Jason Williamson might get to do something this weekend he hasn’t had the luxury of in two seasons as head coach/GM of the Vernon Vipers – name a healthy scratch.
With Saturday’s re-acquisition of forward Brendan Persley, the Vipers were two players over the B.C. Hockey League’s mandated 22-man roster limit. That was OK because forwards Braedan Russell and Mitch McAllister were on the long-term injured reserve, but Russell could possibly return Friday when Vernon (2-1-0-2) hosts the Prince George Spruce Kings (3-0-1-1) at Wesbild Centre.
Defenceman Marc Hetnik (leg) is also likely to return for weekend action.
The Snakes visit the Trail Smoke Eaters (2-4) Saturday at Cominco Arena.
Only able to dress 20 players, and with 15 forwards in the stable, Williamson cleared some room by sending winger Riley Hunt to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks in exchange for future considerations Tuesday.
Hunt, a 5-foot-6 energy forward committed to Harvard University, was pointless in four games, and found himself the odd man out on the Vipers’ fourth line.
“I just don’t have room for him and he’s gotta play,” said Williamson. “(Logan) Mick, (Mike) Roberts and TJ (Dumonceaux) on the weekend were really good (on the fourth line).”
Vernon went 3-for-7 on the man advantage and set a season-high offensive output in Saturday’s 7-2 win over the Smokies at Wesbild.
Persley’s return to the lineup yielded instant rewards as he pocketed a goal and two helpers for third star in front of nearly 1,400 fans.
“Hopefully I can keep that going,” he said. “I think I’m an all-around player; I like to hit, and I take the body a lot, but I also feel like I can put the puck in the net as well.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Kelowna product left Viper main camp to audition with the WHL Tri-City Americans, but decided a larger playing role in the BCHL was his best option.
“Things went really well there, but as a 19-year-old I just felt I should be playing a lot more,” said Persley. “I only have two years left (of junior) to prove a point in hockey and hopefully make it to the next level. If I want to do that, I have to be playing.”
After Persley’s departure, Williamson dealt his Junior A rights to Manitoba’s Virden Oil Capitals in exchange for forward Mitch Van Teeling, but made a second deal with the Caps, this one for future considerations, to get him back.
“We missed his character in the room and his grit and tenacity. We knew what we were getting, and he makes us a little bit older.”
Also having big nights for the Vipers were first star Jedd Soleway and second star Colton Sparrow, each with 2+1.
Aaron Hadley opened the scoring just over a minute into the first period, and Soleway used his booming shot for the 2-0 goal 5:01 into the second, beating netminder Lyndon Stanwood low blocker side on a 2-on-1.
Less than two minutes later, Sparrow pounced on a rebound after Persley drove to the net.
With Vernon up 4-2 early in the third period, Soleway and Van Teeling clicked on a slick powerplay passing sequence to set up Sparrow for a wide open tap in.
Viper rookie forward Craig Martin, on a great second effort, knocked the puck out to Adam Tambellini, who beat Stanwood five-hole for the final goal, shorthanded. Vernon denied Trail four times on the man advantage.
Tyler Berkholtz counted both of Trail’s goals, one of them assisted by Jesse Knowler.
Austin Smith recorded 20 saves for the win, while Stanwood made 34 stops for the Smokies.
For the second weekend in a row, Vernon outshot its opposition nearly 2-1, only this time Williamson said the Snakes made sure on their chances.
“We got some rebound goals, we got guys going to the net, some second- and third-effort goals. When you’re not scoring the pretty kind of goals, you have to manufacture goals.”
SNAKE BITES: Viper d-man Kevin Guiltinan is second in the league in penalty minutes with 19 in five games. Former Viper Turner Lawson, now an alternate captain with the Victoria Grizzlies, tops that category with 22 PIM in seven games…The Vipers’ penalty kill is third in the BCHL at 90.91 per cent (two goals on 22 disadvantages). The Coquitlam Express have yet to yield a man-advantage goal on 26 powerplays…Second-year Salmon Arm netminder Adam Clark has signed with the NCAA Division 1 New Hampshire’s Wildcats. The 6-foot-6 Sherwood Park, Alta. product is committed for the 2014-15 season.