Darren Nowick scored twice and added an assist as the Vernon Vipers opened defense of their National Junior A Championship with a 4-2 victory over the host Camrose Kodiaks in the 2011 RBC Cup curtain-raiser on Saturday night.
Michael Zalewski and John Knisley added a goal and an assist each for the Vipers, who have lost just once at the tournament in the last three years – a 6-5 overtime loss to Dauphin in last year’s tournament opener.
Coming off a 22-day layoff following their loss to Spruce Grove in the Alberta Junior Hockey League final, the Kodiaks fell behind 2-0 just six minutes in on goals from Brett Corkey and Nowick, but cut the lead in half before the end of the first period on a Mario Boilard power play goal at 16:30, on just the third shot of the game for Camrose.
The Vipers continued to apply the pressure in the second period, outshooting the Kodiaks 9-5, butCamrosegoaltender Dalyn Flette, as he did time after time during the AJHL playoffs, kept his team in the gameandwithin a goal after 40 minutes.
Zalewski made it a 3-1 game five minutes into the third period, snapping a shot over Flette’s glove on a partial breakaway, but the Kodiaks’ power play struck again midway through the third period, as Sam Jardine scored to cut the lead to a single goal once again.
But the Kodiak comeback was not to be, as Knisley cleaned up the rebound of a Nowick shot to round out the scoring and clinch Vernon’s 31st win at the national championship, nine more than second-place Camrose.
The Vipers will enjoy an off day Sunday before facing Portage in Monday’s early game (3:30 p.m. MT), while the Kodiaks will look to rebound and earn their first win when they take on Wellington on Sunday night (7:30pm. MT).