Trail Smoke Eaters snake bitten

The Vernon Vipers take a bite out of the Smokies with a 6-3 victory on Friday.

The Vernon Vipers took advantage of their power-play opportunities as they scored on 3-of-4 man advantages to roll to a 6-3 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday.

The Smoke Eaters are mired in a nine game losing skid and will look to turn it around before Christmas as they head out on the road for a three-game swing to Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland this week.

The Vipers welcomed the return of former leading scorer and skilled forward Mason Blacklock as the Michigan Tech commit scored a goal and added an assist after sitting out 16 games with an injury.

Blacklock combined with the Snakes other skilled forwards Demico Hannoun, Dexter Dancs, and Mike McNicholas, each with two points, and defenceman Jason Bird who added three assists to pace the Vipers to a 4-0 third-period lead, before the Smokies could respond.

“You’ve got to key on certain players who can put the puck in the net with ease,” Smokie defenceman Dylan Bowen told the Vernon Morning Star after the game. “You give them a little break and they’re going to score.”

Scott Davidson made it 4-1 five minutes into the third but the Vipers would get back-to-back power play goals from Blacklock and McNicholas to make it 6-1.

Trail’s leading scorer Travis Stephens would capitalize on a Liam Coughlin cross check, making no mistake on a nice setup from Nathan Browne and Jake Kauppila at 16:16 of the third, and Kauppila would net one of his own on another setup from Browne and Jesse Knowler of Castlegar before the game was out.

Dustin Nikkel, a former North Okanagan Knight goaltender, stopped 38 shots playing against his former coach Kris Mallette who is now an assistant coach with the Vipers.

“That’s been the story of his year for him,” said Mallette. “The goals we scored were pretty nice goals, and that’s been the case every time he’s played against us.

“I know what he’s capable of. He wouldn’t be in this league as a 20-year-old rookie if he couldn’t play. You feel bad for him, but it can be a cruel game and we got the two points.”

The Smokies play Cowichan Valley Thursday, Victoria Friday, before hitting Chilliwack and the Chiefs on Saturday.  The Smokies next home game goes Dec. 30 against West Kelowna.