They are sitting on chairs in a dressing room which resembled Noah’s Ark a few weeks ago.The Vernon Vipers, however, are simply going with the flow early in the B.C. Hockey League season.
At 2-0, the Vipers may not have the luxurious headquarters they are used to but nobody is complaining as they prepare to face the Coquitlam Express (1-1) Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
“It’s not exactly what I thought it would be like my first year, but it’s like a road game,” smiled forward Niko Karamanis. “It’s fun stuff, a new wrinkle.”
Added veteran forward Steven Jandric: “It’s fine because we still have our room. It’s no big deal really.”
The Vipers swept the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last weekend and appear to have a better transition game than last year already. There are 12 new faces, including d-men Chris Jandric and Carter Stephenson, who were summoned from Major Midget a few times last season.
“We’ve got some mean guys, I really like our dee core and we’re going to be a group that works hard every night,” said third-year winger Jagger Williamson.
Williamson, a Michigan Tech Huskies commit, says the rookies know he’s available for advice and admits making an early exit from the playoffs last season did spoil his summer somewhat.
“That’s definitely in the back of the your head. We don’t want to lose first round this year. I really like our group and think we’ll do a lot better this year.”
The Snakes, who are two players under both the import and 20-year-old limits, showed moxy in both victories, especially in Saturday’s comeback.
“I think we’re got a special group here,” said Karamanis. “They’re all buying in from Day 1. Usually, it takes a couple of weeks or months for that to happen.”
“I think we’re a pretty hard working group. We’re loaded on the back end and we’re carrying eight defencemen; all of them can play so we should be able to get up and down the ice real good. We just gotta work on chemistry.”
Karamanis worked out with a personal trainer all summer at home in Comox. He wants a NCAA scholarship and the numbers whiz plans to study economics or statistics.
The Express lost 8-1 to the Langley Rivermen and outlasted the Surrey Eagles 8-7 in their opening games.
“They play (coach Barry Wolff) Wolffie’s style so they’re gonna try and beat us 10-9,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner. “We just have to be responsible.”
The Vipers have a few players battling strepthroat so Ferner wasn’t sure Thursday who was in or out for Coquitlam. Cole Demers of Kelowna will likely start in net after fellow rookie Ty Taylor won both his starts.
The Express leadership group is powered by 20-year-old captain Luca Leone and rotating alternates Cam Bertsch, Dom Masellis, Keegan Jones, Blake Hayward and Alex Ambrosio.
SNAKE BITES: F Marcus Mitchell of the Silverbacks has committed to Michigan Tech of the WCHA for the 2018-2019 season. “Marcus had a very good rookie season last year and put himself on the radar with many NCAA schools to start this season and after his visit a few weeks ago to Houghton, Michigan he was sold ,” said Salmon Arm GM Troy Mick. Mitchell is from Kelowna. Michigan Tech has four Backs alumni on their current roster: Alex Gillies (of Vernon), Shane Hanna, Evan Anderson and Angus Redmond…Viper grad Connor Jones skated again with the team all week. He and twin, Kellen, in the U.S. with his girlfriend, will play for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL this season…Vernon’s Noah Turanski, an 18-year-old D, is in his third year with the Express…The Vipers visit the defending national champion West Kelowna Warriors Saturday night.