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Vernon Viper power forward Aaron Hadley is tangled up by a pair of Trail Smoke Eater defenders in B.C. Hockey League action.
Lisa VanderVelde/Morning Star

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Vipers unload top three scorers

The Vernon Vipers will be without their top three scorers for the remainder of the B.C. Hockey League season.

With the playoffs a long shot, Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson put his top talent on the trading block to restock for next season, when Vernon will host the RBC Cup national Junior A tournament.

Leaving the den before Thursday night’s carding deadline were forwards Adam Tambellini (Surrey Eagles), Aaron Hadley (Nanaimo Clippers) and Pearce Eviston (Victoria Grizzlies). All three transactions were for future considerations except the Tambellini deal, which will see 1994-born forward Mason Blacklock join Vernon from the Eagles. Williamson also sent future considerations to Surrey as part of the trade.

Eviston, a 20-year-old who started his BCHL career with the Grizz before joining to the WHL Portland Winterhawks, left the Vipers last weekend after getting benched by Williamson for taking bad penalties.

“You’ve got to listen to all offers, and if they blow the doors off, which they did, then you have to look at what’s best for the organization, not just for now, but for the future,” said Williamson.

Blacklock, who turns 19 in February, has nine goals and eight assists in 32 games. Vernon will be his fourth BCHL team.

“It’s his third year in the league and he’s starting to come into his own,” said Williamson. “Big forward (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), left shot. They didn’t want to move him, but we made them.”

Tambellini (22), Hadley (12) and Eviston (9) accounted for nearly half of the Vipers’ 90 goals, and their departure leaves defenceman Brett Corkey as the team’s top scorer with two goals and 18 helpers in 34 games. Williamson expects his younger players to step up into bigger roles, and said the remaining 18 games will basically be an open audition.

“We’re going to give our younger players the ball and push with those guys to get into the playoffs,” he said. “Anybody that is returning has to play well because we have a job to do and that’s to turn this ship around.

“Sometimes when these things happen, it lights a spark under some guys. They are good players and they’ve been top-line guys before and now they have to go and be that now.”

Williamson noted it was helpful for his players to have a couple days to digest the news of their teammates’ departure before the Vipers hosted the Powell River Kings Saturday night at Wesbild Centre.

“It was tough because they (Tambellini and Hadley) were both well-liked guys,” said Williamson. “That’s one thing people forget – they’re kids. They’re (teenagers) who maybe just lost their best friend going to another organization. It’s tough on them.”

For Hadley and Tambellini, who, incidentally are first cousins, Thursday was a bittersweet experience.

“I had a great two-and-a-half years in Vernon, but I’m excited to join the Nanaimo Clippers,” said Hadley, who registered a pair of assists in his debut as Mike Vandekamp’s Clippers punished the Cowichan Valley Capitals 7-2 Friday night at Frank Crane Arena. Nanaimo captain Trevor Fitzgerald, a Vernon product, earned second star for his 1+2 showing.

“I’m happy to go to a team that’s in contention to win an RBC Cup,” added Hadley.

Given Vernon’s last-place standing in the Interior Division – they are six points out of a playoff spot at 12-18-0-7 – Tambellini wasn’t exactly surprised to see Williamson wheel and deal.

“That’s OK with me; I get to come to a good place in Surrey,” said the rangy pivot, who earned second star in his Eagle debut Friday night, recording both goals in a 2-1 win over the Penticton Vees at South Surrey Arena. Former Viper Jedd Soleway handled the Vees’ attack.

“They have a bunch of really skilled players here so whoever I line up with I’m sure it’ll work out.”

Tambellini, who will play NCAA Division 1 hockey next season with North Dakota, added: “I had a great year-and-a-half in Vernon. Willy was great for me and my development. Coming to Junior hockey, he just gave me a chance to play some good minutes every night.”

The Edmonton product thanked his billet parents Ed and Diane Lauer.

A total of 15 deals were made around the league in the days leading up to the deadline, with playoff contenders seeking to boost their lineups. Along with Vernon, the Coquitlam Express were the major sellers, sending Mitch Nardi (93)(F) to the West Kelowna Warriors in exchange for future considerations; Philip Zielonka (93)(F) to the  Chilliwack Chiefs for Garrett Forster (95)(F), Ben Israel (94)(D) and future considerations; and John Siemer (92) (F) to the Penticton Vees for future considerations.

Snake Bites: The Wenatchee Wild will find out mid-February whether their application to join the BCHL for the 2013-14 season will be approved. The Wild’s bid to switch from the NAHL to BCHL in December 2011 was originally denied by USA Hockey, but the decision was reversed after the governing body reviewed an appeal by the franchise in February 2012. However, by that time, the BCHL had already set its 2012-13 season alignment and rules, and could not allow them to join at that time.

 

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