The injury-ravaged Vernon Vipers hope to get some healthy bodies back for a weekend twinbill starting tonight with the Penticton Vees.
The Vipers stopped the Langley Rivermen 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night at George Preston Arena, gaining a share of first place in the B.C. Hockey League Interior Conference with the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Vipers are undefeated in seven games.
Vernon (15-4-0-3) lost veteran sniper Jimmy Lambert in the first period and used a pair of Midget AAA affiliates to knock off the Mainland Division-leading Rivermen, who have now lost a staggering nine overtime games.
Blueliners Shane Kelly and Sol Seibel are on Injured Reserve along with forward Tanner Wishnowski. Ferner said Kelly and Lambert skated at Thursday’s practice and may play tonight in Penticton. Vernon was also without forward Alex Swetlikoff, playing for Team Canada White at the World U17 Championships in Dawson Creek.
The Rivermen led 2-0 after one period with the teams deadlocked 2-2 after 40 minutes. Keyvan Mokhtari, who replaced Lambert on the first line with Brett Stapley and Jordan Sandhu after Lambert hurt his head after taking a hit, registered the winner at 2:12 of OT. Mokhtari counted his eighth of the season by beating Chad Cromar high, short side. Sandhu and d-man Michael Ufberg drew assists.
“That was a good character win by our group,” said Viper head coach Mark Ferner. “Our guys never panicked when they tied it and found a way to win. After the second period, we just regrouped and asked the kids to trust the process; create more opportunities, play between the dots and get more pucks deep.”
Winger Elan Bar Lev Wise of Burnaby Winter Club played his second straight game for the Snakes, while Will Dow-Kenny of the Major Midget Fraser Valley Thunderbirds made his Viper debut. Ferner gave props to both youngsters and also liked the look of newcomer Brandon Whistle, obtained in a Monday trade with the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
“Brandon Whistle was good for us,” said Ferner. “He was good in the faceoff circle. Obviously he hasn’t been on skates for a few weeks so his conditioning is not quite where it needs to be, but he knows that. He didn’t overextend his shifts. He’s a big body who makes some good plays.”
Whistle, who rang up 100 points in two-plus seasons with Bonnyville, took a late double minor for high sticking. Former Viper d-man Carter Stephenson levelled the score on the ensuing powerplay with 2:54 remaining.
Red-hot Josh Prokop netted a deuce for the Vipers, giving him five in the last two games. Stapley, the league’s Player of the Week last week, with his 14th, and Sandhu, with his seventh, completed the Viper offence.
Angus Crookshank pocketed his 11th and 12th goals of the year for Langley in the opening 20, his first coming off a turnover and his second snipe coming on a late powerplay.
Prokop converted 14 minutes apart in the second stanza while playing alongside Jesse Lansdell (2 assists) and captain Jagger Williamson (1A). Vernon outshot Langley 15-7 in the period.
Stapley put Vernon ahead just 53 seconds into the third with Mohktari and Sandhu earning helpers. Sandhu connected from the slot two minutes later to chase starter Braedon Fleming.
Nicholas Ponak tipped a Spencer Barry point shot past Viper goalie Ty Taylor midway through the third. Crookshank had an assist on Stephenson’s equalizer. The final shots were 28 apiece.
The Vees (10-5-1-1), meanwhile, have lost three consecutive games in regulation for the first time since November, 2012. They have a win and a tie against the Vipers this year. Vernon entertains Penticton Saturday night at 6:00.
SNAKE BITES: Swetlikoff and Team Canada White finished third in Group A and faced Finland in the quarterfinals Thursday night at North Peace Arena in Fort St, John. Team White iced the Czech Republic 7-2 Tuesday night in Dawson Creek…The Vipers host the West Kelowna Warriors Wednesday night. Chase Dubois scored twice and ex-Viper Cole Demers blocked 35 shots as the Warriors grounded the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-2 before 877 fans Wednesday night at Royal LePage Place…Connor Onstein (2) and Colin Bell, with an empty-netter, handled the offence as the Osoyoos Coyotes iced the North Okangan Knights 3-1 in KIJHL play Wednesday night in Armstrong. Jett Saharchuk replied for the Knights, whose MVP was Jaden Hay.