Vernon Vipers’ head coach Mark Ferner asked his players to trim their penalty minutes and fine-tune a struggling penalty kill after a 4-4 tie with the Chilliwack Chiefs Wednesday night.
The Vipers did all that and much more in a 6-3 victory over the injury-riddled Salmon Arm Silverbacks before 2,464 B.C. Hockey League fans Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon, who gave up three powerplay goals in Chilliwack, counted three shorthanded snipes to stop the Silverbacks.
The Vipers and Trail Smoke Eaters, 4-3 double overtime winners over the Nanaimo Clippers, share the Interior Division penthouse with 29 points apiece. Vernon hosts the West Kelowna Warriors tonight, while the Silverbacks entertain the Powell River Kings in a Sunday matinee.
Salmon Arm dropped to 9-9-2-0, good for sixth spot in the Interior, four points in front of the Merritt Centennials. The Cents shut out the host Victoria Grizzlies 6-0.
Jordan Sandhu, with a deuce, Keyvan Mokhtari, Jagger Williamson, Brett Stapley and Jesse Lansdell handled the Vernon offence.
Lansdell earned first star with his first career Gordie Howe Hat Trick. The 19-year-old Langley product cruised around a few Silverbacks deep in the Salmon Arm zone before burying a shorthanded wrister past Kyle Dumba to make it 5-3 Vipers midway through the third period. He fed Williamson a gorgeous cross-ice pass from the left corner for a shorthanded tally in the second period and completed his night by fighting Austin Chorney with 6:34 remaining.
“Our penalty kill was hot tonight which definitely helped us,” said Lansdell. “We haven’t seen them (Silverbacks) since the first two games of the year so they didn’t know the type of speed we have on the penalty kill. It was stuff we’ve been doing all season. We like to apply pressure down ice and maybe they weren’t expecting that. They had some forwards playing the point and maybe they weren’t expecting our speed.”
Logan Mostat and Noah Wakeford put the Silverbacks up 2-1 after 20 minutes. Mostat went high from the mid slot just 70 seconds after the national anthem. Sandhu replied four minutes later on a bang-bang powerplay with Jimmy Lambert.
Wakeford fooled Vernon goalie Ty Taylor short side along the ice from the right flank with 5:55 left in the opening period.
Dumba recorded the save of the night 7:30 into the second stanza when he stuck out his leg to stone Viper rookie Connor Marritt.
Mokhtari produced the goal of the game on a two-on-one with Niko Karamanis during a powerplay (Silverbacks penalized for too many men) midway through the second. Karamanis sped down the left sidewall and backhanded a pass to Mokhtari, who sweetly batted the puck out of the air past Dumba.
Williamson’s shortie pushed the Vipers up 5-3 just three minutes later.
Brett Stapley, wearing the same jersey No. 7 as his brother, Mitch, of the Silverbacks, took a slick saucer pass from Lambert at the Silverback blueline and beat Dumba on a shorthanded breakaway at 4:26 of the third session.
The Silverbacks converted on a five-on-three man advantage with Chorney going top cheddar with a shot from the right point. Sandhu concluded the offence with 6:07 to play with a wrister from the left circle.
Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 44-27. The Silverbacks were without six regulars who have garnered 23 goals, almost a third of their season totals.
“I thought we played fairly well in the first half of the game and kind of fell apart in the end,” said Silverback head coach Scott Atkinson. “The powerplay giving up three shorthanded goals doesn’t help. A good team (Vernon) though. Certainly, we feel like we can compete with anyone but it was a tough night for us.”
Atkinson said the Gorillas have four players sidelined with longterm concussions and two others with ankle and wrist ailments.
The Vipers enjoyed nine powerplays while only giving the Silverbacks five. Mohktari liked the Vipers’ discipline and of course the penalty kill he was a big part of all night.
“We’ve got a speedy lineup and and down and we’re always dangerous, even shorthanded, and we can catch teams sleeping. I think once we get that (foolish penalties) out of our game and we can play more five-on-five and powerplay, we’ll start dominating teams.”
SNAKE BITES: Chorney challenged Lansdell after a heavy hit in the corner on Trey Thomas, who laid on the ice briefly afterwards…Vernon brought up winger Elan Bar-Lev-Wise from Burnaby Winter Club Midgets, while Salmon Arm used affiliate forwards Jackson Cooke (Mission Pilots Junior B) and Jonathan Krahn (Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford)…The Vipers were without F Alex Swetlikoff, who is with Team Canada at the World Under 17s in Dawson Creek, and F Tanner Wishnowski (injured)…Vernon’s Blaine Caton connected at two minutes of second overtime as the Smokies edged the host Nanaimo Clippers 4-3 before 1,530 fans at Frank Crane Arena. Caton had two goals, giving him seven on the season.