Defenceman Michael Ufberg’s goal at 5:34 of the third period gave the Vernon Vipers a 4-3 win over the Wenatchee Wild in front of 2,222 B.C. Hockey League fans Friday at Kal Tire Place.
With the win, the Vipers have clinched at least second place in the Interior Division. The team holds the tiebreakers with both the Wild and Penticton Vees in the event they end up tied in the standings following Sunday’s last day of regular season play.
Vernon is in second, two points ahead of Wenatchee and two back of first-place Penticton. The Vees play twice at home to close out the weekend, Saturday against the Wild and Sunday against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Penticton needs only a point to clinch first place.
The Vipers close out the regular season Saturday against Trail (6 p.m. Kal Tire Place).
Wenatchee jumped out to a 2-0 first-period Friday before goals from Niko Karamanis and Jimmy Lambert evened things up after one period.
Karamanis scored the only goal of the second period, and Ufberg’s third-period tally gave Vernon a 4-2 lead. The Wild would beat Ty Taylor with seven minutes to go to pull to within one, but could not get the equalizer.
Vernon will honour team captain Jagger Williamson before Saturday’s game for playing in 200 league contests.
If the Interior Division playoffs were to start today, Penticton would play the Coquitlam Express, the fifth-place team from the Mainland Division who cross over to the Interior to become the division’s eighth seed; Vernon would play Salmon Arm (officially finish in seventh place); Wenatchee would take on Merritt and, in the only first-round matchup that is guaranteed heading into the final weekend, Trail will take on West Kelowna.
Only the Prince George Spruce Kings (Mainland) have clinched first place in their division. Victoria and Nanaimo are tied for first on the Island, two points ahead of Powell River who, entering Saturday, had two games left. Victoria had one and Nanaimo is finished.
The league playoffs start Friday, March 2.