Captain Riley Brandt and rookie sensation Niko Karamanis each pocketed two goals as the Vernon Vipers iced the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 5-3 in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,631 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire.
Alternate captain Jagger Williamson supplied perhaps the unassisted shorthanded goal of the decade to pull the Vipers even at 3-3 with 6:18 gone in the third period. Karamanis converted on a power play 32 seconds into the fame to jumpstart the Viper comeback, assists going to line mate Steven Jandric and rookie d-man Carter Stephenson.
Williamson, a third-year winger, went to his knees and performed some kind of spin-o-rama to move past Silverback d-man Ryley Booth before beating goalie Michael Botiz and getting the fans going bonkers.
“I couldn’t even believe it when I saw it,” laughed Brandt on Williamson’s sick snipe. “He must have blacked out though and probably didn’t know what he was doing. It was a great goal that tied the game up for us.”
Brandt opened the scoring 6:47 after the national anthem, shorthanded, after gloving a gorgeous pass from Stephenson at the Silverback blueline. Brandt patiently outwaited Botiz before finishing.
Former WHL defenceman Carter Cochrane levelled things with a low laser from the point, 22 seconds into a tripping penalty on Viper freshman winger Tyler Maser.
Grayson Constable pushed the Gorillas ahead with 3:18 left in the opening 20 on a deflection in front after a great move at the blueline by veteran Elijiah Barriga.
Salmon Arm product and ex-WHLer Carson Bolduc made it 3-1 Silverbacks midway through the middle stanza, 57 seconds into a power play with rookie d-man Shane Kelly off for crosschecking. Jared Turcotte controlled the puck in the high slot and found Bolduc back door for a beauty. Cameron Trott earned the secondary assist.
The Vipers pressured hard in the third and Brandt, who was chosen first star, bagged the winner on a sweet wrister from the slot, seconds after he struck the post. Brandt grabbed a rebound after Botiz delivered a fabulous save off three-year WHLer Austin Adamson. Hunter Zandee also drew an assist after a stellar shift by the trio.
Karamanis added an empty netter with 60 seconds remaining after Jandric stole the puck at the Viper blueline.
Turcotte was whistled for tripping with 97 seconds to play and Botiz on the bench for a sixth attacker. Salmon Arm went hard to the net after the empty netter, but couldn’t beat Taylor or else had shots bravely blocked by Zandee and d-man Michal Ufberg.
“We just had positive talk in the dressing room,” said Brandt, when asked about the comeback. “We knew we were going to win that hockey game. We had a good feeling about it and came out flying and got two quick goals.”
Viper head coach Mark Ferner wasn’t totally sure what to make of the rally.
“We don’t know what kind of team we have yet,” said Ferner, a former NHL defence man. “Before the third, I just said this period will reveal our character and getting that early goal was big obviously and the kids just kept working and found a way to win.”
Ferner had no doubt Williamson’s goal was something special.
“I haven’t seen a goal like that in a long time or ever. That was just perseverance and some urgency and those are some of the things we talk about. People will talk about that goal, but what I talked about was the two blocks at the end of the (third) period. Those are things that don’t show up on the scoresheet and are so important to me and maybe saved us a game. It’s frustrating for other teams and you have to have it.”
Silverback head coach Brandon West was pleased with his club’s play the opening 40 minutes in both losses. The Saturday night breakdown will cost a few players some sleep.
“That one hurts and that one stings our group,” said West. “We’re gonna learn from that and we’ll be better or it and if we’re not better for it, we’re in big trouble. We played real good in our own end both nights and then in the third period, we went on our own page and did things that aren’t acceptable.”
The Vipers are 2-0, the Silverbacks 0-2 after the home and home series.
Karamanis and Stephenson rounded out the three-star selections, while Adamson took the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.
Vernon outshot Salmon Arm 43-35. The Vipers host the Coquitlam Express Friday night and visit the West Kelowna Warriors next Saturday night at Royal LePage Place. The Silverbacks entertain the Chilliwack Chiefs Friday and take on the Express next Saturday night.
The Trail Smoke Eaters outlasted the visiting West Kelowna Warriors 8-5, while the Penticton Vees shut out the host Prince George Spruce Kings in other Saturday night action