Vernon Viper forward Jimmy Lambert is a Michigan Wolverine.
Lambert, a 20-year-old in his third B.C. Hockey League season, chose the NCAA Division I Wolverines over the Ohio State Buckeyes after touring both campuses last week.
The Saskatoon product is the 13th Viper to commit to a NCAA university. He signed a letter of intent with the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks last year but de-committed after their head coach, Dallas Ferguson, moved to the WHL Calgary Hitmen.
“Basically, when I went to Michigan, from the time I got there, I felt comfortable,” said Lambert. “The staff with the hockey team and from the academics side, were all extremely nice. The history of that school is unbelievable.”
Lambert registered his fifth goal of the season Sunday in Trail as the Vipers ambushed the Smoke Eaters 9-0.
Viper head coach Mark Ferner says Lambert is pretty much the perfect hockey player.
“I think they’re going to get exactly what we’re getting,” said Ferner. “There are not a lot of things missing; he checks all the boxes. His habits are good, he works hard, he can score, he makes everybody around him better and he’s a great kid. He’s going to have a great career at Michigan.”
Lambert strolled through the Wolverines’ dressing room and checked out the football stadium with the hockey coaches. There are 30,000 students on campus, but he never felt overwhelmed. Lambert met some of the hockey players in the evening.
He’s not looking at the schollie as a reason to slow his play down any as the Vipers ready for Parents Weekend.
“I’m going to continue to get better. You still want to contribute to your team and I want to go to Michigan as an impact player next year. They (Michigan coaches) told me they want me to a top-six guy and see where things go from there. It’s up to me to make it happen.”
Lambert talked briefly with Wolverine alumni Dave Oliver of Vernon, the Director of Player Development for the Colorado Avalanche who helped the Vernon Lakers win the 1990 Centennial Cup. The Wolverine Big 10 conference roster includes Viper grad Dexter Dancs, a senior and one of three Canadians with Michigan.
Bill Muckalt, a superstar with the Merritt Centennials and Kelowna Packers back in the day, is the associate head coach alongside Mel Pearson.
The Snakes, meanwhile got a few bounces as they shelled the Smokies to grab a share of top spot in the Interior with the West Kelowna Warriors,.
Lambert gave props to alternate captain Jesse Lansdell, who returned after a four-game suspension.
“He’s so physical and he was all over the place and assisted on two goals. We wouldn’t have been up 4-0 without him. You don’t know how much you appreciate something until it’s gone.”
Lambert said the Vipers used a quick start – four snipes in exactly 10 minutes – and then got a wacky goal off the stanchion from a long dump in by d-man Michael Ufberg 13 seconds into the second period to shut down the Smokies before 1,400 fans at Cominco Arena.
Captain Jagger Williamson took first star with 2+1, while Ufberg finished with 1+2 for second star and Keyvan Mokhtari was third star with two goals. Brett Stapley, Jordan Sandhu and Adam Panacci provided singles in support of Anthony Yamnitsky (20 saves).
The Vipers gave up three powerplay goals and blew a 2-0 lead in a 5-4 loss to the Surrey Eagles before 1,908 fans Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Ryan Brushett, traded from Vernon at the start of the season, pulled the hat trick for the Eagles (6-8-1-1).
The crafty Quebec product came into the game with two goals in 15 games. The 19-year-old registered the winner with 78 seconds remaining by going hard to the net and converting a corner cross by Chase Danol.
“I was feeling pretty good about tonight; I wasn’t nervous,” said the amiable Brushett. “Some of the boys were chirping me, especially Jags ( Williamson) but I gave it right back to them. That’s my first hatty in Junior A hockey. I’ve been struggling; getting lots of chances but not scoring.”
The Eagles fell 8-4 to the Wenatchee Wild Friday night and looked weary in the first period Saturday.
“We were in a track meet last night (in Wenatchee),” said Surrey head coach Brandon West. “It was a back and forth game and they lasted longer than us. We challenged a lot of guys to be better tonight and they showed some character and responded against a very good team.”