Morning Star/Black Press Sports
A doubleheader with the Trail Smoke Eaters showed head coach/GM Mark Ferner a few things he may not have known about his Vernon Vipers.
Tonight, he will likely learn even more as the Snakes visit the defending B.C. Hockey League champion Penticton Vees.
The Vipers split with the stubborn Smokies by winning 5-2 Saturday night at Cominco Arena.
Penticton was ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League pre-season poll, based on last year’s results and returning stud forwards Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro.
“You have to respect them,” said Ferner. “They’re defending champions and they have a lot of firepower over there. It’s gonna be a good test for us.”
The Vees, who lost 4-2 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in their opener, sent sophomore goalie Brandon Barry home Sunday for violating team rules. Barry won 10 of 14 games as a rookie for the Vees last season putting up two shutouts with a 2.06 goals against average and .912 save percentage.
Anthony Brodeur, the son of NHL legend Martin Brodeur, is expected to start in the Penticton goal.
The Vees also added 19-year-old D David Eccles from the Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime League for Tyler Niven and the CJAHL playing rights of Ryan Coghlan.
Eccles played last season for the Carleton Place Canadians, who faced the Vees in the semifinal of the RBC Cup in Portage la Prairie, Man.
“David is a seasoned blueliner who’s played at the highest level in the RBC Cup and experience like that is invaluable,” said Vees coach/GM Fred Harbinson. “His size will be a welcome addition to our backend, especially in a very competitive Interior Division.”
In Trail, Colton McCarthy netted what proved to be the winner on the powerplay midway through the first period on a feed from Trail native Riley Brandt and d-man Bo Pellah.
After Pellah’s point shot was stopped by Smokie goalie Bailey MacBurnie, McCarthy jumped on the rebound and fired it into the open net.
“I thought coming in tonight, our first period was a lot better and more business-like with our group,” said Ferner. “Again, Trail fought back and was a better team in the second period, and the third was a little bit even. It’s a tough game to play, especially when there’s so many penalties, and it’s early in the year you hope your powerplay can take advantage, and I thought our penalty kill did a pretty good job, and our goaltending was good too.”
Michael Roberts and Joe Cipollone supplied early goals 2:24 apart in the opening six minutes for the Vipers. Roberts took a pass from Cipollone in the slot and beat MacBurnie on a quick wrister top cheddar.
Cipollone benefitted from a turnover and wired one in off the post.
“They were playing catch-up on us all last night, but tonight they got the early ones and we didn’t seem to have an answer or didn’t have the jump or legs or whatever it is; maybe the home opener jitters, but we’re right back at it on Tuesday and hopefully we’ll rebound,” said Trail assistant coach Craig Clare.
Trail struck back when Kurt Black banged in a rebound off a Jake Kaupilla drive to the net at 8:25 of the first.
The Smokies clawed to within one in the second period when Black broke in on a breakaway but was stopped by Viper goalie Andrew Shortridge. Black regained control and passed to Kaupilla in front to make it 3-2.
Trail pressed in the second frame, firing 15 shots, including a breakaway try by Halloran who made a great move past the defence before getting stoned by Shortridge.
The Quinnipiac-bound goaltender kept the door closed in the third as Finlay tallied the insurance marker at 5:43 into the final frame, and Brandt ice it, finding an empty net with 3:15 remaining.
Brandt played in 33 games for the Smoke Eaters in 2013 before joining the Beaver Valley Nitehawks for their run to the 2014 Keystone Cup.
“It always feels good to comeback to my hometown and play in front of friends and family, and beating Trail always feels good.” said Brandt.
Vernon outshot Trail 39-37 with Finlay taking first star honours, Black second and Roberts the third.
SNAKE BITES: Viper d-man Mac Ferner sat out Game 1 of a two-game suspension for a hit-to-the-head major on Trail’s Rhett Wilcox Friday. Wilcox is out indefinitely with a concussion…F Nic Rasovic was the designated sitter for Vernon…D Darren Rizzolo made his Viper debut after the trade from Chilliwack…Penticton’s top recruits are F Owen Sillinger of Regina, F Easton Brodzinski of Minnesota and D Sam Jones of Penticton.