Josh Prokop channeled his inner Wayne Dye Friday.
The Vernon Vipers forward didn’t know a lot about the late all-time leading scorer in Vernon junior hockey history, who recorded more than 320 points in four years with the Vernon Essos back in the 1960s and 70s.
Dye’s Essos’ No. 8 was finally retired to the rafters at Kal Tire Place Friday, and then Prokop – the Vipers’ current No. 8 – went out and scored three times to lead the home team to a 6-3 B.C. Hockey League win over the Trail Smoke Eaters in front of 1,946 fans.
“It’s kind of ironic, kind of cool,” said Prokop of his second BCHL hat trick. “Obviously I didn’t know too much about Wayne Dye but when the announcer was talking about his history and what he did as an athlete, it’s pretty incredible. I thought it was pretty cool to get a hat trick tonight.”
All six Vernon goals came on the powerplay as the Smoke Eaters endured a barrage of penalty trouble over the first 40 minutes. Trail was whistled for 14 infractions on the night compared to just two for the Vipers.
Prokop, Vernon coach Mark Ferner, play-by-play man Graham Turnbull and Vipers’ former voice and now team executive vice-president Todd Miller couldn’t remember the team scoring six times with the man advantage in one game..
“Overall, this year, I think our powerplay has been pretty good,” said Prokop. “We got a lot of chances to showcase our powerplay tonight and we executed well. Usually we’re on the other side (of the penalty ledger) so it was nice that we got the bounces.”
Vernon built a 2-0 first perod lead on a one-timer from Brett Stapley, his team-leading 17th and Prokop’s first.
The Smoke Eaters tied the game in the opening minute of the second period with goals 20 seconds apart from Seth Barton and Tyler Ghirardosi, whose pass from behind the net hit a Vipers’ defenceman’s skate and went past goalie Anthony Yamnitsky.
Prokop’s second came when his shot from the left wing eluded Trail goalie Brandon Wells, who got a fair chunk of the shot but not enough, at 7:16.
The Smokies thought they’d tied the game at 8:57 on a powerplay but the whistle blew shortly before the puck crossed the line as Trail forward Spencer McKnight was called for slashing. McKnight disputed the call and got an additional two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Trail did tie the game with the teams playing four-on-four on a goal from Connor Jones at 9:57.
Chris Jandric popped the winner at 15:42, taking a shot from Jimmy Lambert off the end boards and depositing into an open net, which led to Trail head coach Cam Keith being ejected and given a gross misconduct for tossing a water bottle onto the ice.
Prokop completed his hat trick 24 seconds into the third period, banging a puck in the crease past Well, which led to two hats being thrown on the ice from the fans. Lambert finished the scoring at 1:07.
Wells made 32 saves, Yamnitsky picked up his ninth win with a 21-save effort.
“It was hard for our guys to get into a rhythm,” said Keith. “We got into a lot of penalty trouble and played a lot of the game shorthanded. The boys battled pretty hard and we stayed with them as long as we could but in the end we couldn’t stay out of the box and that hurt us on the scoresheet.”
A special banner raising ceremony was held before the game honouring Dye, as well as the 1956 Allan Cup champion Vernon Canadians. The ceremony was conducted by the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame, emceed by director Kevin Mitchell.
Dye’s two daughters, grandchildren and three sisters represented the family on the ice.
“It’s a really special night,” said Dye’s sister Wendy Gilroy. “We’re really proud of Wayne and we miss him everyday. We’ve had so many people come to us and say this is really nice and it’s long overdue.”
The four surviving members of the Canadians – Odie Lowe, Tom Stecyk, Walt Trentini and Merv Bidoski – were on hand to see a championship banner raised in the team’s honour for the first time. There was never any such pennant hanging in the Vernon Civic Arena, where the team beat the Chatham (Ont.) Maroons four games to one in 1956, and more than 10,000 people lined the streets of Vernon for the victory parade.
“It brings back memories of an exciting time for the City of Vernon,” said Bidoski, 84. “Seeing the banner go up, it’s better late than never I guess. It was fun when we did it, exciting, and then it kind of just disappears. Like every sporting event, it’s good when it happens, and then it slowly dies. And this one kind of died. But it’s nice to be remembered.
“It’s too bad there aren’t more of the fellas around. It would have been nice to have more of the team but such is life.”
The Vipers took on the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday at Kal Tire Place. Victoria fell 2-1 Friday in Prince George to the Spruce Kings.
Vernon (20-7-0-4) entered play Saturday with a three-point lead in the Interior Division over the Penticton Vees, who vaulted into second place with a 2-1 win in Nanaimo. The Vees have four games in hand on Vernon.
Trail is tied for third with Wenatchee, who went into Salmon Arm Friday and dumped the Silverbacks 4-1.