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West Kelowna Warriors ground Vernon Vipers
Veteran David Pope scored the powerplay winner as the West Kelowna Warriors outlasted the Vernon Vipers 3-1 in B.C. Hockey League exhibition action Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
Pope, an 18-year-old Edmonton product entering his third season with the Warriors, converted a feed from Liam Blackburn early in the second period.
Matt Anholt opened the scoring on West Kelowna’s first shot of the game after a turnover in Vernon’s end.
Returning Viper forward Dexter Dancs redirected a feed from Michael McNicholas over netminder Steven Myland early in the third period. The play started on a breakout, with McNicholas carrying the puck wide and spotting Dancs driving to the net.
Blackburn added an empty-netter to halt Vernon’s two-game win streak.
Vernon head coach Jason Williamson said the Vipers played well in spurts, and added he will expect them to play more cohesively once the roster is finalized and systems are put in place.
“Guys seemed nervous,” said Williamson. “It’s exhibition. They haven’t played on the same line once yet and we’re not structured at all.
“In the second, it got away from us a bit.”
Williamson still has to cut two forwards between now and Saturday, when the Vipers open the BCHL regular season at the second annual Bauer Showcase tournament at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
Vernon faces the reigning Fred Page Cup champion Surrey Eagles Saturday morning (11:30), followed by a Sunday-night (6:00) tilt against the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Danny Todosychuk was solid in net for Vernon in his second straight start. Williamson expected Austin Smith, who has been injured for most of main camp, to start Vernon’s final preseason game, which went Saturday at Royal LePage Place.
Viper fans finally got a look at South Boston product Liam Coughlin, who made his exhibition debut Friday. Williamson said there were some delays in processing the American’s visa that prevented him from playing sooner.
“He created some things,” said Williamson, of the 6-foot-4 centre. “It’s quite the culture a shock for him so I’m sure he’ll get better every day.”
Coughlin is a highly touted prospect out of Catholic Memorial, a Boston prep school that produced former Viper grads Garrett Noonan, Mike Collins and Marc Hetnik.
Meanwhile, the Kelowna Rockets spread out the scoring as they brushed back the Kamloops Blazers 4-3 in their Western Hockey League preseason opener Friday night at Prospera Place.
Ryan Donaldson, Henrik Nyberg, Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker each pocketed a single for the Rockets.
Mitch Lipon, Aspon Sterzer and Jordan Thompson replied for the Blazers, who recently signed former Viper head coach Mark Ferner as an associate.
Jake Morrisey and Jordon Cooke combined to make 14 saves for the win. Taran Kozun had 31 stops for the Blazers.