After a strong defensive effort against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last weekend, the Vernon Vipers decided to let their offense run rampant against the Merritt Centennials Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
Matt Kowalski had himself a night to remember with five points and a hat trick as the Vipers trounced the Centennials 8-3.
It was the Centennials who struck first as Christian Buono scored off a pass from PAyton Matsui, capitalizing on a Viper mistake 12:30 into the opening period.
But with 11 shots the Vipers seemed determined not to leave the period with a deficit. In the final minute of the frame Logan Cash got possession of the puck with some nice board work and centred a feed to Kowalski who buried his first of the night.
In the second period the Vipers took their first lead of the night thanks to more good board work. Cam MacDonald knocked down a Centennial clearing attempt and kicked the puck over to Brett Fudger, who in turn found Ben Helgeson who completed the play with a rocket off the crossbar and in.
The teams traded goals midway through the second. Landon Fuller added for the home team with a point shot that trickled through Merritt goaltender, and Tyson Galloway scored for Merritt to make for 3-2 score.
Shortly after Galloway’s tally, Kowalski again found the back of the net after receiving a pass from Dawson Holt. Later on the Vipers again scored in the final minute of a period as Holt potted a rebound to give his team a 5-2 lead after two.
The Vipers pulled away in the third with goals from Cash and JoJo Tanaka-Campbell making for a chippy final stretch. Fudger dropped the gloves with Merritt’s Brayden Clark in an energetic scrap.
By the time the final minute of the third rolled around the game had been won, but Kowalski wasn’t finished. After being sprung on a breakaway the Vipers’ leading scorer buried his third goal of the game and 16th of the season.
The Vipers will hope to carry their momentum over to Saturday’s game against Wenatchee, which is also Teddy Bear Toss night at Kal Tire Place. Fans are encouraged to bring a teddy bear or other stuffy to the game, and when the Vipers score their first goal, to toss the stuffies onto the ice. The toys will then be collected and donated to local organizations.