Tanner Wishnowski of the Vernon Vipers slips the puck past Salmon Arm Silverbacks netminder Bo Didur scoring the first goal of the night for the Vipers in their home opener Saturday at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star)

Vipers hold back Silverbacks 6-5

The Vernon Vipers got a dozen points from their big line as they iced the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 6-5

The Vernon Vipers got a dozen points from their big line as they held off the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 6-5 in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.

First star Jimmy Lambert pocketed 2+3, including the winner with 7:21 to play, as Vernon took their home opener before 2,139 fans. Centre Brett Stapley, named second star, added 2+2 and newbie Tanner Wishnowski, a former Kelowna Rocket, produced 1+2 to give the speedy and creative trio a productive night.

The Silverbacks went in front 3-2 after 20 minutes, connecting twice on four powerplays.

“We were battling everything,” smiled Lambert. “We were battling ourselves, the refs and the other team tonight. We held on to it and didn’t let the emotions get too much of us. We hung on. Ty (Taylor) may have been struggling in net but he didn’t give up on us and we didn’t give up on him.”

The Silverbacks, who lost 5-1 to the Vipers Friday night at the Shaw Centre, went ahead 5-4 early in the third period when Logan Mostat fooled Taylor with a wrister from the right flank.

Lambert equalized five minutes later when he beat Bo Didur on a shorthanded breakaway. D-man Shane Kelly and Jordan Sandhu drew assists. Lambert supplied the winner when he banged in a rebound after Wishnowski drove the net hard. Stapley earned the secondary helper.

“They (Silverbacks) came out with a better effort tonight,” added Lambert. “You gotta give them credit. They played hard.”

Rookie d-man Josh Prokop made it 4-4 midway through the middle stanza with a shot from the right side which trickled in off the far post. Officials first waved off the goal despite the goal judge turning on the red light, but ruled it a good snipe after a brief discussion.

Defenceman Mitch Stapley, named third star with 1+2, put the Silverbacks in front 4-2 just 2:21 into the second period on a powerplay point shot. Hudson Schandor and Noah Wakeford picked up assists.

Marcus Mitchell, Riley Hayles and Akito Hirose counted first-period goals for Salmon Arm, while Wishnewski, on a nifty spin-around move, and Stapley countered for Vernon. Hirose deflected Hayles’ shot in mid air 39 seconds into a crosschecking minor on the Vipers’ Jagger Williamson with 16 seconds left in the opening period.

“It was definitely a lot better effort than last night for sure,” said the Silverbacks’ Mitch Stapley, playing against his younger brother, Brett, for the second straight year. “I thought our lateral game was quite a bit better. We were half a step off from where we need to be, but we’re working in the right direction.”

First-year Salmon Arm head coach Scott Atkinson addressed his team for almost 20 minutes following the loss.

“He was saying he was happy with this group, that there is a lot of character in that dressing room and that we’re gonna do great things,” said Stapley.

Kelly and Justin Wilson engaged in a heavyweight scrap with eight seconds remaining near the Viper blueline. Kelly stunned Wilson with a heavy right hand to take the unanimous decision. Wilson shook off the punch and skated off the ice with class.

“That was a nice fight,” said Lambert. “I guess Wilson must have just been a little ticked off from what was going on. He actually picked the fight and Shane-O accepted, and you all saw what happened there…one punch.”

Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 30-24. Didur was wearing jersey No. 20, a regular forward number since the team’s new black sweaters arrived in peculiar sizes.

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