Cooper Watson

Cooper Watson

Vernon Vipers add two NCCA-bound players

The Vernon Vipers have signed two players from the U.S. Hockey League already committed to NCAA scholarships.

The Vernon Vipers just got a little meaner and older on the back end, while adding a healthy young centre, heading into the fifth B.C. Hockey League Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack.

The Vipers have signed 6-foot-3, 175-pound defenceman Cooper Watson, 20, and are awaiting a release from Quebec Hockey before adding 18-year-old forward Ryan Brushett of Verdun. Vernon released second-year blue liner Callum Volpe, an 18-year-old from Coquitlam.

Vernon head coach/GM Mark Ferner hopes to put both players on his roster for Saturday night’s game against the powerful Wenatchee Wild at Prospera Centre. The Vipers face the Nanaimo Clippers Friday at 1 p.m. The Showcase draws scouts from dozens of NCAA and CIS schools, along with most NHL bird-dogs.

“Cooper has a scholarship with Michigan Tech (Huskies) and his brother Cliff is the captain there this year and his other brother, Carver (Tri-City USHL), is also going to Michigan Tech next year so he comes from good bloodlines,” said Ferner, in Chilliwack watching a Showcase matinee game.

“Cooper is a little meaner than both his brothers. He’s a big kid who is a stay-at-home, puck-moving d-man which is just what we needed.”

Watson compiled 4-9-13 and 176 penalty minutes in two years with the Madison Capitols of the USHL. He rang up 25 points in 24 games with Appleton United as a 16-year-old Midget.

Brushett turned 18 in June and posted 2-8-10 with the Sioux Falls Stampede and Bloomington Thunder last season.

The 5-foot-11, 172-pound centre racked up 87 points in two Midget seasons with the Lac St-Louis Lions in Quebec.

“He had good numbers in Midget and he has a scholarship to Providence (Friars) so he’s got some skill,” said Ferner. “Lac St.-Louis is the Eastern equivalent of Shattuck St. Mary’s (in Minnesota) so it’s a good, quality program.”

Brushell will give the Vipers another healthy forward since veterans Nick Rasovic and Brett Stapley are on injured reserve.

Second-year F Christian Cakebread and d-men Carter Stevenson and Mitch Oliver all missed practice this week due to illness. All three are expected to play against the Clippers.

Ferner said Ty Taylor will start in goal against Nanaimo, who has Vernon products Spencer Hewson, captain, and Matt Kowalski in their lineup.

“We’ve show the kids video on Nanaimo’s tendencies on the penalty kill and power play and we know they’re going to work hard and be physical,” said Ferner. “They’re off to a good start at 3-1.”

The Vipers are also 3-1 and also know what they’re getting against Wenatchee (3-0).

“Everybody down here (Chilliwack) says they’re just as good as they were last year. They will play with pace so we’ll have to be physical and slow them down.”

Volpe became expendable since the Vipers had nine defencemen in camp. Volpe had 4-7-11 in 44 games as a rookie last season.

“It’s always tough releasing a young kid, but he took it well,” said Ferner. “It was a hockey decision.”

There West Kelowna Warriors stopped the Chilliwack Chiefs 5-2 in a rematch of last season’s league Fred Page Cup finals to open the Showcase Wednesday.

Quin Foreman notched a hat trick, including the winner. After a scoreless first period, the Norwood, Mass. product notched a pair in the second as West Kelowna built a 3-0 lead.

Foreman completed his hat trick into an empty net. New Warrior netminder Xavier Burghardt made 31 saves for his second win of the season.

Owen Sillinger, the son of former NHLer Mike Sillinger, pulled the hat trick Thursday afternoon as the Penticton Vees iced the Langley Rivermen 6-4. The Vees also have high-scoring Boston product Ty Amonte, son of retired NHLer Tony Amonte.

Foreman bagged a deuce as West Kelowna brushed back the Coquitlam Express 5-3.