Vipers to honour ‘Blackie’ tonight

The Vernon Vipers will show a video tribute to former head scout Larry Black tonight at Kal Tire Place.

Larry Black

Larry Black

The Vernon Vipers will show a video tribute to former head scout Larry Black tonight at Kal Tire Place.

The night gets even tougher afterwards as the Snakes tackle the high-powered Penticton Vees in B.C. Hockey League action. Fans are urged to bring a stuffie as it’s the annual Teddy Bear Toss.

The No. 6-ranked Vees toppled the Trail Smoke Eaters 3-1 Wednesday night and are now 24-4-0-1, 14 points clear of second place Vernon (16-7-1-2). Penticton is 14-3 against the Interior Division.

Vernon gave up two late powerplay goals and an empty netter in a 4-2 loss to the Vees three weeks ago at The Big Wheel. The Vees earlier posted 3-1 and 1-0 wins over the Vipers.

“I think we have to prepare like we do for any other team, but realize that Penticton are a lot more dangerous on the powerplay,” said Viper assistant coach Kevin Kraus.

“We have to be discplined, but if we do get in the box, our penalty kill has to be solid. The guys know they can compete with Penticton. We have to play a full 60 minutes and not take any shifts off.”

The Vipers hope to get even more offence from red-hot Luke Voltin tonight.

Voltin picked up nine points in three wins to earn the BCHL Player of the Week. The Blaine, Minn. product has 8-12-20, surpassing his previous career goal output of seven, two years ago with the USHL Des Moines Buccaneers. He scored three times last year with the Lincoln Stars.

“It was nice to see him score some nice goals,” said Kraus. “He had a tough time adjusting to the new league, but since we put him with (Liam) Finlay and (Jagger) Williamson, he’s been working hard for the whole shift and getting results.”

Penticton will have two former Western Leaguers in the lineup tonight. Right winger Dakota Conroy has four goals in five games since leaving the Prince Albert Raiders. The Edmonton product rang up 30 goals and 61 points playing alongside Leon Draisaitl (first-round Oiler draft) last season.

Right winger Connor Chartier has 2+4 in six games with the Vees. He amassed 14 goals and 32 points with the Spokane Chiefs last season.

Jordy Bellerive, 15, and veteran Jack Ramsey scored in the opening 1:47 before 2,150 fans Wednesday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Bellerive, summoned from the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, was chosen second overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. He posted 129 goals and 242 points in two Bantam seasons with North Shore Winter Club.

Hunter Miska recorded 22 saves for the win, going to 16-5. The Minnesota product was rated sixth among CJAHL players in NHL Central Scouting’s November Players to Watch List.

Ramsey, a 10-goal man drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks last season, is stoked about visiting Vernon.

“We like playing in their barn,” said the son of former Miracle on Ice d-man Mike Ramsey. “They have a really good crowd just like we do. We get fans out there too.It’s always fun, especially since they beat us last year. We always feel something every time we play them; that we owe something to the guys last year.

“Last year’s loss is not forgotten; that never really leaves your mind. the guys that came back from last year. they hurt pretty bad obviously. We thought we had the team.”

Meanwhile, Black will best be remembered for recruiting Connor and Kellen Jones.

The Kootenay twins boosted the B.C. Hockey League Vipers to a pair of Royal Bank Cups, joining others like Kyle Bigos and Chris Crowell, who were also prospects signed by Black.

Black died in Kelowna General Hospital Sunday after a nearly year-long battle with cancer. The father of three was 66.

“It’s a very sad day,” said Kraus on Monday. “He always tried to push me to do my best; he was a big part of my hockey life. He was like a father figure and helped me out last year in Salmon Arm (Kraus was an assistant coach).”

As head scout for the Vipers for the last six years (he was a regional scout for five years before that), Black helped source the talent that won the Snakes back-to-back Royal Bank Cup titles in 2009-10, plus a runner-up showing in ‘11.

Unable to come to a new contract agreement with the Vipers in May, 2013, Black, joined the Salmon Arm Silverbacks as their new assistant GM and director of player personnel.

Black lived in Vernon with wife Gay (he has three grown children and five grandchildren all living in the area), and has worked with six Vernon head coaches in 11 years – Mike Vandekamp, Troy Mick, Bernie Pimm, Mark Holick, Mark Ferner and Jason Williamson.

“The hockey world lost a great man last night but we all know Blackie fought ‘til the final horn. I have never seen a more passionate man for the well being of the players in all of my life, and his eye for talent was second to none,” said Mick, the Salmon Arm GM/president.

The Silverbacks will run the same video tribute at their Saturday home game.