They’ve won three straight and sit fifth overall in the 16-team B.C. Hockey League.
The Vernon Vipers, however, are not getting any all-star votes from their coaching staff just yet.
Head coach Mark Ferner and his staff skated the Vipers like it was spring camp on Thanksgiving Monday. Ferner was headed to Excel Fitness Tuesday morning to ensure Rhonda Catt was pushing his players to the max.
“We’re still working on things and our conditioning is the biggest,” said Ferner. “We want to have a strong work ethic, we want to be aggressive on the puck, we want to win races to the puck and we want to be tough to play against. If you aren’t in great condition, you can’t do any of those things.”
The Vipers (5-3-0-1) host the league-leading Penticton Vees (8-1) Friday at 7 p.m. and then visit the West Kelowna Warriors (5-4) Saturday night. Vernon is alone in second place in the Interior Division.
Ferner watched Penticton pick apart West Kelowna online and says they are solid defensively and have some dynamic rookies.
“We’ll be making sure our compete level is there for the weekend. There’s too much swinging away from the puck for my liking. Guys are sniffing offensively and they think if they get a point, it makes them a good hockey player. I told them after Friday’s game that winning is like deodorant; it just covers up the stink.”
The Vipers are last in the BCHL in powerplays with one road snipe in 44 chances.
“We have a shooting mentality. They have three or four options and they can roll into any one of them,” said Ferner. “We may have to give some other kids a chance on the powerplay.”
Texan Thomas Aldworth converted a breakaway 48 seconds into overtime as the Vipers clipped the Chilliwack Chiefs 5-4 Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Aldworth stripped defenceman Brandon Tkachuk of a bouncing puck at the Viper blueline and beat Chief net detective Aidan Pelino top shelf.
The Chiefs, who had won two straight, dipped to 6-2. The point moved them into a share of first place in the Mainland Division with the idle Prince George Spruce Kings.
Freshman Jagger Williamson, who just turned 16, recorded his first BCHL snipe for the Vipers, burying a rebound in tight after d-man Ryley Booth was denied by Pelino, with 1:56 gone in the second period.
The Chiefs led 2-0 after 20 minutes despite getting outshot 13-6.
Jake Larson, who pocketed 44 goals with the Minnesota Wilderness two seasons ago when the Wilderness qualified for the Royal Bank Cup in Summerside, P.E.I., opened the Chiefs’ offence at 6:38. Craig Puffer picked up an errant pass by Vernon d-man Brandon Egli and drew the assist.
Californian Luke McColgan, the younger brother of former Kelowna Rocket Shane McColgan, connected from Larson a dozen minutes later, on a two-on-one break after the Vipers were caught pinching on a powerplay.
McColgan finished with the hat trick, giving him six on the year, tying Puffer for the team lead. McColgan previously enjoyed eight- and 12-goal seasons with the Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior League.
The Chiefs went ahead 3-1 midway through the second when McColgan wired a wrister from the high slot past Jarrod Schamerhorn.
Vernon responded 68 seconds later when rookie Branden Wagner banged in an Aldworth rebound in tight. It was Wagner’s second goal of the year.
The Snakes equalized at 7:11 of the third before 1,550 fans when Trevor Fidler found an empty net right side after Luke Voltin’s shot bounced off Pelino’s chest.
Aldworth netted his fourth of the season with 11 minutes remaining. He turned and fired a high shot from just inside the blueline after Mackenzie Bauer did some nice work to keep the puck in the Chiefs’ zone with no support.
McColgan forced OT just seven seconds after Pelino was pulled for a sixth attacker, burying a slapper from the point two feet off the ice, with 53 seconds left in regulation. Vernon outshot Chilliwack 37-26.
SNAKE BITES: G Danny Todoyschuk practised Monday and may be ready for weekend duty…Viper grad Colton Sparrow scored the winner and earned one assist as the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks upended the visiting Maine Black Bears 5-2 in non-Conference NCAA play Saturday night before 2,441 fans at Sullivan Arena…Vernon’s Michael Hails earned his first college win with 31 saves as the Lindenwood Lions stunned host No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners 8-1 Saturday…One-time Viper all-stars Kellen and Connor Jones have been re-assigned by the AHL Oklahoma City Barons to the ECHL Bakersfield Condors in California. The Condors open the regular season Friday versus the Stockton Thunder.