Some Western Hockey League refugees struggle to maintain intensity and a positive attitude when they finish their careers in Junior A.
Austin Adamson joined the B.C. Hockey League Vernon Vipers like he was a giddy 16-year-old rookie trying to make the team.
After three years and 134 WHL games with the Saskatoon Blades, Red Deer Rebels and Swift Current Broncos, Adamson attended the Portland Winterhawks’ training camp in August.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound forward dominated the fitness testing, but was the odd man out when Portland chose their three overage 20-year-olds.
The Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL held the Richmond product’s rights so Vernon swung a trade to bring in an experienced, reliable two-way winger/centre.
Adamson counted his first two goals of the season Saturday night as the Vipers brushed off the West Kelowna Warriors 3-2 before 985 fans at Royal LePage Place.
“I wanted to play my 20-year-old year closer to home and have a little more fun,” said Adamson. “I was on the third line (in the Dub) so I wanted more ice time. I missed 50 games after my (hip) surgery last year and I was thinking then about playing in the BCHL this year.
“The plays happen a little quicker (in the WHL), but the guys here are just as fast and the talent’s still there. You can’t just show up and dominate.”
Adamson, who rang up 39 points in 40 games with the Major Midget Greater Vancouver Canadians as a 16-year-old, fired a shot low blocker side by Warrior netminder Xavier Burghardt for his first BCHL goal in West Kelowna. Levi Johnson drew the assist on the 2-on-1.
The Warriors equalized almost four minutes later on the power play after a nice Braiden Epp deflection past Viper goaltender Cole Demers off a Jake Harrison point shot,
West Kelowna outshot the Snakes 43-39, including a 21-16 advantage in the first period.
“He (Demers) stood on his head for us; he was excellent,” said Adamson. “They were all over us in the last five minutes and pulled their goalie and he made some game-savers.”
Vernon retook their lead just under two minutes later with 30 seconds remaining in the period as Christian Cakebread converted on a goal line shot on the power play. Lambert and d-man Chris Jandric, who turned 18 earlier this week, drew assists.
Adamson netted the winner 66 seconds into the final period on a scramble after Jagger Williamson won a face-off.
Epp replied for the Warriors (5-5) six minutes later on a rebound after Mitch Barker’s slot shot was stymied by Demers.
The Snakes, who visit the Merritt Centennials Wednesday night, improved to 6-3-2, good for second place in the Interior Division. The Penticton Vees are four points ahead of Vernon.
“It’s just hard work, winning the little battles and paying attention to the finer details,” said Adamson, asked about the Vipers’ identity. “We don’t have any superstars like Penticton did that one year; we have a lot of depth.”
In other Saturday play, former Viper Blaine Caton pocketed 1+1 as the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters stuffed the Cowichan Valley Capitals 7-3.
Trail toppled the host Langley Rivermen 5-2 Sunday, improving to 5-6-1.
Vernon product Spencer Hewson provided 1+1 as the Nanaimo Clippers dispatched the visiting Powell River Kings 4-2 before 1,150 fans at Frank Crane Arena. The Shipmen went to 5-5-1, while the Kings fell to 7-5.
SNAKE BITES: Cakebread took a head shot but should be ready for Merritt…Player of the Week is F Marcus Mitchell of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who supplied 3-4-7 and two first-star ratings in a pair of wins…The Vipers visit the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night. D Powell Connor, of Vernon, is a rookie with the Chiefs. The towering 16-year-old has three assists in 10 games…F Ryan Brushett (shoulder) should come off IR in Merritt…The Cents are 5-4-1. Brett Jewell of Vernon is their captain.