Finlay makes debut as Vipers host Cents Saturday

Forward Liam Finlay brings speed and offensive skill set to Vernon Vipers as they host Merritt Centennials in BCHL play Saturday.

Just when Liam Finlay was developing a healthy dislike of the Vernon Vipers, he became one.

Finlay, a 17-year-old forward from Kelowna, was traded to the Snakes by the Penticton Vees Wednesday afternoon in exchange for future considerations. He will make his Vernon debut Saturday (6 p.m.) when the Vipers (7-5-0-1) entertain the Merritt Centennials (9-5) in B.C. Hockey League action at Kal Tire Place.

“When you’re in Penticton, you hate these guys so much,” grinned Finlay, who met his new teammates at Thursday practice. “It’s a huge rivalry. I guess I just have to come here and learn to love it. They seem like a really good group of guys.”

With the addition of Finlay, the Vipers now have four Okanagan Rocket grads on the roster – d-man Mitch Oliver and forwards Linden Hora and Brandon Wagner.

At 5-foot-7, 145 pounds, Finlay is one of the smallest players in the BCHL, but Hora doesn’t believe that will hold him back.

“He’s a really slick player and he can get a lot of points,” said Hora. “He’s good at making plays.”

Added Finlay: “Some people see my size being against me, but I think it’s a benefit sometimes. Maybe I’m tougher to track and tougher to hit.

“I can bring some speed to the table. They have a good group of offensive guys here and hopefully I can contribute to that.”

Finlay is one of a few players to earn an NCAA Division 1 scholarship out of Major Midget. He is already committed to the Denver Pioneers for 2016-17.

“They watched me a few games and the coach (Jim Montgomery) talked to me,” said Finlay. “He was a player kind of like I am, and he saw a bit of himself in me.

“I wouldn’t want to go any place but Denver. It’s a good program.”

If Finlay can adapt to the physical rigours of the BCHL, he has the offensive upside to do some damage on the scoreboard. He amassed 101 points (27 goals, 74 assists) in 68 career games with the Rockets.

“He’s a talented guy, history tells you that,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner. “I’m not too worried about the size. I’m worried about the compete level.”

Ferner plans to give Finlay a look on the powerplay, which has recorded a woeful four goals on 59 attempts (6.78 per cent). His regular linemates against Merritt will be fellow waterbug Jagger Williamson and power forward Luke Voltin.

Vernon rallied past Merritt 4-2 a week ago, and then fell 1-0 to Penticton Saturday night.

Luke Pierce’s Cents are coming off of a 6-2 thumping of the Chilliwack Chiefs (10-3-0-1) Tuesday night.

In other Interior Division play Wednesday, the Vees (14-1) crushed the Surrey Eagles (3-9-0-3) 10-0.

SNAKE BITES: Vernon forward TJ Dumonceaux is questionable for Saturday, while forward Mackenzie Bauer will be out of the lineup for at least another week…With Riley Brandt suspended, Ferner plans to call up another forward against the Cents.