A steak dinner at Jesse Lansdell’s home Easter Monday night in Langley. Chilling in downtown Vancouver most of Tuesday.
The Vernon Vipers are a tight group and while their B.C. Hockey League season is done, they don’t want the journey to end just yet.
“There was seven or eight of us at Jesse’s folks’ place last night,” said captain Jagger Williamson. (Ufberg) Mike and (Kevyan Mohktari) Mohk and I are going downtown today. Some of the other guys are heading home today.”
The Vipers, who lost the BCHL Interior Division semifinal series to the Wenatchee Wild in six games, said most of their goodbyes at a fun skate last Thursday at Kal Tire Place.
Then came what was officially known as Viper Awards Night in the media room. It soon became the Jagger Williamson Show as the 19-year-old pride of Lumby won four major honours.
Williamson, a University of Michigan Tech Huskies commit, was named MVP and Fan Favourite while taking the Duncan Wray Memorial Award and sharing the Rienie Holland Memorial Community Service Trophy with Jordan Sandhu. Holland was a longtime minor hockey off-ice official who died in 1999, at age 73.
“That’s (Wray honour) pretty special,” said Williamson. “It got pretty emotional when I heard my name and I saw (Duncan’s wife) Libby and (Duncan’s daughter) Erica up there. That one meant the most to me since Duncan meant so much to me.”
The Wray award recognizes inspiration, hard work, sportsmanship and integrity on and off the ice.
Viper head coach Mark Ferner recalls his first glimpse of a young Jagger playing at the Okanagan Training Rink.
In our one-on-one (exit meeting), I told Jags, ‘I remember seeing you skate with my son (mac) and asking who’s that little bugger? He’s pretty darn good.’”
Ferner said the Vipers have had some extraordinary captains and he adds Williamson to that list.
“The organization is better off when he left because he was an unbelievable captain. He was so passionate, he was attentive, his IQ and his compete level. Coaches love to trust players and I could trust Jags in so many situations,. Here’s a kid who played with a broken back. Those kind of kids don’t come around very often; he was very, very enjoyable to coach.”
Williamson spent four years as a centre with the Vipers, earning his shower every night. He compiled 18 goals and 53 points, a career best this season. He added five goals and 10 points in eight playoff games.
Whispers in Wenatchee had hockey people saying the series MVP was the referee who assessed Williamson a marginal goalie interference penalty in Game 3. Williamson was assessed a two-game suspension for his third such penalty of the season.
He had held superstar Jasper Weatherby pointless in Games 1 and 2, both Vernon wins. The Wild won Games 4 and 5 without Williamson following Weatherby 200-feet every three minutes.
Williamson expects to join the Huskies in the NCAA next fall even though he is eligible for a fifth year in Vernon.
“It’s kind of up in the air. I have some courses online and I have to maintain a 73 per cent average which shouldn’t be a problem. I think they want me to come down there next season.”
He and Sandhu were always the first Vipers to show up for community events such as reading to elementary school students and attending the Terry Fox Run and United Way Drive Through Breakfast, just to name a few.
“Sandy and I made most of them. It feels good to help your community since they support us so well.”
The BCHL Final Four has Wenatchee leading their best-of-seven semifinal series 2-0 over the Trail Smoke Eaters. Weatherby pocketed 2+4 and was named first star in 4-2 and 5-2 victories in Wenatchee.
Ben Berard registered his 10th goal of the playoffs, at 13:40 of double overtime Monday night as the Powell River Kings clipped the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings 3-2 before 1,o33 fans at Hap Parker Arena.
That series is square at 1-1. Prince George took the opener 5-1.
The national RBC tournament goes May 12-20 in Chilliwack, where Vernon’s Powell Connor plays for the host Chiefs.
The rest of the Viper award winners:
Leading Scorer: Jimmy Lambert (23-38-61).
Unsung Hero: Jesse Lansdell (17-33-50 and 106 PIM).
Most Sportsmanlike: Niko Karamanis (24 points and 22 PIM).
Rookie of the Year: Josh Prokop (21 goals, including three hat tricks, in 48 games).
Bill Brown Award for Academic Excellence: Lambert. Brown was instrumental in founding the Vernon franchise and the BCJHL.
Most Improved: D Mitch Andres (11 points in 47 games).
Wayne Buck Memorial Award: Ty Taylor. (Bucky was the popular Vipers’ public address announcer and post-game emcee at Boston Pizza for 15 years. He died in October, 2009, at age 68.)
Blueliners Academic Scholarship: Anthony Yamnitsky.