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Trail Smoke Eaters surge past Vernon Vipers
The Trail Smoke Eaters entered the Christmas break dead last in the B.C. Hockey League, but they certainly began 2014 on a high note.
The Smokies snapped a 12-game losing streak by brushing back the Vernon Vipers 4-1 in front of 848 fans Friday night at Cominco Arena.
Trail (8-28-2-2) surged for three goals less than four minutes apart late in the third period, ending a skid that dates back to mid-November.
The Vipers (20-11-3-4) are second in the Interior Division, two points ahead of the West Kelowna Warriors (21-12-1-3), winners of three straight. Vernon hosted the Nanaimo Clippers (20-18-0-1) Saturday at Kal Tire Place.
With the game tied 1-1 after 40 minutes, Trail’s Travis Stephens (12th goal) netted the winner on a powerplay with 5:44 remaining in regulation. Call-up Riley Brandt (3rd) and Stephens (13th), with an empty-netter at 18:07, put the game away for good.
Lumby’s Dylan Bowen drew an assist on Stephens’ second snipe.
“They worked really hard,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson, of the youthful Smokies. “They were aggressive. We created offence but they did too. They’re going to be good in the future.”
After a scoreless first period, Vernon’s Demico Hannoun opened the Vipers’ account early in the second with his 13th goal. The North Delta product walked off the sidewall and into the slot, where he beat Adam Todd (31 saves) low, blocker side. Michael McNicholas and Jared Wilson drew assists.
Bryan Basilico (9th) equalized on the man advantage just over a minute later as Vernon d-man Josh Bryan served a cross-checking minor.
“Our first period was OK. Second period, we just made some bad decisions out there with the puck,” said Williamson. “You could see we weren’t as sharp as we usually are. It was a frustrating night for the coaches. The execution wasn’t there.”
Vernon veteran Colton Sparrow tangled with Basilico in a scrap late in the second period.
Meanwhile, the Vipers traded 20-year-old defenceman Jason Bird and future considerations to the Merritt Centennials in exchange for the CJHL playing rights of 18-year-old defenceman Dylan Chanter.
The Vipers must now complete a deal with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the 16-team USHL where Chanter had been playing this season, before he can officially join the Vipers.
Williamson is confident he can work out a deal with Dubuque, and is excited to welcome Chanter to the Viper den.
“You put a template up of what you want your team to look like, and he definitely fits that mold.”
On Bird, he added: “It was tough. Birdie was good for us and he’s a good kid. But with moving a 20-year-old, we can add another 20 now.”
Williamson indicated he would like to add another forward before Friday’s trade deadline.
Chanter, who is from Armstrong, had spent the last two seasons in the BCHL with Merritt prior to joining Dubuque.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has secured a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire Wildcats for next season. He has one goal and one assist, along with 21 penalty minutes, in 14 games with the Saints. Chanter pocketed 11 goals and 33 points in two full seasons with Merritt.
Chanter made headlines across North America after he was hurt in an Oct. 12 fight with Corey Petrash of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the corner behind the Dubuque net.
Chanter lost his balance and fell backward, hitting his helmetless head on the ice (dyed pink for a cancer promotion) and dislocating his left shoulder.
The crowd cheered until seeing Chanter begin to severely convulse. His full-body seizure lasted at least two minutes, as team trainers and the RoughRiders’ team doctor rushed to him. He remained on the ice until paramedics arrived on the scene roughly 15 minutes later.
The incident sparked renewed debate on fighting in amateur and pro hockey.
Bird will join his third BCHL team after also spending time in Coquitlam. The veteran defenceman was enjoying a great offensive season with five goals and 18 assists in 35 games.
SNAKE BITES: D-man Jordan Klimek, who was named as future considerations in the deal that sent Aaron Hadley to Nanaimo at last year’s trade deadline (McNicholas also came to Vernon in the trade), is playing with Dubuque. The Langley native has eight assists and 10 penalty minutes with the Saints... BCHL scoring leader Landon Smith of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks has committed to the Quinnipiac University Bobcats for next season. Smith, a 20-year-old Denver product, has 34-26-60 in 38 games.