PENTICTON – Three first-period goals and a 37-save performance by Ty Taylor gave the Vernon Vipers a 4-2 win over the Penticton Vees before 2,959 B.C. Hockey League fans Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Taylor said the Vipers played really well blocking shots, getting pucks deep and sticking to what they needed to do to win in a tough building.
And his performance?
“Good. I got lots of help from my defenceman,” said Taylor, a 17-year-old Richmond product who made 12 first-period saves.
The win was huge for the Vipers who are on a roll at 21-13-3-2, winning four straight and unbeaten in eight tilts. They were without injured captain Riley Brandt and suspended winger Luke Gingras and used Kelowna Junior B Chiefs affiliates Dale Brody and Brett Witala.
“We want to catch Penticton. It was good to steal a few points from here,” said Taylor, who is 11-7-1 with a 2.97 goals against average and .907 save percentage and will play in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game in Cornwall, Ont., on Jan. 25.
“It’s just another game; Penticton’s another team just like Merritt (Centennials) and we can’t think about them any differently. It’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do and I feel if we play the right way each game, we can win no matter what.”
The Vees (29-8-1-0) pushed throughout the night and got to within a goal four minutes into the third when Jamie Armstrong snapped a shot from the slot beating Taylor on his blocker side. Chris Klack and Griffen Mendel collected assists on Armstrong’s first snipe as a Vee.
“It was a funny game,” saids Vees head coach/GM Fred Harbinson. “After what we experienced in the third period last game (loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters) where we didn’t play hard, I thought the first period was such a hole. It’s hard for any team to get out of.
“It was weird, I thought we were playing really well and then we would make one little minor error and it ends up in our net. We make another one and it ends up in our net. At one point I think the shots were 12-3 and they got a powerplay there and started to get a few more at the end. I thought their goaltender (third star) was outstanding tonight. Their goaltender was the difference. They get the powerplay goal where it’s a six-on-five and they make the play.”
The Vipers iced the game at 14:25 when Niko Karamanis, the game’s first star, scored his second of the night. He buried the winner in the first period during a scramble which saw Penticton defenceman James Miller get hit by a shot. The rebound went to Karamanis who converted his 13th of the year. D-man Michael Ufberg and Ryan Brushett collected assists.
Taylor Sanheim registered his first BCHL goal at 18:14 of the second period when he blasted a shot past Taylor, cutting the Vipers’ lead to 3-1.
The Vees generated a few good chances in the middle frame as they outshot the Vipers 13-8. Owen Sillinger tipped a shot that Taylor was able to stop. With the Vees applying pressure, and some heat on Taylor, Grant Cruikshank misfired with the net open. Vees’ captain Nicholas Jones also wired a shot just wide of the net.
The Vipers built their lead by striking first at 13:15 of the opening frame on a goal by Jesse Landsdell, his fifth, assisted by Shane Kelly. Kelly also set up Austin Adamson, who snapped a shot high glove on Robson for his seventh.
Karamanis made it 3-0 with 1:52 left in the opening period, from Lansdell.
The Vipers lost blueliner Connor Clouston in the final minute of the opening 20 after he fought Jared Nash, knocking the Vee to the ice.
Vernon head coach/GM Mark Ferner ran three lines in the final period with the Vees pressing hard. He was high on Taylor’s showing and his team’s poise on the fourth goal which came on a delayed penalty.
“I thought our effort was great,” said Ferner. “Our start was obviously good, but we know that might not be enough against a hockey team like this and they came out strong and had a big pushback.”
The Vees are a dozen points ahead of the Vipers atop the Interior Division, with one game in hand.
“I thought the compete was there. It was a different kind of loss than we had last game,” said Jones. “Any time you give a team a three-goal lead, it’s pretty hard to come back. In terms of compete level, I thought we competed hard for the last two periods there.”
Vernon is five points ahead of the third-place Trail Smoke Eaters, 5-2 winners over the host Salmon Arm Silverbacks before 962 fans Saturday night at the Shaw Centre.
The Vipers visit the Prince George Cougars Wednesday night before entertaining the Silverbacks Friday night and the Centennials Saturday night.
Prince George upended the Nanaimo Clippers 4-1 before 1,130 fans in a Sunday matinee on the Island. The Kings are third in the tough Mainland Division at 19-16-2-2.
The league’s trading deadline is Tuesday, 8 p.m. but because the Vipers are travelling Tuesday, Ferner wants to fill his remaining two cards tonight.
Clouston and F Brett Stapley were suffering from the flu Monday and may not make the trip north.