Mark Ferner has trimmed his roster to the final 23 but he’s not quite ready to make a serious assessment of his Vernon Vipers.
The Vipers split a pair of weekend exhibition games, both going to the B.C. Hockey League’s new shootout rule with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks while using several young prospects.
“Salmon Arm was better than us, but they were also a lot older,” said Ferner. “I’m not sure how we’re gonna be. Mitch Andres played five minutes of camp (eye injury), Carver Watson hasn’t played (rib injury) and (Jagger Williamson) Jags hasn’t played (shingles). We’ll wait and see when we have our full lineup.”
Ferner cut down to eight defencemen and 13 forwards after Saturday night’s 3-2 win before 1,200 fans at Kal Tire Place. He had last week named Aidan Porter and Aidan Hosein as his goaltenders.
Brendan Kim, 18, of Burnaby, Trey Taylor, 16, of Abbotsford and 16-year-old Nicholas Ardanaz of Surrey join veterans Watson, Andres, Michael Young, Jack Judson and Austin Chorney on the back end.
Vernon minor hockey grad Nick Cherkowski, who turns 18 in October, cracked the roster along with nine returning vets, summer commits Nick Wildgoose, Teddy Wooding, and Logan Cash, and late signing Ben Helgeson.
Hometown fans only witnessed 3:47 of new defenceman Austin Chorney, obtained in a trade last week. Chorney was assessed a checking-from-behind penalty in the Vernon zone and then fought Demtri Kambeitz.
Chorney, a Calgary Flames fan, was a linebacker in football and ran sprints in track, mainly for cross-training. He also played some lacrosse. The rugged 6-foot-1, 212-pounder racked up six goals, 10 points and 47 penalty minutes with the Silverbacks last season.
“My rights were in Nanaimo and I got traded here and I’m thrilled about it,” said Chorney, moments after Saturday’s win. “I think we’ve got a really good group of guys so I’m super excited about the season. I can’t wait for it to get going.”
Chorney, who is entering his third BCHL season, brings a well-rounded game to the Vipers den.
“I think I’m a pretty physical guy. My strengths are my physicality and my skating as well. I play defence first but I can also chip in offensively once in a while. I’ve got a pretty good shot and I can beat guys one on one too but primarily I focus on defence.”
He “got a lot of looks at Vernon” last year and expects the Vipers to again be big, physical, fast and hard to play against this season.
Teddy Wooding, a co-captain with Rivers High School in Weston, Mass. last year, earned the first star Saturday with 1+1 while going up the middle on an all-American line with Wildgoose and Helgeson. Wooding, who has an NCAA scholarship with Yale Bulldogs, is loving life in Vernon
“It’s definitely different than high school hockey,” said the 18-year-old. “It’s a lot more fast paced and a lot more hard-hitting and bigger guys, but I’m trying to adjust and it’s been fun so far.”
Wooding, who got good reviews from Young and former Viper Joe Sacco about the Vipers, helped set up Young for a powerplay goal on a low point shot in the second period. Taylor drew the other assist.
Wooding banged in the 2-2 equalizer with 4:03 to play after some strong forechecking by d-man Raj Sangha and forward Connor Marritt.
“We were doing good, buzzing the offensive zone,” said Wooding. “We probably could have got the puck out of the defensive zone a little bit more which we’ll be focusing on probably in practice and upcoming games.”
On the Vipers in general, Wooding said: “It’s a great group of guys, a great group of hockey players. They’re all very good players and all great people so I’m looking forward to this year.
A lacrosse player before turning all his focus to hockey, Wooding was a Vegas Golden Knights fan right from the start.
“Everybody says I’m a bandwagon fan, but I was a fan even before they made their team,” he laughed.
D Andy Stevens, on a power play, and Hudson Schandor, on a gorgeous back-door shot with 6:22 left, handled the Salmon Arm offence.
Josh Prokop made some sick moves for Vernon’s first shootout snipe, while Helgeson won it with a backhander five-hole. Schandor and Nick Unruh of the Silverbacks both struck iron behind Porter.
The Silverbacks won 3-2 Friday night at the Shaw Centre with Wildgoose and Elan Bar-Lev-Wise scoring Viper regulation goals. Wooding and Bar-Lev-Wise missed in the shootout.
The Vipers open the 57th BCHL season Friday night at home against the defending champion Wenatchee Wild.