Viper goalie Ty Taylor protects his crease with help from Niko Karamanis, left, Quinton Ong (on his knees), Sol Seibel and Chris Jandric in BCHL exhibition play against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday night at the Shaw Centre. (Jim Elliot/Black Press)

Vipers face tough choices

The Vernon Vipers of the B.C. Hockey League have too much talent for the 23 roster spots available

Mark Ferner went for a hike early Tuesday afternoon. Foremost on his mind was how to finalize his lineup for the 56th B.C. Hockey League season.

It is very evident there are too many talented players in the Vernon Vipers’ camp for the 23 roster spots.

“Some of our young guys are pushing some veterans hard so we’re going to have some very tough decisions to make,” said Ferner, Viper head coach and director of player personnel.

The Vipers have three goalies, 17 forwards and 10 defencemen left in camp and more veterans have called Ferner requesting a place to play. Vernon hosts the Prince George Spruce Kings in exhibition action Thursday night at Kal Tire Place.

“This is the most talent I’ve seen on a team,” said fourth-year forward Jagger Williamson, an alternate captain last year. “All the young guys, (Alex) Swetlikoff, (Josh) Prokop and the list goes on, and there are still jobs to play for. It’s going to be tough. I wouldn’t want to be Mark in this situation; good luck to him. It’s gonna be a good team.”

Mike Ufberg, Shane Kelly, Chris Jandric and Sol Seibel are returnees on the back end, where Boston newcomer Michael Young has a lock for a spot. Prize prospect Jack Judson looks to be more than ready so Ferner has one or two d-men to sign.

Up front, the Vipers pretty much have six lines that can play in the league. The core group of Williamson, Jimmy Lambert, Brett Stapley, Niko Karamanis and Jesse Lansdell is safe. So are newbies Keyvan Mohktari and Jordan Sandhu, BCHL stars obtained in summer trades, and recently acquired F Finn Evans.

Returning forwards Simon Sagissor, Ryan Brushett and Brody Dale are not only battling sweet prospects Swetlikoff and Prokop, but ultra-talented rookies Coleton Bilodeau, Connor Marritt, Quinton Ong, Adam Panacci and Nick Cherkowski. Ty Taylor is the starting goalie with Conor Webb vying to be his caddy. There are, however, still more experienced net detectives hovering around the BCHL and WHL.

Young, meanwhile, connected twice on powerplay lasers from the point as the Vipers clipped the Silverbacks 4-3 in pre-season play Saturday night at the Salmon Arm Shaw Centre.

“They were absolute cannons,” said Ferner. “I don’t think the goalie moved.”

Jandric, on a 5-on-3 man advantage, and Christian Sanda, on a fray in front, had the other Viper goals. Sanda has been released.

Taylor allowed one goal in 30 minutes work, while 16-year-old Johnny Derrick allowed the other two snipes.

SNAKE BITES: The Trail Smoke Eaters visit Kal Tire Place Saturday night…Vernon opens the regular season Friday, Sept. 8 versus the Silverbacks in the Shuswap. The Vipers’ home opener is the next night…The Smokies lost 4-2 to the Wenatchee Wild, while West Kelowna Warriors iced Merritt Centennials 5-1.

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