Vernon Vipers keep the faith in comeback
A kid named Israel nearly played the saviour for the Coquitlam Express, but it was the Vernon Vipers who kept the faith Friday night at Wesbild Centre.
Trailing by a pair of goals with less than seven minutes in regulation, the Snakes rallied for a 4-3 B.C. Hockey League win in front of a crowd of churchgoers who had descended on Wesbild Centre for Faith Night.
Dexter Dancs capped the comeback with the powerplay winner with less than two minutes in regulation, tucking a shot just inside the post on netminder Cole Huggins’ doorstep. It was his sixth goal of the season.
Viper veteran Colton Sparrow, also with his sixth, sparked the rally in front of 1,700 fans with a crafty wraparound, and defenceman Marc Hetnik (2nd) snuck in from the point and roofed a feed from first star Andrew Tegeler over Huggins for the equalizer at 16:36. Tegeler finished with three assists.
“I saw the goalie was cheating so I just wrapped it around the other side,” said Sparrow of his goal.
“We were relentless and good things happen when you do that. We just tired them out as the night wore on. They were shorthanded and we just never took our foot off the pedal.”
The 15-21-0-7 Vipers hosted the 20-18-2-4 Salmon Arm SilverBacks Saturday night at Wesbild. The ‘Backs are nine points ahead of Vernon for the final Interior Division playoff spot. Salmon Arm dumped the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1 Friday night at the Shaw Centre.
“All divisional games are a must for us,” said Vernon netminder Danny Todosychuk, who recorded 31 saves for his fifth win.
With Vernon trailing 1-0 late in the first period, Todosychuk came up with a pair of stellar saves to keep his team alive. He stopped Garrett Forster on a clear breakaway, and then denied another Express player on a point-blank one-timer just before the break.
“We’ve been playing well and we’ve just got to start stringing them together. It’s just a matter of time before those breaks starting turning into a string for us,” he said.
Coquitlam defenceman Ben Israel, who joined the team from the Chilliwack Chiefs at the carding deadline, was a force for the Express. The Broomfield Hills, Mich. product converted twice on the powerplay, burying a backdoor feed for the opening goal in the first period. He then ripped a top-corner blast past Todosychuk with 10 seconds to play in the second frame.
Israel also delivered the hit of the night, sending Dancs flying with an open-ice hit in front of the Viper bench in the second frame.
“This game would have been a big two points for us,” said Israel, noting the Express are three points behind Langley for the final Mainland playoff berth.
“We played strong the first two periods and the first half of the third period, but we just didn’t bear down on the battles and didn’t keep it simple when we had the lead. We tried to do too much and they capitalized.”
With just three lines and 15 healthy skaters, Coquitlam head coach Jon Calvano praised his team for a gutsy performance, saying: “We had a really good effort, but the last six minutes didn’t work out for us.
“When we got up 3-1, I thought maybe we had a chance to pull it out. Maybe fatigue got in the way of that, but I’m disappointed we didn’t come out without the win.”
Defenceman Jason Bird impressed in his Viper debut, scoring against his former team with a one-timer blast from the point during a 4-on-3 midway through the second period.
Towering Zack Pryzbek (10th), on a harmless looking redirect in front of Todosychuk, supplied the 3-1 goal in the third period. Huggins had 32 stops.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon forward Mason Blacklock’s immediate impact on the Vipers hasn’t gone unnoticed as he was name Player of the Month for January. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound White Rock native collected three goals and four assists in five games that month.