Vernon Viper forward Mike Zalewski (#15) cuts between Westside Warrior defenders Dustin Cave (left) and Garrett Skribich in the Snakes’ B.C. Hockey League exhibition opener Friday night at Wesbild Centre.

Vernon Viper forward Mike Zalewski (#15) cuts between Westside Warrior defenders Dustin Cave (left) and Garrett Skribich in the Snakes’ B.C. Hockey League exhibition opener Friday night at Wesbild Centre.

Zalewski lifts Vipers

Mike Zalewski fired the winner 42 seconds into overtime as the Vernon Vipers brushed back the Westside Warriors 2-1 in their BCHL exhibition opener Friday night at Wesbild Centre.

Mike Zalewski buried his share of clutch goals for the Vernon Vipers in the 2010-11 B.C. Hockey League campaign.

The burly winger was right back at it Friday night, recording the winner 42 seconds into overtime as Vernon brushed back the Westside Warriors 2-1 in their exhibition opener at Wesbild Centre.

Darren Nowick set the play up with some hard work in the corner before dishing a no-look backhand pass from the sidewall. Zalewski finished with a slick deke in close on netminder Dustin Nikkel before going top shelf.

“It’s only exhibition, but it was nice to get that goal,” said Zalewski, who added at least 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame in the offseason.

“I was just working out hard with my brother (Steve Zalewski, AHL Albany Devils). I felt good at the start of camp, and I feel good on the ice.

“We were far from our best tonight, with it being our first exhibition and we do have a lot of new faces, but I thought we made some nice plays tonight.”

Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson said he will be counting on Zalewski, one of 11 returnees, to be an offensive leader in the regular season.

“Zee’s a big-time goal scorer. He scored some big ones for us last year and he’s going to be the guy we look for in times like that,” he said.

Second-year forward Marcus Basara fed a streaking Jedd Soleway, who chipped a puck up and over netminder Steve Racine for Vernon’s first goal of the season just over a minute into the game.

Westside equalized later in the frame when Tyson Witala skated into the attacking zone on a line change and stepped into a loose puck in the slot, picking the top corner on Kirby Halcrow at 16:33.

The Warriors controlled more of the play as the game went along, but neither team’s offence was particularly menacing. Halcrow, and in the second half, Vernon’s Danny Todosychuk, made some solid saves to keep Westside off the board.

Todosychuk’s first big test was a pad save on former North Okanagan Knight TJ Dumonceaux on a partial breakaway late in the second period. Shortly after, he slid cross-crease to stop Connor Dempsey on a one-timer from the slot.

Nikkel, who relieved Racine in the second period, came up with a similar save to deny Soleway his second goal after Zalewski fed his linemate a quick crossing pass for a one-timer.

“The first 20 they were better than us, but through the next 40 minutes I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Warriors’ head coach Rylan Ferster, who is still getting to know his roster after taking over from Darren Yopyk in the offseason.

“It was a good benchmark. Vernon had a lot of vets in, we had a lot of vets in. After this weekend we’ll have a better indication of where we’re at.”

The Vipers visited the Merritt Centennials Saturday night at Nicola Valley Arena, and will be at Royal LePage Place to face Westside Tuesday night.

SNAKE BITES: Logan Mick, a 1996-born forward and son of former Viper head coach/GM Troy Mick, suited up with Vernon Friday night…The North Okanagan Knights extended their KIJHL exhibition season win streak to three games with a 6-4 win over the Revelstoke Grizzlies Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong. The Knights doubled the Chase Chiefs 8-4 Wednesday at Nor-Val. They ended their preseason schedule Saturday in Revelstoke…The Victoria Grizzlies announced owner Len Barrie will be head coach for the coming season. Vic Gervais, last year’s bench boss, will stay on as an assistant. The team also introduced Rob Doyle as the team’s associate coach.