Turning 50 was no big deal for Mark Ferner. Trying to finalize his Vernon Viper roster, however, is costing the head coach/GM sleep.
The Vipers cut down to 25 players after a series of B.C. Hockey League weekend exhibition games with the Prince George Spruce Kings. They must list only 22 by Friday.
“I was awake at three this morning (Monday) thinking about what we’re going to do,” said Ferner, who celebrated half a century by guiding the Vipers to a 3-0 win over the Spruce Kings Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
“We’re set with our goalies (2) and our dee (8), but we have five guys going for two forward spots. Everyday, we (coaching staff) sit down and talk about it. We like the group; they can all play and it’s too bad. Some kids will be shocked and disappointed; it’s a tough decision.”
The Vipers left forward Chris Jandric in his hometown of Prince George after a 5-3 road win Friday night. They also released local defenceman Matt Halvorson and Coquitlam D Alec Rasovic, younger brother of Viper winger Nic Rasovic.
Vernon also cut goalie Joseph McLeod of West Kelowna, who has offers from KIJHL teams. Returnee Jarrod Schamerhorn and newbie Andrew Shortridge, both 20, will handle net detective duties.
Up front, the Vipers have returnees Liam Finlay, Colton McCarthy, Blaine Caton, Jagger Williamson, Linden Hora, Riley Brandt and Rasovic.
Michael Roberts, a 20-year-old who helped the injury-riddled Vipers down the stretch last year, and new recuits Peter Tufto, Joe Sacco, Tak Anholt, Joey Cipollone, Jimmy Lambert, Brett Stapley and Hunter Zandee round out the forwards.
The Vipers, who open the 54th BCHL regular season Friday night against the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters, finished the pre-season at 2-1-0-1.
On Vernon’s back end are lone returnee Mitchell Oliver and BCHL veterans Bo Pellah and Mac Ferner, both obtained in summer trades. Recruits include: Austin Cho, Griffin James, Callum Volpe, Steven Jandrik and Reece Soukoroff.
Hora converted from Lambert on a two-on-one for the winner at 5:55 of the second period Saturday night.
McCarthy added insurance at 4:48 of the third period, assists going to Stapley and Williamson. Cipollone connected 27 seconds later, from Lambert. Shortridge went the distance, coming up big in the final 3:22 when Prince George enjoyed a 5-on-3 powerplay. The Spruce Kings outshot the Vipers 34-33.
The Vipers got into Prince George late Friday night, but rushed to make opening face off and played well enough for the victory.
Stapley and Soukoroff gave the Snakes a 2-0 first-period lead before Braiden Epp and Alex Stoley answered for the Spruce Kings. Finlay registered the 3-2 goal before the period ended.
Volpe made it 4-2 Vernon before Corey Hoffman replied for Prince George. Williamson hit the empty net to complete the Vernon attack in front of Schamerhorn.
Prince George went 1-4 in exhibition and host the expansion Wenatchee Wild in their season opener Friday night at the Coliseum. Wenatchee gave up one goal in three road wins at the Coast.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon products Brett Jewell and Cole Woodliffe have made the Merritt Centennials roster after strong seasons in the KIJHL last year…The Vipers visit the Smokies Saturday night and then head to Penticton for a Wednesday nighter versus the Vees…Penticton and the Alberta League Brooks Bandits tied 5-5 in double overtime Saturday after the Vees won 6-5 in OT Friday night. Tyson Jost scored twice Friday…The Smokies slammed the Selkirk College Saints 7-0 after losing 4-3 to the Saints in OT, in the third Columbia River Cup series.