It cost them a big chunk of team toughness, but the Vernon Vipers have some extra forward depth to compensate for their recent carousel of injuries.
Head coach/GM Jason Williamson dealt hard-nosed defenceman Kevin Guiltinan to the Prince George Spruce Kings Thursday morning in exchange for forward Liam Board.
Guiltinan, arguably the toughest Viper since Chris Crowell captained the team to a national title in 2008-09, had one assist and 38 penalty minutes in 21 games. The 17-year-old London, Ont. native was rated as a C prospect (mid- to late-round pick) in NHL Central Scouting’s recent poll and is committed to the NCAA Harvard Crimson.
“We’ve got banged up bodies and he (Guiltinan) wanted an opportunity to be in a top-four role and I couldn’t guarantee it,” said Williamson. “He saw we were pretty deep on defence, but he wanted to play more.
“With these injuries, we needed to make sure we gave ourselves the best opportunity.”
Added Guiltinan: “It (trade) just gave me a bit more opportunity to develop my game, which Willy and I agreed was best for me.
“I liked all the guys around here and it’s a great organization with great coaches. I’ve got nothing but respect for what they do here.”
The acquisition of Board helps augment Vernon’s depleted forward corps as they enter a weekend home-and-home with the Penticton Vees. The 8-9-0-6 Vipers visit Fred Harbinson’s crew tonight at South Okanagan Events Centre. They entertain Penticton (16-6-0-2) Saturday at Wesbild Centre.
“It was a little bit of a surprise, but I know Vernon’s got a great team and they’re hosting the RBC Cup next year. There’s a lot to look forward to,” said Board, who flies in today.
Board, a 19-year-old Oakville, Ont. product, was unsure whether he would arrive in time to suit up tonight, but will make his home debut Saturday.
Viper forward Craig Martin suffered a broken ankle blocking a Ryan Renz point shot last weekend and is expected to miss up to six weeks. TJ Dumonceux is out a minimum two weeks with a knee injury.
On the positive side, Vernon’s struggling penalty kill – it is second-last in the BCHL at 76.19 per cent – will receive a boost as gritty veteran Colton Sparrow returns to action tonight.
Brendan Persley, one of the Vipers’ best shot blockers, skated for the first time Thursday after missing 10 games with a broken leg. He is questionable for weekend duty.
For 6-foot-1, 195-pound Board, joining the Vipers will be a chance to reunite with forward Braedan Russell, as the two have been off-and-on linemates since Midget in Oakville. They were teammates last season on the Oakville Blades of the OJHL.
“He’s one of my better buddies,” said Board, who has five goals and nine helpers in 23 games with Prince George.
“Looking forward to playing together again.”
Without seeing him practise with the team, Williamson couldn’t say where Board would fit into the lineup. Given their built-in chemistry, fans will likely see the Oakville duo on a line Saturday.
“He’s one of the best team guys off and on the ice,” said Russell. “Two-way hockey player. The kid can score and defend. Really looking forward to seeing him in a Viper jersey.”
Guiltinan, meanwhile, arrived in Prince George Thursday and will be in the lineup as the Kings entertain the Surrey Eagles tonight and Saturday.
“I’m just excited to go in there and work for everything I get,” said Guiltinan. “Shouldn’t be too much of a change. It’s still ice, there’s six guys on it; I’m sure I’ll adjust.”
SNAKE BITES: The North Okanagan Knights’ Sunday matinee versus the Sicamous Eagles has been postponed due to a scheduling conflict…Saturday, Dec. 1 (8 p.m.) is the BCHL deadline for teams to cut down to 25 player cards…Vees’ forward Dexter Dancs missed the second leg of Penticton’s doubleheader with Trail last weekend, but is expected back in the lineup to face Vernon. Forward Michael Rebry is day-to-day.