The B.C. Hockey League season can’t start soon enough for Brendan Persley and the other returning Vernon Vipers.
The sting of missing playoffs for a second straight season, combined with the knowledge that the Snakes will host the RBC Cup national championships next May, has Persley eager to see the puck drop for opening night.
“It was definitely a long summer,” said Persley, a 20-year-old Kelowna product. “I took a month off doing any work just to let my head clear.”
Wanting to lead by example, and perhaps realizing competition will be fierce for the six 20s Vernon is allowed to card, Persley refocused after his little hiatus and shed 10-plus pounds through a workout program with Calgary-based Crash Conditioning.
“It was good to get the confidence back and I’m starting to get healthy again and I’m really excited to be back and see the guys,” said Persley, who missed 15 games to injury last season.
“It seems like they’re here with positive attitudes so it’s good to see everyone came back on the same page.”
If Sunday’s fitness testing is any indication, Persley isn’t the only returnee to make offseason strides. Colton Sparrow astounded everyone in the pushup test, rattling off 110 reps in a minute. Dexter Dancs walked into camp 20 pounds heavier and has upped his squat lift by 80 pounds.
These improvements haven’t gone unnoticed by head coach Jason Williamson, associate coach Kris Mallette and assistant coach Dave Robinson.
“I’ve been impressed, for the most part, by the work these guys have done in the summer,” said Williamson, who said forward Mason Blacklock and blueliners Ryan Renz and Josh Bryan also showed well in fitness testing. “A lot of them bulked up, and in some cases leaned up.
“They’re definitely showing they want it and that they want to be here and be part of something special this year.”
One returnee not on the list is forward Mitch McAllister, who has been released for off-ice issues.
“We need guys 100 per cent focussed on hockey and his mind-set wasn’t completely there,” said Williamson, of the Calgary native. “We want players that want to be here and compete for jobs.”
Those attending camp appear to be getting that message as Monday’s Blue vs White intra-squad game featured plenty of energy. Second-year forward Logan Mick supplied an empty-netter as White earned a 6-4 win.
Williamson will begin trimming down his roster following today’s intra-squad game, 4:30 at Kal Tire Place. The Vipers open the BCHL exhibition season with a home-and-home set with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, starting Friday at the Shaw Centre.
The ‘Backs visit Vernon Saturday night (7:00).
Meanwhile, the Vipers have found a replacement for former broadcaster Todd Miller. The club has hired Graham Turnbull as its play-by-play man for the coming season. Turnbull spent last season with the Merritt Centennials calling games on Q101 FM.
The 27-year-old Kamloops native is a 2011 graduate of The B.C. Institute of Technology’s broadcast radio program and has also spent time with the Chase Chiefs of the KIJHL.
Due to previous commitments, Turnbull will finish his time with the Cent during the exhibition season, and join the Vipers in time for the beginning of the regular season at the BCHL Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack.
Vernon opens the Showcase against the defending Fred Page Cup champions Surrey Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 7.
SNAKE BITES: D-man Mark Hamilton missed Monday’s intra-squad game after taking an Aaron Volpatti shot off the thumb in the morning. He returned for action Tuesday…Viper trainer Gord (Hoon) Cochran will be in Montreal Canadiens’ netiminder Carey Price’s wedding party this weekend. Keaton Ellerby of the LA Kings is best man.