The Vernon Vipers take a scorching powerplay into B.C. Hockey League play against the Merritt Centennials tonight at Nicola Valley Arena.
The Vipers connected three times with the man advantage as they stuffed the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-1 before 1,663 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place. Vernon is sixth in powerplay stats at 23.1 per cent.
Linemates Jimmy Lambert and Steven Jandric each supplied deuces as the Vipers improved to 27-15-5-4. Vernon is second in the Interior Division, seven points back of the Penticton Vees, who lost 2-1 in double overtime to the host Victoria Grizzlies Saturday night at the Q Centre.
The Snakes entertain the powerhouse Wenatchee Wild Friday night. The Cents are fifth, four points behind the third-place Smokies and two back of the West Kelowna Warriors.
Wenatchee, first overall in the league and ranked No. 10 in the nation, slammed the Surrey Eagles 9-1 Saturday night before 3,055 at the Town Toyota Center in Washington State.
The Vipers enjoyed eight powerplays versus the Smokies with Lambert converting his 17th goal of the season midway through the opening period. Brothers Steven and Chris Jandric pocketed assists.
Steven Jandric registered his 24th, from Lambert, late in the second period, at even strength.
The rest of the scoring came in the final 20 with Steven Jandric connecting on a powerplay at 2:35. D-men Cooper Watson and Michael Ufberg drew helpers.
Just 10 minutes later, Lambert clicked on another man advantage with Watson and Ufberg again earning assists.
Austin Adamson rang up his 14th of the season to make it 5-0 Vipers 48 seconds later, Blueliner Cameron Trott and Brett Stapley garnered assists.
The Smokies spoiled Darion Hanson’s shutout bid with 4:24 left when Connor Brown-Maloski’s shot bounced in off a shin pad for his 13th, Ethan Martini had the helper.
Viper head coach Mark Ferner used the Lambert-Brett Stapley-Steven Jandric forward unit against the Smokies’ highly dangerous trio of Kale Howarth, Luke Santerno and Josh Laframboise.
“Mark was putting us out up against probably the best line in the Interior Division so I thought we did pretty good against them: we didn’t give up a goal,” said Lambert.
Steven Jandric said the Vipers went into the tilt fully realizing how important finishing first or second means. Those teams earn a first-round playoff bye.
“Mark’s been really pushing us to get that bye so we can get rest and get healthy; we’ve got a few injured guys. It was a four-point game for us since Trail’s right on our heels.”
Vernon is 11 points in front of the Smokies – who they face twice more – with seven games remaining.
“You can’t really get momentum going, when you’re in the penalty box as much as we were,” said Trail head coach/GM Cam Keith. “Some of the calls weren’t going our way, and that feeds into Vernon’s game… but at the end of the day they played better. That’s the team we’ve had the most trouble with this year; we have to match what they bring; and especially on the road, it’s a really tough place to play.”
The Smokies summoned D Karster Jang and F Tyler Ghiradosi from the Junior B Beaver Valley Nite Hawks due to injuries. Former North Okanagan Knight Zach Dyment took the loss.
F Niko Karamanis was the Fortis Energy Player of the Game for the Vipers. West Kelowna is in Vernon Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Owen Sillinger of the Vees has signed a letter of intent with the NCAA Division 1 Bemidji State Beavers in Minnesota for the 2018-19 season.
The son of former NHLer Mike Sillinger says the extra seasoning will help him make an impact right away at the collegiate level.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to go into the WCHA as an older freshman and be in an important role. I’m excited to join their program in two years and can’t wait to get down there,” said Sillinger, a Regina product who has 32 goals and 80 points in 107 BCHL games. “I really liked the fact it’s a smaller campus, where the hockey program has such passionate following. I felt really comfortable right away with their veteran coaching staff and you get the sense the program they’re building is ready to win.”