Scott Conway pocketed three goals and two assists as the Penticton Vees rang in the New Year by smothering the Vernon Vipers 6-0 Friday night before 2,175 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Defenceman Dante Fabbro supplied a deuce, while Tyson Jost counted 1+2 as the Vees improved to 32-4 atop the B.C. Hockey League table. The Vipers fell to 16-21-3, fourth in the Interior Division and 35 points back of the Vees.
Easton Brodzinski chipped in with three assists, while Owen Sillinger collected a pair. The Vees outshot Vernon 37-26, holding the Vipers to a seven-shot count for half the game. Zachary Driscoll registered his second straight shutout over the Vipers while going to 13-2. Andrew Shortridge fell to 13-17.
“It was obviously pretty exciting when you get a win that big,” said Jost, the Vees’ captain. “I thought we came out strong and it’s good when you come off Christmas break and everybody’s excited to get in the locker room and see the boys again so I was happy with our result for sure.”
Jost, Fabbro and Liam Finlay of the Vipers were presented commemorative plaques in a pre-game ceremony marking Team Canada West’s gold medal in the recent World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Cobourg, Ont.
Fabbro converted a feed from Jost in the mid slot just 96 seconds after the ceremony with Vernon captain Colton McCarthy in the box for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty eight seconds into Game 1 of 2016.
Jost made it 2-0 at 8:57 of the second stanza when he nicely buried a saucer pass by Easton Brodzinski with Viper d-man Griffin James sprawled on the ice between the two Vees.
Just under three minutes later, Conway went top cheddar from the left hashmarks for his 11th powerplay goal of the year. Viper blue liner Latrell Charleson was off for roughing. Jost and Brodzinski picked up assists.
Conway neatly deflected a point shot by d-man Griffin Mendel with one left in the second for his 33rd of the season. Fabbro connected on a wrister from the point with 25 seconds left in the period, just 20 seconds into another McCarthy unsportsmanlike minor. McCarthy also received a misconduct and was benched in the third by head coach Mark Ferner.
Conway concluded the scoring midway through the third period with Sillinger drawing the assist.
Driscoll stoned Jagger Williamson in front after a great pass by Christian Cakebread just a few seconds before Conway headed up ice for the final snipe. Driscoll’s finest save came with 7:50 to play when Ben Butcher drove hard to the net against two defenders.
The Vees welcomed back slick d-man Seamus Donohue, who nicely quarterbacked a few powerplays, and forward Dixon Bowen. Former Viper Demico Hannoun and d-man Gabe Bast are still on injured reserve. Hannoun said he won’t be ready next Friday when the Vees are in Vernon again.
“We’re always looking to try and get some more bodies back in the lineup,” said Jost. “Right now, it’s actually pretty good because we’ve almost got our whole squad back so it’s good when you get new guys in the lineup and get them on the ice in a game mentality.”
Vernon were outmanned most shifts as the Vees rolled three lines until late in the final period.
“Not what we wanted pretty much sums it up pretty simply,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus, a former Vernon captain. “When you lose 6-0 first game into the New Year is not something you want to start with. We were undisciplined right off the start and we gave them momentum and you give that team momentum, it’s a snowball effect. We’ve played Penticton tight all year, but we come out here and basically lay an egg. We let our emotions get the best of us and stopped playing hockey. We kind of just ran around and tried to hit them and our structure went right out the window.”
The Vipers are one digit in front of the Trail Smoke Eaters and after facing Penticton again in a week, face the Merritt Centennials, West Kelowna Warriors and Salmon Arm Silverbacks to round out the first half of January.
The Vees host the Silverbacks Saturday night (6:00). The Silverbacks brushed off the visiting Surrey Eagles 3-1 Friday night at the Shaw Centre.
Meanwhile, Vernon’s Logan Mick drew one assist in his Alberta League debut Friday night as the Brooks Bandits ambushed the Olds Grizzlys 12-2.
Mick, 19, joined the Bandits Dec. 30. The speedster is in his fourth season of Junior A hockey, most recently suiting up for the Langley Rivermen of the BCHL, for whom he had two goals and nine points in 21 games this season.
“Logan is an experienced junior player that brings added speed to our forward group,” said Bandits’ head coach/GM Ryan Papaioannou. “He will be a contributing factor to our overall depth, and we are looking forward to his addition in the new year.”
Prior to his time in Langley, Mick played for the Silverbacks, notching 10 points in 25 games last season, following up two full seasons with the Vipers, including four games in the 2014 RBC Cup tournament. Prior to his BCHL play, Mick played his minor hockey with Pursuit of Excellence prep school in Kelowna.