Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vipers 8 Smoke Eaters 3

Michael Zalewski snapped a nine-game goal-less drought, and the Vernon Vipers snapped a nine-game winless streak with an 8-3 win over the Smokies at Wesbild Centre Thursday.

Trail started brightly, outchancing the Vipers until Zalewski potted two quick goals late in the frame to send the home side up 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Vernon got their swagger back in the second, as Ben Gamache, Adam Tambellini and Castlegar's Aaron Hadley all scored in the first eight minutes to widen the lead to 5-0 before a screen shot from the left point 2:55 later from Shane Poulsen put Trail on the board. For the 17 year-old blueliner, it was his first BCHL goal.

Marley Keca added a similar strike from the right point later in the period before Jedd Soleway and Brendan Persley rounded out a 7-goal middle frame.

Smokies newcomer Tanner Clarkson finished Trail's offensive output late in the third with a terrific individual effort, before a John Knisley wrister in the final minute of the game punctuated a busy offensive night for the Vipers.

The two quick goals in the first period really put a stop to any offensive momentum Trail had going. Moments before Zalewski opened the scoring, Vipers goaltender Kirby Halcrow made a fine save off Smokies forward Connor Tiechko from the low slot on a Trail power-play. And once Vernon's top-liner found his stride, there was no looking back.

Lyndon Stanwood was tagged with the loss for Trail; he and James D'Andrea split duties between the pipes for the Smoke Eaters.

Tonight's game was a physical affair, with the likes of Castlegar's Ryan Renz and South Slocan's Joren Johnson both throwing their weight around on their respective blue lines. Clarkson's hit on Zalewski in the second period drew the attention of Renz, who drew an instigator for dropping the mitts with the new Trail forward. Kyle Horsman and Turner Lawson had exchanged blows moments earlier.

Trail missed leading scorer Clayton Chessa tonight. He was scratched from the Smokies' lineup leaving them with only 16 skaters once again. We'll see if the 20 year-old draws back in tomorrow in Chilliwack.

Clarkson and fellow newcomer Brendan Santini played together on a line with Brandon Long. Clarkson looked impressive from his first shift when he created a quality scoring chance, while Santini earned an assist on Keca's goal.

Former Grand Forks Border Bruin defenseman Lucas Hildebrand appeared as an AP for Vernon. It was only his second career BCHL game.

Up Next: The Smokies visit the Chilliwack Chiefs Friday night for the two sides' third meeting in 8 days.

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