With multi-coloured helmets and jerseys, the EC Red Bull Salzburg Under 20s resembled a European cycling team Monday night at Kal Tire Place.
And when they came out in fifth gear and scored on their first two shots on goal, it appeared the Tour de Salzburg may roll over the Vernon Vipers.
The Snakes re-grouped later in the period and matched the Austrian’s wheels and pin-point passing before falling 6-4 before 1,277 fans.
Daniel Wachter pulled the hat trick for Red Bull in the entertaining international exhibition hockey tilt. It was Salzburg’s second win in three tries against B.C. Hockey League teams.
The Red Bulls outlasted the West Kelowna Warriors 8-6 to jumpstart their four-game tour a week ago. Salzburg then lost 6-1 to the first-place Penticton Vees last Wednesday. The Red Bulls finish their tour Wednesday night in Victoria versus the Grizzlies.
The Vipers, who still have several players battling the flu, recalled forwards Keaton Gordon of the Junior B Kamloops Storm and Jake Toor of Yale Academy in Abbotsford, along with defencemen Carter Stephenson (Vancouver NW Giants) and Chris Jandric (Cariboo Cougars) from the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. All four showed they will be ready for full-time duty next year.
Wachter, 18, buried a wrister in the mid-slot after a turnover 2:31 into the third period to break a 2-2 deadlock. He supplied the winner with 4:07 remaining with a top-cheddar shot past Brendan Barry, 47 seconds after Liam Finlay made it 4-4 from the left crease after a feed from d-man Latrell Charleson, who strolled down the left wall after taking a feed from Chris Jandric.
The roadrunner Wachter beat d-man Mac Ferner to a loose puck and buried an empty netter for the hat trick with just seconds left.
“The Vipers are a pretty fast team with lots of skilled guys,” said Wachter. “It was a tough match up.”
Phillip Lindner, Paul Sztatecsny and Marek Valach also scored for Salzburg, who led 2-0 just 4:24 after the national anthems were sung.
Ben Butcher, Steve Jandric and Brett Stapley on a sweet breakaway deke after Salzburg d-man Lindner, the nicest skater on the ice, blew a tire near centre. The Vipers started taking control of the tilt after Butcher’s snipe at 16:39 of the opening period on a gorgeous three-way passing play with Stapley and Finlay.
Steve Jandric levelled things at 2-2 when he went top shelf after a nifty back pass by Colton McCarthy from six feet.
The teams went scoreless in the second period before Valach rattled the water bottle going high on Barry on a powerplay midway through the third (McCarthy in the penalty box).
“It was a good game, I like their helmets, they’re pretty cool,” said Viper d-man Bo Pellah, who last faced international competition with North Shore Winter Club against Russia and Finland in the Quebec Pee Wee Tournament. “They’re a quick team, smart, they worked hard. It was a good game for us to see how they play hockey over in Europe. It was a good experience and good test in front of a good crowd, but unfortunately we couldn’t get the win.”
The Red Bulls outshot the Vipers 32-21 with Wouter Peeters going the distance in net. Maximilian Eggers earned three assists for the Austrian squad, which is sprinkled with a few German and Canadian products.
Vernon rested veteran forwards Riley Brandt, Hunter Zandee and Christian Cakebread.
Salzburg badly outshot the Trinity Western University Spartans but lost 4-2 in earlier exhibition play. The Red Bulls had one day off to explore Vancouver, training on days where they had no games.
Salzburg is third in Group A of the Erste Bank Young Stars League at 16-11-1.
Left winger Valentin Busch is ranked 132nd among International skaters in Central Scouting’s mid-term ratings. The Red Bulls are carrying a 25-man roster.
Former NHL head coach Pierre Pagé and skills coach, former NCAA star and NHLer Brian Savage head the Salzburg board of directors.
Salzburg is coached by former Boston College standout and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick J.D. Forrest as well as former Clarkson University defenceman and Bentley University assistant coach Matt Curley.
Curley felt the Red Bulls showed a slightly better effort than they did against Penticton.
“We talked a lot before this game about sticking with it. No matter what the score, what the circumstance, stay with the process, believe in what we’re tying to do and believe in your ability. I thought we got a little lucky there at times. I thought Vernon left a few out there and that’s part of the game. We’d like to think we took advantage of those breaks and capitalized on our chances.”
Wachter said some of the Red Bulls are pushing to play pro back home, while others are trying for contracts in North America.
“We’ll see what the future brings. They don’t get paid as much as over here, but it’s OK.”
Meanwhile, the Vipers spoiled Hockey Day in Trail Saturday night by clipping the Smoke Eaters 3-2 in double overtime before 1,200 fans at Cominco Arena.
Minnesota product Odeen Tufto slipped a wrister past Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie at 2:57 of the second OT period as the Vipers moved three points ahead of the Smokies in the fourth and final Interior Division playoff berth.
Finlay forced a turnover to the right of MacBurnie, and fed Tufto who wristed it in from the left hash mark. Tufto has 21 goals in his first BCHL season. Pellah drew the secondary assist.
“It was an emotional game with lots of penalties,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus “It was two teams fighting for their lives and the play went back and forth. Both goalies played really well with more than 100 shots.
“It turned into a goalie duel at times. Their goalie made some great saves to keep Trail in the game and (Andrew) Shortridge did the same for us.”
The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring with 4:10 to play in the opening frame when Kyle Howarth stripped the puck from a Viper d-man and turned it into a 3-on-1. Howarth dropped it back to a trailing Nick Halloran who then feathered a pass to Max Newton on the right side and he slid it in the open net, his 10th of the season.
Howarth made it 2-0 when he jumped on a loose puck in the Vipers slot and beat Shortridge low stick side midway through the second, his ninth snipe of the year. Trail outshot Vernon 54-52.
Vernon replied on the power play, when Tufto’s point shot ricocheted off the backboard to Finlay at the side of the net for his 14th goal of the season, 13:58 into the period. Ben Butcher also drew an assist. Less than 90 seconds later, Brandt surprised MacBurnie, snapping a shot from a face-off won by McCarthy in the Trail end to tie things up.
“It was a tough battle between both teams,” said Howarth. “Bounces sometimes don’t go your way, and a double-overtime loss, you can’t really blame anyone.”
Said Smoke Eater assistant coach Curtis Toneff: “This team gets a lot of shots, and we see a lot of them hit him in the chest, but don’t take anything away from Shortridge, he was awesome tonight, as was Bailey. But we’re not going to hang our heads on this one. It looked a bit like an NHL game out there where it comes down to one little mistake.”
Kraus senses a newfound confidence in the youthful Viper lineup.
“Our whole second half (4-3 since the Christmas break) has been great,” said Kraus. “I see a group that’s playing more aggressive and working harder than we used to. We used to stand around and watch and now we’re better defensively in our own end and we’re going to the dirty areas for goals. We’re not as timid as we used to be.”
The Smokies visited the West Kelowna Warriors Tuesday night, while the Vipers host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night.