Anything that could go wrong for the Vernon Vipers seems to be happening all at once.
Not only will the Snakes be without veteran forward Brendan Persley for at least the next six weeks (he went in for surgery Tuesday to repair a broken leg), they also lost the services of recently acquired winger Cody Fowlie.
Fowlie, an Airdrie, Alta. product who had a goal and assist in three B.C. Hockey League games since joining Vernon from the WHL Everett Silvertips, was plucked by the Kelowna Rockets Monday afternoon.
“He was going to be a huge part of this,” said Williamson.
“The chances of that happening were not good, but Kelowna had some injuries. I don’t blame him for going one bit, but it’s a tough pill to swallow on our part for sure.”
Fowlie, 20, is expected to join the Rockets on a four-game road trip to Alberta starting tonight against the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was playing on the Vipers’ top line with Adam Tambellini and Aaron Hadley.
Said Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska: “Having just one 20-year-old in your lineup isn’t really enough. A lot of times, those older guys can come in and push the rest of your lineup, including the other overage players.
“We want to see Cody come in here and compete for a spot.”
If the loss of Fowlie wasn’t enough to test the downtrodden Vipers’ depth, they could soon be waving goodbye to their top two scorers – Adam Tambellini (6-6-12 in 14 games) and Aaron Hadley (6-3-9 in 14) – and hard-nosed rookie d-man Kevin Guiltinan for a while. The trio leaves Sunday to audition with Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge, which goes Nov. 5-11 in Yarmouth, N.S.
Should they make Canada West, they will miss the Vipers’ next four games.
Fortunately for Williamson, they will be in the lineup Friday night when Vernon entertains the Salmon Arm SilverBacks Friday night (7:00) at Wesbild Centre, and against the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday.
The ‘Backs are last in the Interior at 4-9-0-1, while the Chiefs are first in the Mainland Division at 9-3-1-1.
The injuries/absences would be enough to test most Junior A teams, but for the Vipers, losers of five straight games, they are devastating. Following Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the host Rivermen at the Langley Events Centre, the Vipers dipped to 3-7-0-4 and are second-last in the Interior Division.
Williamson liked his team’s effort against Langley (6-5-0-2), saying they controlled most of the action. He held a team meeting Monday, urging them to stick with it.
“Good things will come to teams that are persistent, and we’ve just got to be that way.
“You’ve just got to build off the positive things we’ve done. On the weekend we didn’t get any results, but there’s some good things we did and we just have to keep stressing on those. If we do a couple of those little things differently, one of those one-goal games will turn around in our favour.”
The Rivermen took a first-period lead on defenceman Aaron Dolby’s goal at 9:27, but with 2:17 to go, Vernon veteran blueliner Ryan Renz finally solved James Barr to force overtime.
Barr finished with 32 saves, while Austin Smith had 25 stops for Vernon.
“We just kept biding our time until we finally got one with not much time left,” said Williamson.
“Even in overtime, we held the bulk of the play.”
Matt Usaski buried a rebound backhander for the winner 4:29 into the first overtime period.
Langley head coach Bobby Henderson said his team is getting over a few late blown leads earlier this month.
“It is just finding that confidence to finish the game,” Henderson told Black Press.
“We made steps in putting that behind us. It was a great defensive effort (against Vernon).”
SNAKE BITES: Vernon’s Mat Lambert, a forward with the KIJHL North Okanagan Knights, is skating with the Vipers at practice this week…Viper forward Colton Sparrow missed Saturday’s game to injury…Forward Mitch McAllister is likely to return to the lineup Friday against Salmon Arm.