Hannoun up for Challenge with Canada West crew

Demico Hannoun selected for Team Canada West; Vernon Vipers trade Mike Iovanna to Prince George.

Demico Hannoun is among 10 B.C. Hockey Leaguers headed for Yarmouth, N.S. to play with Team Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge starting Monday.

Hannoun, an 18-year-old forward from North Delta, was one of three Vernon Vipers to attend a four-day selection camp last weekend at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary. Forward Dexter Dancs and d-man Jared Wilson didn’t make the cut.

“Good for him,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson, of Hannoun. “Any time you have a member of your team make a team like that it’s exciting. He showed well at camp and will be a go-to guy for them.

“His puck skills and talent are second-to-none in the league. When he’s out and competing, he’s dangerous every time he steps on the ice.”

Williamson said Dancs and Wilson are disappointed, but added it is an honour just to be selected for the camp.

“It’s quite a good team. There’s probably quite a few good players just like them who didn’t make it and feel the same way.

“At the same time, I’m happy to have them back.”

Dancs and Wilson will be back in action tonight (7 p.m.) as the Vipers (9-6-1-3) continue a five-game home stand against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks (10-6-1-1) at Kal Tire Place.

New inductees to the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame will drop the ceremonial first puck for the game.

Troy Mick’s Gorillas lead the season series 2-1, with Vernon winning the last contest 3-2 on Oct. 5.

The ‘Backs, who doubled the Penticton Vees 4-2 in their lone BCHL tilt last weekend, will be without Vernon’s Alex Gillies, who was also tapped for Canada West.

“We just got to keep our game simple,” said Williamson. “They’re a very opportunistic team. We have to be physical on their forwards and we have to be throwing pucks to the net with guys crashing the crease. That’s when we’ve had success against them.”

Vernon captain Ryan Renz, who wasn’t quite ready for action last weekend, is probable for tonight. The defenceman from Castlegar missed the last 16 games with an ankle injury suffered in a fight with Salmon Arm captain Blake Box.

“It’s kind of ironic it’s Salmon Arm again,” said Williamson. “It’s exciting for our captain to be back in the lineup.”

To make room for Renz’ return from the injured reserve, Williamson traded forward Mike Iovanna to the Prince George Spruce Kings Thursday in exchange for future considerations. Iovanna, a Middleton, Mass. native, was pointless in playing limited minutes in 14 games with the Snakes.

Vernon entertains Bill Bestwick’s Victoria Grizzlies (9-6-1-1) in a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday.

The Grizz are led by two of the three Fitzgerald triplets – Gerry has 13-10-23 in 17 games, and Myles has 6-16-22 in 17 games. Leo has played just four games with Victoria and is not expected to play this weekend.

The 22-man Canada West roster (two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards) was selected by Canada West head coach Jason McKee (Spruce Grove, AJHL), along with assistant coaches Trent Cassan (Yorkton, SJHL) and Ryan Smith (Selkirk, MJHL), and manager Shawn Bullock (Hockey Canada).

Players named to the team were selected from the CJHL’s five western leagues, with the AJHL sending 11 players and Saskatchewan sending one. Neither the Manitoba nor the Superior International league (SIJHL) out of Ontario had a player named.

Canada West will play in Group B at the  Challenge, joined by the Czech Republic and Switzerland, while Canada East, Russia and the U.S. will comprise Group A.

Preliminary play will run until Wednesday, with semifinals set for next Friday. The gold-medal game, which will be shown nationally on TSN, is set for Sunday, Nov. 10.

All preliminary games, quarterfinals, semifinals and the bronze-medal game can be seen live via webcast through www.hockeycanada.ca.

Canada West has appeared in six of the seven gold-medal games at the WJAC, winning gold in 2006 (Yorkton, Sask.), 2007 (Trail) and 2011 (Langley).

Penticton Vees’ d-man Paul Stoykewych joins Powell River Kings’ forward Kurt Keats as the only returnee from last year’s team that earned silver last year in Yarmouth.

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