The Vernon Vipers scored an early goal and James Porter Jr. handled things from there.
Seiya Tanaka-Campbell scored his first BCHL goal and Porter was sensational with a 42-save shutout as the Vipers defeated the Penticton Vees 2-0 Friday night to launch a home-and-home series that concludes tonight.
Trey Taylor scored a late insurance goal as the depleted Vipers (19-12-1-1) won their fifth straight game.
Carl Stankowski turned aside 22 shots in his second straight start for the Vees (25-10-1), who remained in first place in the Interior Division.
Vernon was missing eight regulars, including captain Connor Marritt. The Vees were also without three key players, including leading scorer Jay O’Brien.
The Vipers came out with an early push and reigning BCHL player of the week Matt Kowalski teed up Tanaka-Campbell – a 16-year-old affiliate player appearing in his third BCHL game – in the left circle to make it 1-0.
Kowalski, who finished with two assists, extended his league-best point streak to 12 games.
The goal seemed to spark the Vees who controlled play for the rest of the period, outshooting the home team 13-9 and putting Porter to the test.
Penticton continue to siege Vernon in the second period, but Porter Jr. had all the answers despite the Vees having an 18-9 edge in shots.
The Vees didn’t let up in the third period, outshooting Vernon 11-4, but simply couldn’t get a puck past Porter Jr.
Vernon clinched the game with 1:54 to go as Tanaka-Campbell set up Taylor off the rush to make it 2-0. Kowalski also picked up a helper.
The Vees got Stankowski to the bench for an extra skater with 1:36 to go and held the puck in Vernon territory, but still couldn’t find the net.
It was just Penticton’s sixth loss in 24 road games and fifth loss in 22 games against Interior rivals.
Porter Jr., Tanaka-Campbell and Kowalski were the three stars in front of 1,965 fans.
The teams do it all over again tonight at 6 p.m. at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Smoke Eaters 4, Warriors 3 — Tyler Ghirardosi scored twice as Trail built a 4-0 first-period lead and held on to beat visiting West Kelowna.
Cody Schiavon and Phillippe Lapointe also scored for the Smokies (21-12-2-2), who led 4-1 and 4-3 at the period breaks.
John Evans with two and Brendan Pigeon scored for the reeling Warriors (5-22-4-2), who were outshot 42-26.
The Warriors welcome the Wenatchee Wild to Royal LePage Place tonight at 6 p.m.
The Wild beat Salmon Arm 6-5 at home on Friday, handing the Silverbacks their ninth straight loss.