Black Press Sports
The Vernon Vipers spoiled Hockey Day in Trail Saturday night by clipping the Smoke Eaters 3-2 in double overtime before 1,200 fans at Cominco Arena.
Minnesota product Odeen Tufto slipped a wrister past Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie at 2:57 of the second OT period as the Vipers moved three points ahead of the Smokies in the fourth and final Interior Division playoff berth.
Liam Finlay forced a turnover to the right of MacBurnie, and fed Tufto who wristed it in from the left hash mark. Tufto has 21 goals in his first B.C. Hockey League season. D-man Bo Pellah drew the secondary assist.
“It was an emotional game with lots of penalties,” Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus told The Vernon Morning Star. “It was two teams fighting for their lives and the play went back and forth. Both goalies played really well with more than 100 shots.
“It turned into a goalie duel at times. Their goalie made some great saves to keep Trail in the game and (Andrew) Shortridge did the same for us.”
The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring with 4:10 to play in the opening frame when Kyle Howarth stripped the puck from a Viper d-man and turned it into a 3-on-1. Howarth dropped it back to a trailing Nick Halloran who then feathered a pass to Max Newton on the right side and he slid it in the open net, his 10th of the season.
Howarth made it 2-0 when he jumped on a loose puck in the Vipers slot and beat Shortridge low stick side midway through the second, his ninth snipe of the year.
Vernon replied on the power play, when Tufto’s point shot ricocheted off the backboard to Finlay at the side of the net for his 14th goal of the season, 13:58 into the period. Ben Butcher also drew an assist.
Less than 90 seconds later, Riley Brandt surprised MacBurnie, snapping a shot from a face off won by Colton McCarthy in the Trail end to tie things up. Brandt has 14 goals.
Eighteen penalties through the first two periods marred the flow of a spirited match.
Trail pressed in the third period firing 21 shots at Shortridge, who was stellar. The teams exchanged great scoring chances early in the 3-on-3, but MacBurnie stoned Brandt with a great left pad save, and Shortridge did the same to Newton.
Trail had the best chances in the first overtime firing four shots, while MacBurnie came up big in the opening minutes of the second OT until Tufto ended it.
Trail went 0-for-7 on the power play while Vernon was 1-for-8. MacBurnie was named the game’s first star, with Tufto and Shortridge the game’s second and third stars respectively. The Smokies outshot the Snakes 54-52. Both teams have 12 games remaining.
Kraus senses a newfound confidence in the youthful Viper lineup.
“Our whole second half (4-3 since the Christmas break) has been great,” said Kraus. “I see a group that’s playing more aggressive and working harder than we used to. We used to stand around and watch and now we’re better defensively in our own end and we’re going to the dirty areas for goals. We’re not as timid as we used to be.”
The Smokies visit the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday night, while the Vipers host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night.