Come hell or high water, said Vernon Vipers head coach Mark Ferner from Vancouver Island, the players on his B.C. Hockey League team will become good defensively.
Collectively, the Vipers were not good in their own end in Port Alberni Friday, and it cost the club as the Bulldogs doubled the Snakes 6-3 in front of 953 fans at the Weyerhauser Arena.
“We need to be more dedicated to our own end, in a nutshell,” said Ferner, watching video of the game in his hotel room Saturday morning.”
“We have a group that has some talent but they’re not passionate enough about playing defence.”
The Vipers (9-10-0-1) took on the Island Division-leading Cowichan Valley Capitals (10-6-1-2) Saturday and finish up the road trip this afternoon against the Eagles (4-16-0-0) in Surrey.
Vernon outshot the Bulldogs 40-28 on the night but were stymied by goalie Carson Schamerhorn – brother of former Vipers netminder Jarrod.
Brendan Barry made his first start in goal for Vernon since Oct. 10 – Andrew Shortridge, out with an injury, played seven straight prior to Friday – and, according to Ferner, was solid.
“Brendan was fine. He stopped the pucks he needed to stop,” said Ferner, reiterating that Barry didn’t get a lot of help.
“I feel bad for our goaltending. We need to clean up our own end. That’s the bottom line.”
The Vipers opened the scoring Friday thanks to newcomer Ben Butcher.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Butcher, acquired from the Langley Rivermen for defenceman Austin Cho, beat Schamerhorn at 6:14 of the opening period.Butcher played on a line with Jimmy Lambert and Brett Stapley.
Liam Finlay, with his seventh of the year, and Riley Brandt, with his 10th, rounded out the Vipers scoring.
The game also marked the debut of new Vernon defenceman Latrell Charleson, who last played with the Surrey Eagles in February after being suspended indefinitely after colliding with, and pushing, a referee in a game against Chilliwack.
“Both new guys looked good,” said Ferrner. “Latrell hasn’t played in, what, five or six months and he was good, made plays. His conditioning looked fine.
“Ben was good, exactly what we needed, a big body down the middle with experience that understands the game.”
The Vipers host Merritt Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Kal Tire Place. An information booth on the upcoming public referendum to twin Kal Tire Place will be set up during the game.