A winning combination when the Vernon Lakers claimed back-to-back Centennial Cups 15 years ago, Eddie Johnstone and Keith Chase reunited in Bantam Rep hockey this fall.
Throw in all-world trainer Craig (Chief) Carter and the threesome has a strong mix of coaching moxie which reached its peak Sunday as the Sun Valley Source For Sports Vipers won their home Tier 2 tournament at Civic Arena.
Hustling winger Eric Noren returned from sick bay earlier in the tourney and supplied 2+1 as the Vipers grounded the Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-4 in a hard-hitting Sunday matinee final.
The Vipers, who had been in one final and two semifinals at previous tournaments, prevailed with golden goaltending, stingy defence and balanced scoring.
“I don’t remember coaching a team where I didn’t have one or two superstars to get most of the goals,” said Chase, head coach.
“Our key to success is total team effort. We gotta work hard to get pucks out of our zone and work hard to get pucks in the zone and get pucks deep and try to create something off our forecheck and then get pucks to the net.
“And when we do get it down there, try not to turn it over. We gotta work the corners and work it behind the net and draw our wingers down and get it to the point.”
Chase, a bruising blueliner in his Junior A days with the Lakers, bought a pass to the Royal Bank Cup here last May and watched most of the games with Johnstone, who was host for the Yorkton Terriers.
“I told Eddie I needed a non-parent to help me coach and he told me to call him back in two months. I’m pretty happy about Eddie helping me. He offers knowledge that I don’t have.
“He’s fair, he’s positive and he just demands hard work.”
Johnstone, 60, is a former NHL all-star winger who amassed 122 goals and 258 points with the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings.
Carter, a former Vernon deputy fire chief, ran the Special Olympics program in town for 18 years and says he will stay involved in minor hockey “as long as I’m above ground.”
“Chief’s been donating his time for about 20 years and his work ethic is unreal,” said Chase. “When the players see me in the summer, they don’t ask if I’m applying for the job, they ask: ‘Is Chief coming back?’ He does so much for the kids and they love and respect him a ton.”
Drew Mackenzie gave Vernon the lead at 13:04 of the first period, from Kael Black. D-man Tyson Sampert made it 2-0 midway through the second on a solo effort.
Cameron Lesergent replied for the Caps late in the second with captain Dylan Sedlacek answering 56 seconds later for Vernon, assisted by Damian Coljee-Fehr and call-up Nick Mitchell.
The Sun Valley boys went in front 4-1 four minutes into the third on Noren’s first snipe, from Sedlacek and Mika Burns.
Noren found the empty net with 6:11 remaining as the Caps pulled their netminder on a powerplay.
Hunter Hieta and Shane Whitefield counted goals 15 seconds apart for Cowichan with just over five minutes left. Hieta pulled the Caps within one three minutes later, but roadrunner Joe Eggert added insurance for Vernon with 31 seconds to go, assisted by Noren and Dawson Chase.
Tyler Sedlacek was solid in net, while call-up d-man Ethan Joe led the hit parade.
Vernon produced 15 goals in three preliminary games, a season-high.
“We don’t get many pretty goals,” said Chase. “We were fortunate this weekend to get some pretty goals, but most of our goals are five men working hard and getting pucks to the net and getting rebounds.”
The Vipers built up an early 4-0 lead and hung on to ice the West Kelowna Warriors 4-2 in the early Sunday morning semifinal.
Coljee-Fehr, Burns, Mitchell and Sampert provided the goals in front of a stellar Brenden Forman.
D-man Aiden Rysen and winger Burns each pocketed 2+1 as the Vipers upended the Abbotsford Hawks 6-2 in round-robin play Saturday night. Nick Cherkowski and Sampert collected singles.
Jacob Sean Middlemiss-Degroot pulled the hat trick as Cowichan bounced the Kamloops Blazers 5-1 in the other semifinal.
The Vernon Home Building Centre Vipers lost 6-3 and 4-2 in a home and home Midget Tier 1 series against the North Kamloops Lions.
Gabe Turner opened the Vernon scoring less than a minute into Saturday’s game at Memorial Arena when he stripped the puck from a defender and zoomed in on a breakaway.
Stephane Richard scored on a trick-shot when he bounced it off the goalie’s back from behind the net. Braden Gilowski wrapped up the Vernon attack.
Visiting North Kamloops fired three goals in the opening period of Sunday night’s penalty-filled affair at Civic Arena.
The Vipers managed their goals in the third period with Cameron Hitch connecting, assisted by Zach Manton and Jason Shaigec. Just under a minute later, Richard converted from Logan Imrich and Michael Lenoury.
The Vipers face the host Kelowna Fripps Warehouse Rockets Saturday for their final game before the Christmas break.
Tips bow to Williams Lake
The Salmon Arm Silvertips (sponsored by Armstrong Co-Op) lost 4-1 and 2-0 against Williams Lake in Midget Rep female play.
Cassidy Marshall of Armstrong scored for the Tips Saturday afternoon in Sicamous.
The Tips held the majority of play Sunday, but couldn’t convert. Goalie Bailey Berndt played her best game of the season to keep the Tips in the hunt.
The Tips, who have several Vernon-area girls on their roster, host Kelowna Saturday (6 p.m.) at the Priest Valley Arena.
Mustangs salvage draw
The Watkin Motors Mustangs spotted the Kelowna Rockets a 4-0 lead before storming back and gaining a 4-4 tie in Pee Wee Tier 1 league play Sunday morning at the Capital News Centre.
Cole Boyarski levelled the score with three minutes to play, assisted by Jacob Boden. The snipe capped a great team effort in front of goaltender Kobe Grant, who made several key saves to keep Vernon close.
Corbin Hanson started the comeback by finishing a Zack Funk pass from in tight. K.T. Walters cut the lead in half when he buried a shot from the slot on a powerplay, and Nick Teale brought the Mustangs within one when he took a Ben Imrich pass and fooled the goalie with a high shot from the blueline.
Forwards Lochlan O’Keefe, Lucas Zubrod and Trevor Kennedy skated hard all night while defencemen Cam Moger and Connor Elliott were strong against the fast and skilled Rockets.
Atom Vipers grind out points
Outstanding efforts in both ends of the rink helped the Valley Wood Remanufacturing Vipers post a win and tie in Atom A Development play.
Erik Pastro, Nick Noren, Braden Schmiegelt and Bennett Kuhnlein handled the offence as the Vipers clipped the Kelowna Rockets 4-3 in exhibition action Saturday at Priest Valley Arena. Colten Colmorgen went the distance for the win.
The Vipers surrendered a goal late in the third and settled for a 7-7 draw Sunday with the host Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
John Spraggs (2), Jace Weir (2), Pastro, Scotty Hoffman and Austin Roest handled the offence in front of Austin Seibel.
“The boys are starting to put together all the pieces we have been working on and now are getting the rewards for their hard work,” said head coach Trevor Seibel.
“In both games, there was a lot of positives to build on.”