The Vernon Vipers don’t lose often.
On those rare occasions when a team does get the best of them, you can depend on the Vipers to have a long memory.
The next time those teams meet, Vernon usually exacts revenge with a stomping — the kind of stomping that says, ‘Don’t mess with the best.’
In mid-October the Chiefs dealt the BCHL’s flagship franchise an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Prospera Centre, picking the Vipers to pieces with speed and physical play.
Saturday night marked the first meeting since, with Chilliwack making the long trip to the Wesbuild Centre in Vernon.
In a place where Viper losses are more infrequent than Sasquatch sightings, the Chiefs managed to do it again, downing the Vipers 5-4. Though they were out-shot 45-25, Chilliwack got stellar netminding from ex-Viper Bryton Udy (41 saves) and the third-period game winner from Malcolm Gould, dealing Vernon it’s sixth loss of the young season.
The Chiefs couldn’t have started better in this one, taking a 3-0 lead before the game was 17 minutes old. Derek Huisman got his team leading 10th of the year just 56 second in, with assists from David Bondra and Ty Miller.
Trevor Hills netted his seventh on a power play at 15:26, and Mathieu Tibbett scored his first of the year at 16:33.
The Vipers came back with three of their own – scored by Max Mowat, Alex Hagen and Peter McMullen – to knot the score at 3-3 early in period two.
But the Chiefs held it together and retook the lead 41 second later on a goal by Jaret Babych. Gould’s winner came early in the final frame, and Chilliwack weathered a final Vernon surge to get a crucial Interior conference win.
“I was really pleased with our effort early in the game and that was the big difference,” said Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl. “We had tons of energy and they didn’t have a whole lot. They did battle back, but I was pleased with our character and composure.”
If there was one thing to be taken away from the game beyond the final score, it is Chilliwack’s resiliency. Once the Vipers erased the three goal deficit, it would have been very easy for the Chiefs to get rattled and pack it in.
That they didn’t is impressive.
A smaller thing to take away from the game is the return to action by Tibbett.
The 18-year-old native of Viola, Delaware, is largely an unknown after missing the first 14 games with concussion issues.
“But we loved him in camp,” Smyl said. “He’s a big man who skates real well and likes to shoot the puck. And you’ve heard me talk a few times this year about our energy level. He’s a guy that definitely brings that.”
In goal, Udy turned in his second straight solid performance after watching crease-mate Mitch Gillam get four straight starts.
In a 4-3 overtime win over Prince George Friday night, Udy knocked off the rust with a 23-saves-on-26-shots effort.
Udy let in one softie in Vernon, but otherwise put himself back into the mix for playing time.
“He’d take one back in Vernon,” Smyl said. “But otherwise he’s in the groove. After that second Vipers goal he really settled in and played well.”
Friday night’s 4-3 win over the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings was closer than Smyl would have liked, but a win is a win is a win.
The Sprucies came in with a bruised and battered lineup, dressing four AP callups to deal with a spate of injuries and other absences.
Out-shot 46-28, PG managed to force overtime when Paul De Jersey scored with 2:09 remaining.
3:44 into the second OT session, De Jersey was flagged for a blow to the head.
In the BCHL, OT penalties are penalty shots, and Trevor Hills ended the game with a top shelf shot over PG keeper Kirk Thompson. Spruce Kings coach Dave Dupas was livid at the call on De Jersey, and spent five post-game minutes at the Prince George bench venting on the officials.
“It did end on a penalty shot, but it was a penalty and that’s the rule,” Smyl said. “But I really like our overtime structure. I am a huge fan of four-on-four and three-on-three and I’d take those two options over a shoot-out anytime. It’s just way more entertaining.”
Huisman had a goal against PG to go with his goal against Vernon. The Smithers native has gotten on quite a roll, but Smyl said it’s what he does away from the puck that makes him a top flight BCHL player.
“Everybody looks at that stat (goals), but if you saw the Vernon game, he took all the defensive-zone faceoffs, he wins most puck battles and he kills penalties,” Smyl said. “The goals and assists are nice, but he’s bringing so much more to our hockey club.”
Huisman and company look forward to a weekend at home, facing the Langley Rivermen Friday and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday.
The game against Langley is Smyl’s first since coming back to Chilliwack, but he says there’s no extra meaning for him.
“They have a whole new identity and direction and there are very few players I had on that team,” he said. “If there was more to it than that, I’d tell you. But there really isn’t.”