Jimmy Lambert missed a huge twinbill against the Penticton Vees last weekend as he nursed an upper-body injury. And the Vernon Vipers sorely missed the Saskatoon streak in collecting just one of four possible points.
The third-year roadrunner returned to the lineup Wednesday night and converted 64 seconds into 3-on-3 double overtime as the Snakes grounded the West Kelowna Warriors 3-2 in B.C. Hockey League play before 1,669 fans at Kal Tire Place.
Lambert, a Michigan Wolverine commit, picked up a loose puck outside the Vernon blueline and sped down the right sidewall with Warrior defenceman Stephen Kleysen forcing him to the outside. Lambert turned on a nickel and cruised into the West Kelowna zone before burying a high wrister from the deep slot past second star Cody Porter, who recorded 47 saves.
“(Head coach Ferner) Mark always says, in overtime, don’t miss the net high and wide, and they did that exactly that,” said Lambert. “I was in a footrace with Kleysen and kind of stopped up at the blueline, cut across the middle and kind of shot one through a screen and it found the back of the net. Everything worked out well there, that’s for sure.”
Vernon improved to 16-5-0-4 as they surpassed the Trail Smoke Eaters into the Interior Division penthouse. The Warriors, who dropped three games in Vernon in 18 days, dipped to 14-9-1-0, good for third place.
Jesse Lansdell (fifth) and Keyvan Mokhtari (9th) supplied the other Vernon goals, both on the powerplay, while Kleysen (6th) and fellow d-man Michael Ryan (2nd) countered for the Warriors, who led 2-1 until late in the second period.
“Mark always says every game against these guys is going to be a grind and that was definitely the definition of that game,” said Lambert. “It was a tough, hard-fought battle.”
Ty Taylor was stellar for Vernon with 29 saves for his 10th win against one loss.
Both teams enjoyed Grade A chances on the penalty kill with Lansdell getting stuffed by Porter on a breakaway five-hole attempt and Ryan just missing on a slot shot. It was hardly thrill-a-minute hockey, but both teams went hard.
West Kelowna, without five regulars due to injury or suspension (newly acquired Spencer Hora), gave the Vipers seven powerplays.
“I thought we played well, but obviously, you can’t give those guys too many chances on the powerplay,” said Warrior captain Jared Marino. “We definitely were taking too many trips to the box. In the end, we had a decent effort but we didn’t get the result we wanted.”
Marino believes the Warriors still have enough depth to win despite injury woes and he looks forward to welcoming the Vipers to Royal LePage Place.
West Kelowna blueliner Jake Harrison was assessed a minor and game misconduct for a blow to the head after he rocked Viper Niko Karamanis just inside the Warrior blueline with 30 seconds left in regulation.
The Vipers, who visit the Merritt Centennials Friday night, were without F Tanner Wishnowski and D Sol Seibel, both on injured reserve.
“West K’s a team that really works hard so we knew coming in, we’d have to outwork them,” said Viper d-man Michael Ufberg. “The fact that we came back and won it in double overtime is a credit to everybody.”
In other action Wednesday night, Grant Cruikshank pocketed 2+1 as the Vees ambushed the Surrey Eagles 7-1 before 2,833 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Penticton moved into a tie for fourth place with the Wenatchee Wild, one point behind the Warriors.