The Vernon Vipers pretty much own the Salmon Arm Silverbacks this B.C. Hockey League season.
The Vipers stopped the Silverbacks 4-2 before 2,320 fans Thursday night at Kal Tire Place, giving Vernon their fourth win in five meetings with the Gorillas this year. The other game ended in a tie.
First star Jimmy Lambert fooled Silverback netminder Nic Tallarico with a long, low wrister with the opening snipe with 32 seconds left in the opening 20 minutes. Defenceman Cameron Trott and Michael Ufberg drew assists,
Elijia Barriga equalized with his team-high 18th snipe of the season four-on-four 5:36 into the second stanza. The California product pulled off some major dangles before converting from close range past Darion Hanson.
Just four minutes later, Arizona native Christian Cakebread put Vernon in front with a sweet one-timer from the right hashmarks after a cross-ice feed by d-man Chris Jandric. Ryan Brushett earned the secondary helper on the five-on-3 powerplay.
Shortly after, Hanson recorded a huge stop off Salmon Arm captain Mitch Skapski after a back-door pass by Barriga.
The Vipers moved ahead 3-1 at 13:49 after Jesse Lansdell cut to the front of the net after linemate Brett Stapely swiped the puck with some digging behind the Silverback goal. Austin Adamson pocketed the second assist.
Vernon added insurance three minutes later when Jagger Williamson handcuffed Tallarico with a high wrister from just inside the blueline. Hunter Zandee had the assist.
Towering Viper d-man Connor Clouston dished out the heaviest hit of the night, crushing Barriga with a clothesline check near the Silverback bench in the final seconds of the second period.
Vernon captain Riley Brandt levelled Barriga at centre ice early in the third and Barriga then took a boarding penalty on Brandt, who favoured his knee as he got up after a few minutes.
The Silverbacks pushed hard in the third with blueliner Carter Cochrane somehow deflecting a Marcus Mitchell shot at 6:47. Carter Stephenson collected the second helper.
Skapski shot high over the net from gimme range on a chance seconds later, while |Carson Bolduc struck iron on a powerplay midway through the frame. Zandee rocked Mitchell with a hard check while penalty killing deep in the Silverback zone.
“We came out pretty good,” said Lambert. “I think we got 21 shots in the first period and if you shoot enough, they’re going to go in. We had a good effort for the full 60 minutes except for letting up a little in the third.
“Hopefully, we can have the same effort in Salmon Arm. (Head coach Ferner) Mark told us earlier if we get pucks deep on them, that’s when we’re successful so we did that as much as we can.”
Vernon, who have gone 5-1-1-1 in December, improved to 19-13-2-2. Salmon Arm dipped to 15-19-1-2 and are 4-2-1-1 in December. The same teams meet Friday night at the Shaw Centre in the Shuswap. Hanson is 7-1, Tallarico 4-2.
Skapski, playing with Barriga and Bolduc on the Silverbacks’ No. 1 unit which has produced 40 per cent of the team’s goals, says the Gorillas took too many foolish penalties and will have to limit those Friday night.
“They’re (Vipers) a hard-hitting team,” said the gritty Skapski. “They work hard and they do all the right things. We gotta play our game against them. I feel we let them bully us a bit and we gotta step things up at home tomorrow night. We’re good when we wanna be; we have to turn it on tomorrow.”
Ferner felt the Vipers were sharp for the opening 40 minutes before the Silverbacks found their groove.
“It’s a competitive team over there; they’ve got some talent and we knew they weren’t going to go away,” said Ferner. “We got into penalty trouble and gave them some momentum and it went right down to the wire. After a 10-day layoff, I thought both teams played pretty hard.”
Vernon is second in the Interior Division, eight points in front of the West Kelowna Warriors and Trail Smoke Eaters. The Silverbacks are tied for fifth spot with the Merritt Centennials, two points back of the Warriors and Smokies.
The Snakes, who have been dynamite on home ice, play 14 of their remaining 20 games at Kal Tire Place. The league trading deadline is Jan. 10. The Vipers released veteran F Nic Rasovic, while the Silverbacks acquired D Austin Chorney in a trade with the Chilliwack Chiefs for future considerations.
“We’re looking at it,” said Ferner. “Obviously, we’ve got room for one and we’re always looking. We like our group and we don’t want to mess with this group too much. If a player comes available that we’re familiar with, then we’ll certainly take a look at it.”
The Vipers visit the league-leading Penticton Vees Saturday, Jan. 7 before heading to Prince George Jan. 11. Their next home game is Friday, Jan. 13 against Salmon Arm.
The Silverbacks face the Smokies Friday, Jan. 6 in Trail with the same two teams meeting Jan. 7 at the Shaw Centre.