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Aaron Hadley (middle) of the Vernon Vipers tries to muscle between the West Kelowna Warriors’ pairing of Adam Plant (left) and Josh Monk in B.C. Hockey League play Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.
Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star

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Vernon Vipers pluck Andrew Tegeler from UMass Minutemen

Andrew Tegeler has got game; he just hasn’t played in that many the past few seasons.

A point-per-game player with the Boston Jr. Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League in 2010-11, the 20-year-old forward has seen ice time in just six tilts since joining the NCAA University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

Looking for more minutes than the Minutemen were willing to offer, Tegeler de-committed and that’s when the Vernon Vipers came calling.

Tegeler will arrive in time to see the Snakes (11-10-0-6) entertain the Trail Smoke Eaters (12-18-0-1) in B.C. Hockey League action Thursday night. The Hopkinton, Mass. native will make his debut Friday when Vernon faces the West Kelowna Warriors (11-8-1-6) for the third time in a week, at Royal LePage Place.

The Vipers end the three-game weekend by hosting the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (15-10-0-4) Saturday at Wesbild Centre.

Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson only had a brief scouting report on Tegeler, but said he must have done something right to earn a NCAA scholarship.

“Big body (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), skates well, has a good skill set,” said Williamson. “He hasn’t played a lot in the last few years, but we’re going to give him an opportunity.

“He’s practised at a high level even though he hasn’t played there.”

To make room for Tegeler, Williamson shipped forward Mitch Van Teeling back to his home province of Manitoba, where he will rejoin the Dauphin Kings. He completed that transaction, receiving future considerations in return, before the league’s Dec. 1 card deadline.

“We had to move somebody out and the offer we got for Van Teeling was something we couldn’t turn down,” said Williamson. “They were hard after him. It was just an opportunity for us to get better now and worry about the future too.”

This will be Van Teeling’s second tour with Dauphin, having spent the last two seasons with them (he came to Vernon in a trade with the Virden Oil Capitals, but never played there). The Brandon native appeared in 25 games with Vernon, recording five points.

Meanwhile, netminder Austin Smith turned in a superb 39-save performance to help the Vipers earn a 3-2 comeback win over the Warriors Saturday night at Wesbild.

Braedan Russell, with his first of the season, pegged Vernon to a lead just two minutes into the game before Seb Lloyd resumed his weekend scoring spree for the Warriors.

After recording a hat trick in Friday’s 7-1 win over Vernon, Lloyd opened West Kelowna’s account in the final minute of the first period. The shifty Prince George product then drew a tripping penalty on Viper d-man Geoff Crisfield, and converted on the resulting powerplay to give his team the lead with his fifth goal of the weekend.

That seemed to suck the life out of the building until Logan Mick (2nd goal) provided the equalizer on a gorgeous passing play with Michael Roberts on an odd-man rush.

“Coach was yelling at me 3-on-2, and I saw Mike coming in so I dropped it to him and he made a nice play and threw it back to me,” smiled Mick, 16.

Vernon assistant coach Dave Robinson said the reunited line of Mick, Roberts and Mitch McAllister was perhaps Vernon’s best unit Saturday.

“They turned the game around for us,” he said. “Even before the goal, they were creating all the energy.

“We need our secondary scoring to pick up here. We can’t be having Tamby (Adam Tambellini) scoring all our goals.”

After enduring a string of penalties (the crowd booed referee Korey Martens for several questionable calls) to start the third period, the Vipers finally converted on their own powerplay for the winner. Liam Board (6th), scoring his first as a Viper, corralled a Michael Statchuk point shot and calmly faked netminder Tyler Biggs (23 saves), earning a huge round of cheers from 1,700 fans (minus the always-lively West Kelowna contingent).

“We had a real good first 10 minutes – we pressured them hard and played well and then they pushed back and had some chances at the end of the first,” said Smith.

“We kept pushing and pushing and dealt with the penalties. It’s a lot of adversity guys go through and deal with and it’s not easy. The guys know they can come back in a game now.”

Former Viper Marcus Basara, fifth in league scoring with 16-17-33 in 26 games, wore the ‘C’ in place of injured captain Max French. The smooth-skating Port Moody native liked his team’s effort, especially considering the absence of injured forwards Brett McKinnon and David Pope.

“When you have a game like we did (Friday) night, a bit of a blowout, you’re going to expect a team that’s going to come back and play hard.

“I think we matched that over the first two periods and even into the third. Just some of the bounces didn’t go our way tonight.”

On his own success this season, Basara added: “I’ve found some chemistry with Lloyd and (David) Pope early. Things have been a little jumbled up here with injury but I’m still just trying to play hard every night.”

SNAKE BITES: A minor skirmish broke out between a handful of Vernon and visiting West Kelowna fans following Saturday’s game. Rink security, aided by several level-headed spectators, did a good job of preventing it from escalating into anything serious...West Kelowna’s Matthew Berry-Lamontagna used a 25-pound size advantage to overpower  the Vipers’ Colton Sparrow in a second-period scrap.

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