The Vernon Vipers are showing early signs of being a contender in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Conference.
The Snakes stopped the Nanaimo Clippers 6-3 in a Bauer Showcase Friday matinee at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack. Vernon finished the four-day extravaganza against the Wenatchee Wild Saturday night.
Winger Steven Jandric supplied 2+1, while rookie defenceman Carter Stephenson also scored twice for the Vipers (4-1) to earn first star. Stephenson was second star.
“They (Nanaimo) were a little chippy and our powerplay took advantage (twice),” said Viper head coach Mark Ferner. “We used three lines on the powerplay and the guys are still learning the 1-3-1.”
Stephenson and Jandric recorded power play snipes as Vernon enjoyed period leads of 2-1 and 5-3.
Newcomer Ryan Brushett, an 18-year-old Quebec product, and Philadelphia rookie d-man Michael Ufberg provided the other Viper goals in front of red-hot rookie Ty Taylor. Vernon outshot Nanaimo 36-33.
“The new guy (Brushett) is pretty smart and pretty slick on the puck; he distributed it real well,” said Ferner. “The goal he scored was real nice. He got the puck in traffic and beat a couple of guys.”
Brushett bagged two goals and 10 points with the USHL Sioux Falls Stampede and Bloomington Thunder last season. The Verdun native has committed to the NCAA Providence Friars.
Vernon product Matt Kowalski, Ben Solin and third star Adam Pilotte replied for Nanaimo.
Kowalski, an Okanagan Rocket grad, tipped a shot near post by Taylor Karel midway through the second period, narrowing Vernon’s lead to 4-2.
“They simply outworked us,” said Kowalski. “We just have to work harder and be smarter and be better as a team. Vernon has a pretty smart group of guys and they definitely have some physical forwards. They like to hit.”
Kowalski played on a few different lines as head coach Mike Vandekamp went with 11 forwards.
Centre Niko Karamanis chipped in with two assists for the Snakes. The Jandric-Karamanis-Jimmy Lambert combined for six points.
Captain Riley Brandt took the Fortis Energy Player of the Game. The Vipers went to Chilliwack’s finest Italian restaurant – Bozzini’s – for a post-game dinner.
Taylor improved to 3-0, while Austin Roden suffered the loss.
Vernon welcomed 20-year-old bruising Madison, Wisc. native Cooper Watson to their hotel Saturday night. He was not expected to play versus Wenatchee.
Watson, a towering big higger, spent the last two seasons with the Madison Capitols of the USHL. He has a scholarship to the Michigan Tech Huskies for next year. Viper alternate captain Jagger Williamson has committed to the same Division 1 school, where Watson’s brother, Cliff, is captain.
“Wenatchee will be our toughest test so far,” said Ferner. “They’re quick and they come at you fast. They were unfortunate not to beat Powell River; they outshot them 50-24 and lost 5-4 in overtime.”
Ontario product Kyle Betts, who has a schollie with Cornell Big Red, supplied 2+1 for the Kings.
All 17 teams will play twice at the fifth Showcase, attended by more than 75 NCAA, CIS and NHL scouts.
The defending BCHL champion Penticton Vees shaded the Prince George Spruce Kings 3-2 Friday to join the 2016 national champion West Kelowna Warriors and Vipers atop the Interior table.
Okanagan Rocket grad Linden Hora netted the winner on a powerplay at 13:29 of the first period as the Chilliwack Chiefs shut down the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-0 Friday.
The Cowichan Valley Capitals brushed off the Merritt Centennials 4-2 Friday afternoon. Vernon’s Brett Jewell, captain of the Cents, had one goal.
Cowichan clipped the Surrey Eagles 3-2, while the Prince George Spruce Kings mauled Merritt 7-2 in other Thursday action. Jewell scored once for Merritt.
SNAKEBITES: Forwards Nick Rasovic and Brett Stapley are on Vernon’s injured reserve list…The Vipers visit Powell River Friday night, move over to Port Alberni Saturday and finish the weekend Sunday afternoon in Nanaimo…Next home game is Friday, Oct. 7 against Surrey…F Sahir Gill, who helped the Vipers win back-to-back Royal Bank Cups n 2009-10, is attending the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp. The Terrace native rang up 14 points in 21 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens of the American League last season. The speedy Gill played university hockey for the Boston Terriers…Jared Turcotte’s goal had th Salmon Arm Silverbacks leading the Clippers 1-0 early in a Saturday morning tilt.