In a tight-checking game with limited quality scoring chances, it usually comes down to a few clutch plays to swing the result one way or the other.
For the Vernon Vipers facing the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night in front of 2,637 fans at Kal Tire Place, it came down to a pair of incredible saves from Salmon Arm’s Matthew Armitage and two laser-like second-period snipes from Nick Unrah and Tyson Gayfer in a 2-0 Silverbacks shutout.
Armitage stopped two partial breakaways in the second period that could have been the difference, in the score and momentum. Instead, Armitage’s heroics deflated any hope Vernon had to gain back an energy advantage. In all, Armitage stopped 31 shots. Vernon’s Aidan Porter stopped 24 of 26 and really had no chance on either Salmon Arm goal.
The loss by the Vipers drops them to last place in the Interior Division of the BCHL standings, one point behind Trail who they face Saturday at 6 p.m. in Vernon, and two points behind Salmon Arm.
Neither side could capitalize on five power plays each, and Vernon had trouble setting up in the offensive zone. Vernon managed to kill off a two-man advantage to start the third period, after a minor line brawl at the end of the second. The melee started after a slash by a Vernon player drew the ire of two Salmon Arm skaters. It was enough to get all 10 skaters involved in wrestling, with a few punches thrown.
Unrah added an assist to his goal for Salmon Arm, while Noah Wakeford had two assists.
The Vipers struggled with zone entry most of the game, as Salmon Arm’s active sticks and well-timed pressure led to several turnovers.
The pre-game ceremony involved a tribute to first responders, tying into the recognition of their work every day, as well as the effort made by responders in last season’s horrific bus crash that killed 16 people in the Humboldt Broncos organization. The Vipers wore special Broncos jerseys for the game, and the teams gathered side by side during the anthem to stand united in their honouring the Broncos and the first responders in their midst.
Game time at Kal Tire Place Saturday is 6 p.m.