A pair of 5-on-3s proved the difference as the Vernon Vipers bowed 5-3 to the West Kelowna Warriors in B.C. Hockey League action Friday night at Royal LePage Place.
Carrying a 3-1 lead early in the second period, Vernon gave up four unanswered goals to drop their fifth straight on the road.
Vernon, third in the Interior Division at 22-14-3-4, entertained the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Saturday at Kal Tire Place. The Snakes visit the slumping Salmon Arm SilverBacks (20-17-1-5) in a 3 p.m. matinee today at the Shaw Centre.
“It’s not the best start to 2014, but we’re still playing the top teams fairly well in games that could go either way,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson. “We just need to be a little better at being detail oriented. We’re giving up a few too many shots and we need to be more disciplined.”
The Bulldogs (13-22-2-5), last in the Island loop, stuffed the Gorillas 4-2 Friday night. Salmon Arm, losers of four straight, visited the Interior-leading Penticton Vees (27-11-2-3) Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Snakes opened Friday’s scoring on Dexter Dancs’ 17th of the season (boxscore credits Jared Wilson) on a delayed penalty. Liam Coughlin drove to the net to draw the call and eventually worked the puck to the slot where Dancs one-timed a blast, five-hole, past netminder Andy Desautels.
David Pope (15th goal) replied for West Kelowna (25-12-2-2) at the 8:15 mark, but Wilson (6th), named third star, converted on the powerplay by burying a wrister from the slot later in period one.
Vernon veteran Colton Sparrow (8th) earned the 3-1 goal just 33 seconds into the second frame as he surprised a West Kelowna d-man on a forecheck and went in alone on Desautels (25 saves), beating him with a shot from in close.
Liam Blackburn, from Carl Hesler and first star Taki Pantziris, pulled the Warriors within one midway through the second period. And with TJ Dumonceaux and Ryan Renz serving minors, Rylan Ferster’s crew equalized on their first 5-on-3 as Hesler beat Danny Todosychuk (38 saves).
The Vipers killed off the first part of the Warriors’ second two-man advantage, a kneeing minor to Matty Saharchuk, but with Brett Mulcahy ejected for a cross-check, Tyson Dallman (12th) drew West Kelowna even with seven seconds to go in the major.
Second star Jordan Masters (18th) added insurance with 1:36 remaining.
Of the Warriors, Williamson said: “They’ve been playing well. It was a pretty physical, evenly contested hockey game. It was old-school hockey. The atmosphere was electric.”
The penalty-filled tilt featured a pair of scraps, both on the same shift. Saharchuk tangled with West Kelowna’s Brett Mennear, and Tyler Povelofskie battled towering d-man Mac Ferner, Saharchuk’s former North Okanagan Knight teammate and son of former Viper coach Mark Ferner.
Povelofskie missed Saturday’s tilt as his fight happened after the initial bout with Saharchuk and Mennear.