T.J. Dumonceaux broke a 1-1 tie on the power play and scored what proved to be the winning goal with 45 seconds to play in the second period, as the Vernon Vipers beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-1 in BCHL action Wednesday in Vernon.
Trail’s Craig Martin almost put the Smokies ahead just seconds prior but the Vipers Jarrod Schamerhorn made a big save, and Martin instead was sent off for high-sticking.
Vernon owns one of the most anemic power plays in the league this season, with just over a 10 per cent success rate, while the Smokies have one of the best penalty kills at 81.16 per cent.
But that made no difference, as the Vipers worked the puck down low and Dumonceaux beat Trail goalie Brett Clark, scoring on a pass from Liam Coughlin to make it 2-1 Snakes.
The Smokies looked sluggish through a scoreless first period and Trail assistant coach Barry Zanier was stunned by the Smokies’ lack of intensity.
“We’re pretty disappointed,” he told the Vernon MorningStar. “It was probably one of our poorest games. It’s hard to believe you can come into this building and not be pumped up to play, but unfortunately, that was the case tonight.”
The Vipers struck first when Luke Voltin took a pass from Liam Coughlin and beat Clark blocker side to go up 1-0 at 5:28 of the second period.
But less than three minutes later, Trail’s Kienan Scott made a great read and intercepted a pass at the Trail blueline and broke in all alone. The game’s second star faked forehand-backhand then beat the Vernon goalie between the legs to tie it at one.
Yet, the Vipers would get the insurance marker 2:26 into the third period, when Anthony Lantina wired a Trevor Fidler pass by Clark to make it 3-1 Vipers.
Coughlin would ice it with an empty netter with just under two minutes remaining to give the Vipers its ninth win of the season as they move into third place in the tough Interior division.
Both former Beaver Valley Nitehawk netminders, Schamerhorn and Clark, played well. Clark, in his third start of the season, kept the Smokies in the game, stopping 26 of 28 shots through 40 minutes, as the Vipers outshot Trail 39-26 overall. Schamerhorn, meanwhile, collected his sixth win of the season.
The Smoke Eaters host the Mainland division-leading Prince George Spruce Kings tonight at 7:30 p.m., and have a rematch at home with the Vernon Vipers Sunday at 3 p.m. The Smokies then play their fourth game in six days on Tuesday at the Cominco Arena against the Merritt Centennials at 7:30 p.m.