They just got knocked out of the Okanagan Mainline playoffs and lost two players to injury for the rest of the season.
However, head coach Sandy Moger says his Vernon Watkin Motors Vipers will be ready for the 43rd annual Coca-Cola Invitational Pee Wee Hockey Tournament.
“They were pretty down this morning (Tuesday practice), but I think they’ll be pretty excited for the opening ceremonies and our first game,” said Moger.
The Vipers open the eight-team Coke Classic Thursday, 8 a.m. against the Strathcona Warriors of Edmonton. Vernon meets the Warman Wildcats of Saskatchewan Thursday in the feature game at 6 p.m.
The Tier 1Vipers, who won the Penticton tournament earlier this season, will be without forwards Ben King (knee and ankle) and Cory Lazar (concussion).
“When we’re winning, they’re following the system, working hard and we’re getting strong goaltending,” said Moger, who played 236 NHL games.
Eric Noren is captain, while Tyler Sedlacek and Kobe Grant share net duties.
The Calgary Blackfoot Chiefs, Edmonton Knights of Columbus Lancers, Prince George Cougars, Seattle and Nanaimo Clippers round out the Coke Classic roster.
Kamloops grounded the Vipers 3-1 in the deciding third game Sunday at MacArthur Island Sports Centre.
The battle raged deep into the second period before Trevor Kennedy put Vernon in the lead. Tanner Brown forwarded a Lee Christensen dish for the assists.
With six minutes remaining, Kamloops equalized on a powerplay and then went back door for the winner before adding an empty netter. Sedlacek was brilliant in net.
Vernon won first place with their float in Saturday’s Winter Carnival Parade and then couldn’t thaw out by game time, falling 9-4 to the Kamloops Jardine’s Blazers in Game 2 of the best-of-three playoff series at Civic Arena.
Lochlan O’Keefe (2), afilliate Nick Teale and Cameron Moger, on a coast-to-coast rush, handled the Watkin Motors’ offence in front of Grant and Sedlacek.
The Vipers took the opener 4-3 Friday night in Kamloops as Rowan Miller (2), King and Kennedy supplied snipes in support of Sedlacek.
Teale, Tysen Fairweather and Jacob Boden will be rotated in the Vernon lineup as tournament affiliates.
The Sladen Moore Lakers iced the Kelowna Rockets 6-3 Sunday night in Rutland to sweep their first-round Bantam Female A playoff series.
Vernon will face the first place Kamloops Mystix this weekend in the final series.
“The Lakers really pulled through with a good team effort,” said Laker manager Arnie Head. “Down a player and with others sick on the bench, the Lakers had a great start to the game as Jenna Fletcher put the Lakers on the board early with back-to-back breakaway goals.”
Kelowna rallied to level the score 2-2, but with eight minutes left in the first, d-man-turned forward Brooke Berube scored her first of the season. Assists went to Carly Southam and Halle Higgins-Wilson. The Rockets equalized at 3-3 early in the second period, but 40 seconds later, Fletcher recorded the hat trick, set up by Emily Clarke and Higgins-Wilson.
Clarke, off a nice breakaway pass from Fletcher., and Mairyn Tucker, registered third-period snipes. Tiera Joseph shut down the pressing Rockets in the third period.
The Vernon Home Building Centre 1 Vipers and North Kamloops Lions are going to a Game 3 in their Midget Tier 1 playoff series.
The Lions won the opener 5-1 Saturday in Kamloops, while Vernon ralled for a 7-3 win Sunday at Civic.
Kamloops opened the scoring Sunday with two quick goals, but the Vipers tied things midway through the second with Cole Woodliffe converting from Jagger Williamson and Layne Greene, and then Woodliffe scoring from Griffen Fried.
Kamloops scored early in the third to pull ahead again, but they got into some penalty trouble (68 minutes to Vernon’s 28 on the day) and the Vipers stormed back with five straight goals.
Mitch Lukacs scored from Nick Higgs and Woodliffe, then Jeff Bochon clicked from Lee Springer, Jacob Dolinar connected from Williamson and Lukacs, and Woodliffe got the hat trick, with assists to Jordan Rea and Scott Latwat. Bochon wrapped up the scoring, unassisted.
Woodliffe netted the Home Building Centre goal in the series opener, from Lukacs.
Game three goes Saturday, 5:30 p.m., at Kamloops Memorial Arena.
Knights take out Summerland
In Pee Wee Tier 4 playoff action, the AMS Solutions North Okanagan Knights swept the Summerland Jets 9-4 and 8-2.
Michael Kormany, Eli Dwyer, Griffin Evans and Ryan Desilets each bagged two goals, while Easton Hunter added a single in the opener Saturday at Nor-Val Sports Centre. Thomas Burton was in net.
Kevin Thomas Walters and Dwyer each scored twice as the Knights won Sunday in Summerland. Wesley Graves, Kormany, Evans and Kord Haller contributed singles in support of Caedon Bellman.