The first weekend of Viper hockey is in the books and after four days of practices, scrimmages and one exhibition game, the group has been cut down from 65 prospects to 26.
“Camp has been going good. The young guys and prospects have got a lot of ice time and looked really good out there,” said Vipers’ head coach/GM Jason Williamson.
The training camp week was highlighted when the Vipers stuffed the Penticton Vees 5-3 in exhibition play Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
“It was a decent game, it was kind of hard for me to tell. They played well, finished their checks and threw a lot of pucks on net,” said Viper captain Riley Guenther, who watched from the press box.
Earlier in the week, the Canadian Junior Hockey League released the pre-season top-20 rankings with the Vees in second. Williamson says he doesn’t pay any attention to those lists.
“We played all our young kids in that game. There wasn’t a single guy on that Penticton team that will be with them in the regular season,” said Williamson.
Former Viper Demico Hannoun didn’t suit up for the Vees.
The Vipers will get their first crack at the real Vees when they roll into town, Friday, Oct. 17.
For the Vipers’ new captain, this camp had a new feel compared to previous camps.
“It felt a little different having the younger guys look up to you,” said Guenther. “I just tried to set an example, lead by example and give it my all and hopefully they will follow,”
Guenther, a Calgary product, will be one of five returnees from last year’s roster. He enters his final season with the Snakes. Guenther logged 83 games from 2010-2013 with the Tri-City Americans and the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League.
In 49 games with the Vipers last year, the smooth-skating blueliner supplied six goals and 23 points. A younger Viper roster will be leaning on that experience come the regular season.
“Definitely a different feel this year. The biggest thing we need to bring back is that winning culture and a winning attitude. We all need to be on the same page with our compete level,” said Guenther.
As it stands, Williamson has whittled the roster down to 15 forwards, nine defencemen and two goaltenders. He hopes to finalize his lineup following this weekend’s exhibition games with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
The Vipers battle the SilverBacks Friday night at the Shaw Centre and return to Kal Tire Place for a 6 p.m. rematch Saturday.
One line of youngsters that has caught the boss’ eye, has been the unit of Seattle Thunderbird draft Jagger Williamson, Blaine Caton and Linden Hora. Williamson and Caton are local kids and Hora played his Major Midget in Kelowna (national bronze medal for Rockets), and will be staying in town with his grandparents.
“The have come a long way so far. They are working well out there and playing well as a line,” said Jason Williamson.
The team cashed in on an off-day Tuesday and resume skating this afternoon.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Liam Coughlin, returns to Vipers’ camp this week. Coughlin sniped 18 goals and 45 points last season and originally committed to Boston University Terriers for the 2014-15, but will upgrade his schooling in Vernon.
Coughlin, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound centre, was selected 130th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the summer entry draft.
Among those players released was Vernon Home Hardware Midget Viper forward Jeff Bochon, who will play for the Kootenay International League’s Revelstoke Grizzlies.