The Vernon Vipers will have two new faces on their blueline tonight (7 p.m.) when they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at Kal Tire Place.
In his first act as GM since returning to the club early in the season, Mark Ferner acquired a pair of defencemen in a four-player B.C. Hockey League deal with the Victoria Grizzlies Wednesday afternoon.
Joining the Snake Pit are 18-year-old Mitch Meek and 20-year-old Brandon Egli, in exchange for d-man Jake Emilio, 20, and forward Ayden MacDonald, 18. Vernon will also receive future considerations as part of the trade.
“When you can add two quality players – and we don’t lose any years – you have to look at it,” said Ferner, renowned for his defence-first approach to coaching.
Meek and Egli, both Victoria products, are BCHL veterans, having appeared in a combined 211 games. That is 134 more games than the rest of Vernon’s defence combined.
“It’s going to be a while before some of the newer guys get comfortable in the league,” said Ferner.
“These kids were sought after by other teams in the league. Both kids have scholarships, they played for a good program in Victoria. We feel like we’re bringing in a couple of experienced guys.
Meek has one goal and one assist in six games with the Grizz, and is committed to the NCAA Division 1 Clarkson Golden Knights for next season. He compiled 4-20-24 in 93 career games.
Egli, who is committed to the UMass Minutemen, racked up 11 goals and 35 points in his third season with Victoria. He has yet to register a point in two games this year.
“I’m pretty excited about it, especially playing for coach Ferner,” said Egli, who drove out Thursday in time for afternoon practice. “And Vernon’s such a great hockey town.
“It’s always a bit of a culture change going from town to town, but going to the Interior I was happy about it.”
Egli, who played his first year in Trail, was happy to learn Meek would be joining him in Vernon.
“He’s a Victoria boy too, and he’s a good guy. If I had to pick somebody to come out there with, Meek would be a good choice.”
Meek had to fly to Kelowna Thursday as his car was in the shop. He is familiar with the Okanagan having played with Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence academy as a 14-year-old.
“It was definitely shocking, but I’m looking at it all positively,” said Meek, of being traded for the first time. “You just want to prove them (Grizzlies) wrong. There’s no hard feelings though; they gave me two great years.
“I’m excited to get in the swing of things early. I don’t know where I’ll slot in, I’m just going to come there and work hard.”
Ferner did his homework on his two new d-men by calling former Grizzlies’ coach Bill Bestwick, who gave them both solid character references.
“It made that a bit easier, because we know we’re getting two good guys,” said Ferner.
The Silverbacks (3-2-0-2), who are one point ahead of Vernon (3-3-0-1) in the Interior, gave up a two-goal lead as they fell 3-2 to the host Surrey Eagles in overtime Wednesday night. It was their second straight OT loss.
Ferner admitted he has been so busy focussing on his own team that he knows little about the ‘Backs. However, he can lean on assistant coaches Kevin Kraus and Eric Godard, who were both with Salmon Arm last season.
“Obviously, Krauser and Eric will know that team better,” said Ferner. “We’re just going to focus on us. I’m just trying to work with the team and get a foundation in place that they can believe in.”
The rejuvenated Chilliwack Chiefs (5-1), under new head coach Jason Tatarnic (formerly coached the Woodstock Slammers) will visit the Big Wheel Saturday (6 p.m.).
In other Wednesday night action, the Penticton Vees doubled the Merritt Centennials 4-2 in front of 2,114 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The Vees (7-1) are first overall, while Merritt and West Kelowna share second in the Interior at 5-2.
SNAKE BITES: Vernon d-man Kenny Citron will miss this weekend’s action with an upper-body injury, while fellow blueliner Luke Shiplo is still recovering from a broken hand suffered in main camp… Bestwick, now a scout with the NHL St. Louis Blues, was at Viper practice Thursday afternoon.