Keca, who played junior B in Armstrong.
“I’m taking this opportunity to build on my offensive side. The coaches are giving me a lot of opportunities to show what I can do.”
In the final minute of the second period, Gamache set up Soleway (5th) for a one-timer from the slot. Brendan Persley, with his first point as a Viper, added another with 19 seconds in the frame. Clarkson (5th) and the Vipers’ John Knisley (4th) traded singles in the third.
SNAKE BITES: The 2012 NHL Draft Watch List revealed this week features eight BCHLers and one league alumnus. Earning ‘B-type’ (mid-round) consideration are Coquitlam Express forward Alex Kerfoot, Prince George Spruce Kings forward Jujhar Khaira, Surrey Eagles’ forwards Sean McGovern and Brandon Morley, Eagles’ d-man Devon Toews, Merritt Centennials d-man Reece Willcox and Salmon Arm SilverBacks forward Morgan Zulinick. Powell River Kings forward Evan Richardson is projected as a late-round pick, while former Coquitlam Express standout Destry Straight, now playing for the NCAA Boston College Eagles, earned a B rating.