Vipers show magic mix at camp

He was moving nets, making saucer passes, greeting players and skating like he could still play pro.

He was moving nets into place, making saucer passes, encouraging players and skating like he could still play for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

This is Mark Ferner’s 31st training camp, including 18 as a pro. It’s his 11th as either a head coach or assistant in Junior hockey. And he still smiles a little and enjoys welcoming new recruits into the Vernon Vipers B.C. Hockey League den.

“It’s always exciting,” said Ferner, moments after the forwards finished drills Monday morning at Kal Tire Place. “It was a long summer for myself and trying to put this group together. I think we’ve got a pretty good group here right now.

“We’ve got a nice mix of skill, size, toughness, age, youth. But more importantly, I think we have really good kids and that’s half the battle.”

A total of 58 players are listed in the camp directory, including five goalies and 17 defencemen. There are 13 returnees from a team which lost Game 7 to the Penticton Vees in the Interior Conference final. F Dominic Dumas of Prince George was Monday’s lone no-show. As they did last year, the Snakes ran some basic flow drills in the morning to give players a feel for the rink.

“It was just important that they just get them on the ice; you don’t want to throw them into the fire and right into some games,” said Ferner. “Kevin Pedersen did a great job today with the skills with the dee and the forwards and we get one practice this afternoon. We’ll start implementing some of the drills that we would do throughout the season.”

Jordan Sandhu wore No. 10 for Team Red and after two solid years with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, is stoked to be a Viper after a mid-July trade. He thanked both the Dawgs and Vipers for their classy treatment.

“I know it’s one of the top-notch, if not the top-notch organizations in the league,” said the 18-year-old centre, of the Vipers. “They’re always pulling out good players, great teams, they have a great staff all the way up and down. It’s been great so far and they’re always pushing to win. That’s what we’re all going for is to try and win that championship, and I think this is the spot to do it.”

Sandhu has a scholarship with Arizona State University Sun Devils for the 2018-19 season. He spent the summer in the gym, skated a few days a week and finished high school.

Asked how he would sell himself to a college recruiter, the Vancouver Canuck and Sidney Crosby fan replied: “I’d say I’m a hard-working guy. I like to use my size to my advantage, but at the same time, I try not to shy away. I like to go in the corners and I try and make plays. I’d say I have pretty quick hands and pretty decent vision on the ice.”

Sandhu, a 5-foot-6, 140-pound roadrunner, also played lacrosse, basketball, soccer and volleyball before turning all his attention to hockey. His brother, Tyler, was coached by Ferner with the WHL Everett Silvertips, and will skate for the CIS UBC Thunderbirds this year.

Keyvan Mokhtari was nursing a minor ailment Monday morning, but he was also beaming. The 19-year-old right winger landed in Vernon after a trade with the Victoria Grizzlies. The Burnaby product said it was time for a change after two productive years on the Island. He loves Vernon’s winning tradition.

“My speed’s my biggest asset for sure. I’m very competitive; I hate to lose. I have a decent skillset. I pride myself on playing good defence as well as offence. I love to play on the penalty kill and do whatever it takes to win.”

A Colorado College Tigers commit, the 5-foot-8, 141-pound Mokhtari played some Rep under Pedersen, spending two years with North Shore Winter Club before joining the Major Midget Vancouver Northwest Giants and later the Burnaby Winter Club Prep team. He was chosen first star as Victoria stopped the Vipers 4-2 here last February.

“I’ve had past success here. It’s a great rink. We have a great group of guys. It looks like a great team and I’m excited to get going.”

Mokhtari is also a natural athlete, having excelled in soccer and hoops. He knows Sandhu well and played alongside Viper veteran Brett Stapley at North Shore.

Mokhtari scored 30 times in two seasons with the Grizz and doesn’t have a favourite NHL team, rather choosing to study them all and learn. His go-to-pro is Johnny Gaudreau of the Flames. The Vipers Blue vs White game goes Wednesday night at 7:00. They entertain the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday at 7 p.m. in exhibition play.

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