The Vernon Vipers were down to two goalies, seven defencemen and 17 forwards as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Head coach/director of player personnel Mark Ferner was manning the phones trying desparately to move a couple of forwards before the 56th B.C. Hockey League season opens Friday night.
“We’ve got some tough decisions to make,” said Ferner. “We have 26 players and we have to be down to 23 by Friday so it won’t be easy.”
The Vipers released a handful of young prospects, including local forward Nicholas Cherkowski who scored once as the Vipers grounded the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-3 in exhibition play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Cherkowski, 17, had a strong camp but the Vipers are loaded up front with veterans.
Vernon product Conor Webb, a goalie who also sparkled in camp, was also cut due to the arrival of former Wenatchee Wild net detective Anthony Yamnitsky.
Yamnitsky and incumbent Ty Taylor evenly shared the highly physical pre-season tilt.
“For a guy who hasn’t been in many practices yet, he was sold and he just adds the veteran experience back there,” said Ferner of Yamnitsky, who sported the league’s third-best numbers a year ago. “Ty came in and did a great job too.”
Out of Ohio, Yamnitsky was 31-7 with a 2.23 GAA with the league champion Wild last season. He had no chance on a 5-on-3 powerplay goal Saturday.
The 20-year-old says the veteran lineup will help the freshmen “grow quickly” in the ultra-competitive BCHL. He’s already high on living in Vernon, where he swiped a game with Wenatchee last year.
“First of all, where I’m living, you can see the mountains and water, which I’m big on, and I love it,” he said. “The fans were awesome and the players and the city are top-notch.”
Sophomore blueliner Chris Jandric wired a pair of point-shot snipes for Vernon, which finished the pre-season with three wins and one overtime loss.
“It felt like a playoff game; they came out hard,” said Jandric, a Prince George product who rang up 21 points last year.
D-man Michael Young and centre Jordan Sandhu, with the empty netter, completed the Viper offence.
The Snakes visit the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday night to open the season.
The same two teams are in Vernon for a 6 p.m. faceoff Saturday.