Vernon Vipers duo Jack Judson and Alex Swetlikoff have been invited to play in the prestigious CJHL Prospects Game in late January.
The Canadian Junior Hockey League, in partnership with the National Hockey League and Hockey Canada, as well as in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting, announced Tuesday the playing rosters for the upcoming CJHL Prospects Game, which will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019 in Okotoks, Alta.
“Each of the players chosen to participate in the CJHL Prospects Game was selected through the efforts of NHL Central Scouting and are currently among the top 40 CJHL prospects heading into the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver,” the league said in a press release.
The Vipers play in Penticton Wednesday night after a 3-1 loss against Cowichan Valley Friday and a 3-2 loss to Salmon Arm Saturday despite outshooting the Silverbacks 51-27.
Last Wednesday, the Vipers downed the Trail Smoke Eaters 3-2 in overtime at the Cominco Arena in Trail.
Vipers forward Mitch Andres sniped a shot over the glove of Trail Smoke Eaters goalie Adam Marcoux to give the Snakes a 3-2 overtime victory 64 seconds into the 3-on-3 OT for Vernon’s first win in extra time in 10 tries.
Both the Vipers and the Smoke Eaters were on three-game losing streaks coming into Wednesday’s game and most expected an intense and heated match up. However, the game was an uncharacteristically tame affair, with only three minor penalties called throughout the match.
The Vipers jumped out to an early lead when Matt Kowalski skated down the right wing, chipped the puck to Elan Bar Lev Wise, and the Vipers forward snapped it past the blocker of Marcoux just 1:40 into the first period.
Just over six minutes later, Teddy Wooding took a pass down low from Landon Fuller, and from a sharp angle fired it by the Smoke Eater goalie for a 2-0 Vipers lead.
The Vipers were severely shorthanded coming into the match, with Alex Swetlikoff and Jack Judson playing for Team West at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta. and five more sidelined with injury. The Vipers kept the game simple, played tight defensively, allowing the Smokies few chances, and when they did break through goalie Bradley Cooper made the stops.
“It’s never easy coming here,” said Vipers coach and GM Mark Ferner. “It’s a good hockey team we’re playing and with the number of bodies being out, we just asked for an effort. We were fortunate, we got off to a little bit better start, a couple goals, and a little cushion, but you know they’re going to come back.”
Smokies defenceman Jimmy Darby tallied his first of the season slapping a knuckleball from the point that eluded Cooper and cut the lead to 2-1 at 18:37 of the second period, with assists to Max Kryski and AP Michael Hagen.
Chase Stevenson notched his 13th of the season at 12:15 of the third period, one-timing a pass from Braden Tuck, and, after the initial shot was blocked, he scooped up the rebound and wristed it over the blocker of Cooper to tie the game at 2-2.
The teams traded chances in the final minutes but neither could capitalize. The loss brings the Smokies overtime record to 1-7, while the positive outcome for the Vipers gives the sixth place team in the Interior a 1-9 record in extra periods this season.
“Six losses, three shootouts, and now we got one so hopefully the snide is off our backs,” said Ferner. “It’s unfortunate for the fans too. Yes we had a number of guys out but so did Trail and maybe you’re not getting the best product when you have so many bodies out, but you still have to play the game, and fortunately we came out on the right end of it.”
The Vipers have been hit hard by WHL defections this season, with four players leaving the Snakes in favour of Major Junior. Forward Josh Prokop went to the Calgary Hitmen, goalie Max Palaga to the Everett Silvertips, Sebastian Streu to the Regina Pats, and just last week the Kelowna Rockets acquired the rights to Swetlikoff, a Kelowna native.
“We got nine guys out of the line up right now, but the thing that hurts us the most is we also lost four guys to the Western (Hockey) League,” said Ferner. “And you don’t get anything back for that. You get a card, but when they leave during the season, where do you find that player without dismantling your group? We just try to be as positive as possible.”
The Vipers outshot the Smokies 26-24 and were 0-for-1 on the power play, while Trail went 0-for-2. Andres earned first star honours, Darby second star, and Wooding third star.
— With files from Jim Bailey, Trail Daily Times
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