Texan Thomas Aldworth converted a breakaway 48 seconds into overtime as the Vernon Vipers clipped the Chilliwack Chiefs 5-4 in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Aldworth stripped defenceman Brandon Tkachuk of a bouncing puck at the Viper blueline and beat Chief net detective Aidan Pelino top corner, leaving the Chiefs to settle for a weekend split.
Chilliwack bombed the Merritt Centennials 7-1 Friday night at Prospera Centre. They come into this week 6-1-0-1, tied with the Prince George Spruce Kings for top spot in the Mainland division.
The Chiefs led 2-0 after 20 minutes despite getting outshot 13-6.
Jake Larson, who pocketed 44 goals with the Minnesota Wilderness two seasons ago when the Wilderness qualified for the Royal Bank Cup in Summerside, P.E.I., opened the Chiefs’ offence at 6:38. Craig Puffer picked up an errant pass by Vernon d-man Brandon Egli and drew the assist.
Californian Luke McColgan, the younger brother of former Kelowna Rocket Shane McColgan, connected from Larson a dozen minutes later, on a two-on-one break after the Vipers were caught pinching on a powerplay.
McColgan finished with the hat trick, giving him six on the year, tying Puffer for the team lead.
McColgan previously enjoyed eight- and 12-goal seasons with the Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior League.
“That was my first hat trick in my junior career,” said McColgan. “That was quite exciting trying to get a win for the team. Honestly, I’ve never been a big goal scorer. I guess I’m working hard and good things are happening.”
The Chiefs went ahead 3-1 midway through the second when McColgan wired a wrister from the high slot past Jarrod Schamerhorn.
Vernon responded 68 seconds later when rookie Branden Wagner banged in an Aldworth rebound in tight. It was Wagner’s second goal of the year.
The Snakes equalized at 7:11 of the third before 1,550 fans when Trevor Fidler found an empty net right side after Luke Voltin’s shot bounced off Pelino’s chest.
Aldworth netted his fourth of the season with 11 minutes remaining.
He turned and fired a high shot from just inside the blueline after Mackenzie Bauer did some nice work to keep the puck in the Chiefs’ zone with no support.
McColgan forced OT just seven seconds after Pelino was pulled for a sixth attacker, burying a slapper from the point two feet off the ice, with 53 seconds left in regulation.
McColgan had two goals in Friday night’s win over Merritt, with his Chiefs making the stingy Cents look leaky. Larson, Kurt Black, Jake Hand, Tipper Higgins and Ryan Bowen also scored as Chilliwack wore out the goal-horn.
Bowen’s third-period snipe was his first BCHL goal and he now has four points in eight games.
Pelino went the distance in net, stopping 27 of 28 shots.
His Chiefs are home Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. date with the Spruce Kings.
The weekend brings a home-and-home with the Coquitlam.
The Chiefs visit Coquitlam Friday and host the Express Saturday.
See bchl.ca or chilliwackchiefs.net for more info.