The Langley Rivermen scored on their first shot on goal Friday.
The Vernon Vipers followed suit.
The difference, however, is Vernon would score on three of their next five shots and the Rivermen didn’t get another goal as the Snakes rolled to a 5-1 B.C. Hockey League win over the Rivermen in front of 2,529 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Langley forward Eric Butte opened the scoring 96 seconds after the Beairsto Elementary Glee Club finished the national anthem with a beaut of a goal. He picked up the puck in the corner, walked out untouched and unleashed a wicked wrist shot over the shoulder of Vernon goalie Anthony Yamnitsky.
Vernon captain Jagger Williamson, playing after missing five games with a concussion, gave Vernon the lead with a pair of powerplay goals 16 seconds apart on a 5-on-3 advantage.
Williamson wired a wrist shot with linemate Jesse Lansdell setting a screen in front of Langley goalie Braden Fleming on the team’s shot on goal at 4:33. Off the ensuing faceoff, Lansdell took a defenceman wide and centred the puck to a streaking Williamson going to the net, who tapped in the puck past Fleming.
Derek Brown added two more; the first Fleming should have stopped at 8:08 then, coming out of the penalty box, Brown picked up a pass from Mitch Andres, used Keyvan Mokhtari going to the net as a decoy, and ripped a wrister over Fleming’s blocker, ending the Langley goalie’s night at 12:28, replaced by Chad Cromar.
“Once they got that first goal, we knew we had to get into it,” said Brown, who has seven goals in 10 games since joining the Vipers at the BCHL trade deadline from the Alberta League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs. “Jaggy got us back into it and I was able to follow that up.”
The final goal of the game came off a face-off at 15:02 of the second. Jimmy Lambert – celebrating his 21st birthday Friday – won the draw to Brett Stapley, who beat Cromar for his team-leading 23rd goal of the year.
Things got nasty in the third.
Mokhtari – playing his first game in four after a concussion – was hit from behind into the boards by Langley’s Ethan Leyh at 10:56, resulting in a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Skirmishes broke out on the ice after the hit with Vernon’s Jack Judson and Shane Kelly, and Langley’s John Wojciechowski receiving early showers with 10-minute misconduct penalties.
Mokhtari was seen leaving the ice with a towel on his head. He was to be re-evaluated Saturday prior to the Vipers’ game in Penticton.
On the ensuing powerplay, a line donnybrook – hardly a brawl – broke out with the main combatants being Vernon’s Jesse Lansdell against Langley’s Brady Berger.
The nine skaters received 10-minute misconducts. Cromar signalled for Yamnitsky to come and join the fray but the Vernon goalie stayed in his crease.
Yamnitsky made 18 saves, the best of which were back-to-back on a Langley second-period powerplay, when he made a neat pad save through a screen, then dove across the crease to foil a wraparound attempt, and a glove save in-close in the third off Tanner Versluis.
Cromar made the save of the game, denying Williamson’s hat trick by moving across the crease to rob the Vernon captain, who nearly finished off a terrific four-way passing play.
Vernon remained two points behind the league- and Interior Division-leading Penticton Vees, 3-0 winners at home Friday over Trail.
The Vipers and Vees finished off their regular season encounters Saturday at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Penticton is 2-1-2 in the first five meetings.
“We have to go into there with the same effort we had here tonight,” said Brown, who is feeling very comfortable in his new surroundings.
“Ever since Day 1, since I got here, the guys have made it really easy for me to fit in, and Mark’s (head coach Ferner) been great. He’s been patient with me and it’s been nice to get myself into it and I think I’m starting to fit in great here. This is an awesome team.”
Langley, 3-8 in its last 11, took on the Eagles in Surrey Saturday. The Rivermen are one point behind the second-place Eagles in the Mainland Division.
“We had a good start tonight but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot there with penalty trouble,” said Rivermen head coach Bobby Henderson. “We let it get away from us in the first and against a team like Vernon you have to be better than that.”