Morning Star Staff
They are 0-for-4 in the preseason, but Mark Ferner is getting a good glimpse at some possible future Vernon Vipers and not overly concerned with the losses.
The Vipers gave up an empty-netter and fell 4-2 to the defending B.C. Hockey League champion Penticton Vees Tuesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“Our kids hung tough,” said Ferner, who again pencilled in a rookie-laden roster. “We’re real close to making our final decisions. We invited these young kids to see what they can do so that’s why we’re keeping them. Some of them may be here next year.”
Ferner plans to dress more veterans as the Vipers finish the exhibition season with a home-and-home series against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, starting tonight at the Shaw Centre. Game time Saturday at Kal Tire Place is 6 p.m.
Philadelphia d-man Mike Ufberg and 15-year-old forward Ethan Scardina of White Rock supplied the Viper goals.
Vernon was assessed nine penalties and Penticton four, while Gavin Hubbard and Cole Demers shared the goaltending. Hubbard gave up two goals.
Owen Sillinger, Grant Cruikshank and Griffin Mendel all scored in the first period for the Vees, while Taylor Ward added the empty-netter.
Forward Kaden Black, a Vernon product, has impressed the Viper coaching staff with his work ethic in the preseason. The KIJHL veteran was not, as reported in Wednesday’s Morning Star, released by the team. New in camp is Tre Dupilka-Sales, who racked up 14 goals and 36 points with the Junior B Kamloops Storm last year. He is an 18-year-old from Kamloops, who pocketed 42 points as a Midget with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.
The Vees tied the West Kelowna Warriors 2-2 Wednesday night and had a few young faces in the lineup, including 16-year-olds Luke Bast (younger brother of Gabe) and Brendan Kim patrolling the blueline once again. Up front the Vees dressed two 15-year-olds in Massimo Rizzo and Connor Bouchard.
Rizzo rang up 60 goals and a whopping 137 points in Bantam last year with the Burnaby Winter Club.
Cruikshank scored two third-period goals, as the Vees and Warriors skated to a stalemate at Royal LePage Place.
The tie ended the Vees perfect start to the BCHL preseason but they remain undefeated at 3-0-1.
Cruikshank scored early and then late in the final frame, as the Vees erased a two-goal deficit through two periods. The future Wisconsin Badger cut the lead in half two-minutes in, on a great individual effort down the middle.
After side-stepping the defender, Cruikshank finished the rush by sliding the puck through the goalie’s wickets. Then, during a five-on-three powerplay, Cruikshank hammered a one-timer from between the face-off circles that sizzled by the goalie’s glove at 18:07.
West Kelowna broke the scoreless tie three-minutes into the middle stanza on a rebound out front. Nolan Hildebrand made the first save but no one picked up the trailer and Jon Russell buried to put the home team ahead.
Then just past the halfway mark, Hildebrand got crossed up behind his net attempting to play the puck, allowing Quin Foreman to curl around the goal and tuck in on the far side at 10:24. In a scoreless first period, the Vees’ best chance came off the stick of Chris Klack. On an odd-man rush, Klack kept the puck but couldn’t stuff it underneath the goalie at the near-post.