Assistant coach Kevin Pedersen listens to the forward line of Josh Latta, Jordan Sandhu and Derek Brown during practice Wednesday at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Taylor makes first all-star team

The Vernon Vipers had goalie Ty Taylor and d-man Michael Ufberg named to all-star teams

Ty Taylor has a rather simple strategy as he prepares to face the highest-scoring team in the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.

Rather than study video on dangerous Wenatchee Wild shooters like Jasper Weatherby and AJ Vanderbeck, Taylor will instead use basic instincts.

“They’ve got a lot of guys that can hurt us, but I’ll play the way I play any other teams; don’t let them score,” said Taylor, named a first all-team all-star Wednesday. “They are obviously good shooters. They shoot a lot and they shoot everything so I just have to be on my toes.”

Taylor faced the Wild once in the regular season, beating them 4-3 at Kal Tire Place. Ex-Wild Anthony Yamnitsky won two of three starts against Wenatchee. Each team won twice, losing once each in their home building.

The Vipers, who finished second overall in the 17-team circuit, four points ahead of Wenatchee, will go with just five defencemen as the second-round best-of-seven series starts Friday night in Vernon. Jack Judson begins a four-game suspension, while Shane Kelly is on injured reserve.

Taylor doesn’t see those back-end numbers hampering the Vipers at all.

“It shouldn’t. All the guys who are playing are healthy and everybody knows what they have to do. We’re ready for the second round.”

Taylor was earlier chosen winner of the league’s Top Goaltender Award. Taylor and Yamnitsky also took the Wally Forslund Trophy (Top Goalie Tandem, 1.98 combined GAA). Taylor posted a 22-5-3 record.

Voting for the all-star teams was conducted by the league’s play-by-play broadcasters. In all, eight teams had players recognized.

Taylor, 18, of Richmond, was the league’s top goaltender with a 1.87 goals against record and .931 save percentage. He tied a league standard with seven shutouts. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has a scholarship with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats next season.

”I’m really appreciate it,” said Taylor, unaware he was selected until contacted by The Morning Star. “It’s a big accomplishment and I’m really excited. My teammates were obviously a huge part of it. Without them, I don’t make the all-star team.”

Michael Ufberg, a 20-year-old out of Philadelphia, made the second all-star squad.

The smooth-skating sophomore racked up six goals and 56 points in 58 games. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, a Princeton University Tiger commit, was the league’s second-highest scoring blueliner behind Cooper Zech of Wenatchee (69 points). Only Zech and Surrey Eagles’ forward Ty Westgard (55) had more assists.

“It (all-star honour) feels really nice right now, but you can’t really celebrate because we’re in the middle of the playoffs,” said Ufberg. “It just shows you how, as a team, we played all seasn. We came second and we’re still going in the playoffs and have a long way to go. I couldn’t have done it with the guys around me, but obviously it’s a really special thing.”

Ufberg, who will be a major minute-muncher on the back end, never set any preseason personal goals.

“(Head coach Ferner) Mark always talks about, for d-men, just making the first pass, getting the puck in our forwards’ hands. Our forwards have made some unbelievable plays all year. They’re playmakers. I got some lucky ones (assists) and they did a really good job up front.”

Ufberg says Taylor is a hard-working kid and well deserving of first all-star status.

“Ty almost set a record for shutouts, but again, it just goes to show you how, as a team, we’ve done offensively, defensively and goaltending. We’re pretty complete which is a reason why we should go all the way here.”

Ufberg likes the way Vernon matches up with Wenatchee, who placed Weatherby and Zech on the first all-star roster and Vanderbeck and NHL-rated D Slava Demin of California on the second squad. Goalie Seth Eisele represents the Wild on the All-Rookie team.

Game 2 is Saturday, 6 p.m. at Kal Tire Place. The series shifts to Washington State Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Ufberg makes All-Rookie Team

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Anthony Yamnitsky chats with Viper goalie coach Travis Hoy at Wednesday afternoon practice at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

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