Nick Cherkowski of the Vernon Vipers and Kyle Chernenkoff of the Trail Smoke Eaters battle for the puck in the corner in BCHL action earlier this season at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek/Morning Star)

Vernon’s Cherkowski signs with Merrimack

Viper winger earns NCAA Division 1 scholarship

One quick tour of Merrimack College near Boston and Vernon Vipers winger Nick Cherkowski was all in.

The 18-year-old Vernon Vipers winger has committed to the NCAA Division 1 Warriors for the 2021 hockey season.

“I called the head coach (Scott Borek) around 10 o’clock yesterday morning and committed,” said Cherkowski. “They have been in contact with me a few times this season and I went on a fly-down early last week. I absolutely loved the campus; it’s small and in a cool spot. It’s a nice area in rural Massachusetts; really pretty with lots of big trees.

“Everything felt good right away. I liked the campus and the direction the program is going. I spoke to some of the academic advisors and I really like the opportunities I will have after hockey.”

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Cherkowski is an 18-year-old Vernon minor hockey grad who has one goal and four points through 15 games in his first season with the Vipers. The smooth skating 6-foot, 175-pounder pocketed his first BCHL goal last Saturday in Port Alberni.

“We are absolutely thrilled for Nick and his family,” said Vernon head coach/GM Mark Ferner. “He’s a great player, teammate and person and it’s always special when these commitments happen to local kids.”

Cherkowski, whose sister, Anne, has secured a hockey scholarship with the University of Minnesota Gophers, feels relief having his schooling locked up.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” said the soft-spoken son of local lawyer Kevin Cherkowski. “It’s been a goal of mine for a long time.”

A skate-till-ya-drop forward on a line with fellow minor hockey grad Coleton Bilodeau and Kjell Kjemhus, Cherkowski said the Warriors were high on his all-around game.

“They liked my big, fast kind of hard-working, all-over-the-puck game,” he said.

Merrimack College is a member of Hockey East. They play at the 2,549-seat J. Thom Lawler Rink in North Andover, Mass.

Meanwhile, the Vipers announced that 18-year-old Max Palaga has joined the Western League Everett Silvertips after his playing rights were moved from Kamloops to Everett in a trade. Palaga put up solid numbers in five starts with the Vipers, posting a 1.77 goals against average and a .943 save percentage with one shutout. He went 2-2-1.

Palaga, a Kamloops product, was 5-7-1 with the WHL Kamloops Blazers last year.

The Vipers have summoned Johnny Derrick, 16, from the West Vancouver Academy Prep team to back up starting goalie Aidan Porter.

Derrick, a 6-foot-2, 174-pounder, has a 2.58 GAA and .931 save percentage through seven games in the Canadian school academy league.

The Vipers host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks tonight at 7:00. Vernon will be without alternate captain Jesse Lansdell, who has been suspended eight games for a blow to the head penalty in an Oct. 21 game in Salmon Arm.

The Silverbacks asked the league for supplemental discipline, while the Vipers appealed the suspension without any luck. It was Lansdell’s second such penalty of the season. He was suspended for four games after the first offence.

Salmon Arm, who are two points ahead of the Vipers in the Interior Division, have added Tyler Shattock as an assistant Coach.

Shattock, a 28-year-old Shuswap product who was born in Vernon, played four full seasons with the Kamloops Blazers and ended his career with the WHL Calgary Hitmen and played in the 2010 Memorial Cup in Brandon, earning seven points in four games.

In 2009, he was drafted in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft by the St Louis Blues. After graduating from the WHL, Shattock played four seasons in the AHL and another three years ECHL. Last season, Shattock rang up 28 points in 39 games with the Braehead Clann the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey league. He joins head coach Scott Atkinson and assistant Tanner Cochrane.

“Scotty and Tanner have welcomed me and I can’t thank them enough,” said Shattuck. “Learning from them has been an awesome experience for me. I look forward to the opportunity to help grow the winning/professional culture that Scotty and tanner have built here in Salmon Arm. I can draw from my experiences at all different levels and help the players with what can help them be successful at the junior level and also the college/pro level as well.”


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