Somehow it seems apropos that a team wearing green should spoil Teddy Bear Toss night at Vernon’s Kal Tire Place arena.
The B.C. Hockey League expansion Cranbrook Bucks – they of the green uniforms with white trim – played the role of Grinch Saturday, Dec. 4, in their first-ever visit to the North Okanagan.
The Bucks jumped out to a 3-0 lead but needed a late empty net goal to secure a 4-2 win over the Vipers in front of 1,679 fans, many of whom brought stuffies for the Vipers’ first Teddy Bear Toss since 2019. Vernon won that night over the Wenatchee Wild.
Those who did bring toys for charity Saturday were wondering if they’d get a chance to litter the Kal Tire Place ice, which is the norm on Teddy Bear Toss Night after the first Vernon goal.
It took 44 minutes and 38 seconds for the Vipers to score.
Newcomer Luke Lavery – playing his second game for Vernon since being acquired in a mid-week trade with the Merritt Centennials – beat Cranbrook goalie Nathan Airey at 4:38 of the third period to send the teddy bears and other stuffies flying from the stands and onto the ice.
After the toys were cleared, and the puck was dropped, Vernon captain Jojo Tanaka-Campbell scored nine seconds later to cut the Bucks lead to 3-2.
Bauer Morrissey and Tyson Dyck scored in the first period for Cranbrook. Hayden Gelbard made it 3-0 in the second and Andrew King scored into an empty net with 1:13 remaining.
Airey finished with 34 saves while Roan Clarke made 24 stops for the Vipers, who fall to 6-10-3-2 and sit four points behind the sixth-place Bucks (10-8-1-0), who are two points behind the Trail Smoke Eaters. Cranbrook has two games in hand on the Vipers.
Vernon beat Trail 5-3 at home Friday, Dec. 3. Cranbrook fell 7-1 to the Interior Division leading Penticton Vees.
Vernon will visit Trail Friday, Dec. 10.
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