It is a typical afternoon practice for the Vernon Vipers at Wesbild Centre. No. 21 skates along the players’ bench and gives No. 4 a “friendly” chop to the back of the leg.
The defiant scowl he receives is one seen the world over; it is little brother letting big bro know two things. First, that he can take it, and secondly, that payback is imminent.
The moment passes, practice goes on and in some strange way, the bond between brothers Pearce (No. 21) and Bryce (No. 4) Eviston gets that much deeper.
“We’re really close as brothers, but we’re not afraid to get competitive,” said Pearce, a 20-year-old Vancouver native who spent the last two seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks.
Pearce, second on team scoring with 8-14-22 in 29 games, struggled to find his groove at the start of the season, but seems to have found his touch since being paired with Adam Tambellini.
“That first bit of the season, I was getting frustrated. I couldn’t really do much and then me and Tamby got put together and started clicking,” he said. “I’ve had a few games where I’ve put up numerous points and that feels really good and it helps your confidence a lot.”
Bryce, a rookie defenceman, isn’t overly flashy, but has shown poise for a first-year player. He has yet to record a B.C. Hockey League point in 27 games as the Vipers, last in the Interior at 10-13-0-7, entertain the first-place Vees (20-8-0-3) tonight at Wesbild Centre. Vernon visits the Trail Smoke Eaters (14-18-0-1) Saturday at Cominco Arena.
“My role is a little bit limited but that’s fine,” said Bryce, 18. “Just keep on working hard and good things will come.
“He’s (Pearce) always giving me supportive words and telling me to keep going and do whatever I can to help the team.”
The past few seasons have been a struggle for Pearce. After torching goalies with the Victoria Grizzlies in 2010-11 (58 points in 44 games), he made the jump to the Dub. However, a torn labrum in his hip derailed his progress with the Hawks.
“Right before I was going to leave for training camp in Portland (in 2011-12), I got an MRI done and found out I needed hip surgery,” he said.
“It was just a build-up of a lot of things.”
Pearce spent a month on crutches, started skating after three months, and was back in the Winterhawk lineup after half a year.
“I missed half the season and when I came back I just wasn’t the same. I missed a step,” he said.
“I feel like I’m getting back to how I was in Victoria. It was a long process.”
The Vipers acquired Pearce’s Junior A rights from the Grizz in exchange for Jarryd Ten Vaanholt early last season, and with things not working out so well in Portland, Vernon became his best option.
“It (Portland) was a good program, a good organization but it just wasn’t right for me,” said Pearce. “It was a good decision. I don’t regret anything.”
Meanwhile, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks pushed their BCHL win streak to three with a 2-1 decision over the Vees Wednesday night in Penticton.