It’s not the resort getaway most people dream of, but anywhere has to be better than home for Vernon Vipers right about now.
The Snakes are off to Vancouver Island for a trio of B.C. Hockey League tilts this weekend, and after Saturday night’s 6-0 lashing courtesy of the Powell River Kings at Wesbild Centre, some time on the bus might come as a welcome reprieve.
The swing starts Friday night with Vernon, last in the Interior at 12-19-0-7, taking on Aaron Hadley and the Nanaimo Clippers (21-14-0-2) at Frank Crane Arena. It will be a battle of league cellar dwellers when the Vipers battle the last-place Cowichan Valley Capitals (9-23-1-3) Saturday at the Big Stick (Island Savings Arena).
Vernon will face another recently traded teammate in Pearce Eviston when they head to Bear Mountain Arena for a date with the red-hot Victoria Grizzlies (26-9-0-3) in a Sunday matinee.
Both the Grizz and Clippers are riding four-game win streaks.
As a born-and-raised Vernonite and former captain, assistant coach Dave Robinson is all too familiar with the scrutiny players face in the Viper den, even when things are good. Right now, he said it’s like being in a pressure cooker.
“There’s always expectation in this town and I feel for the fans right now,” said Robinson. “We’re not where we want to be, or where they want us to be, but hopefully they can have some patience with us.
“Guys are being thrown into roles they weren’t expecting to be in. You take away two big pieces (traded forwards Hadley and Adam Tambellini) and maybe guys aren’t ready for those roles, but they’re going to have to deal with it.
“They all want to play and this is their chance to step up.”
The Vipers started Saturday with some good jump on their first shift against the 17-18-2-4 Kings, but faltered when Powell River went up the ice and scored on their first shot of the game.
Vernon netminder Austin Smith was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots. Danny Todosychuk recorded 15 saves in relief.
“Before we knew it we were down four after the first,” said Robinson.
“I thought we’d come out with a better effort after those big trades and thought we’d have more energy and emotion but obviously that’s not the case.”
Drew Dorantes (11th goal), Noah Henry (1st), Jordan Benton (1st) and J.P. Villeneuve, with the first of two goals, pegged the Kings to the four-goal lead.
James Neil (6th) and Villeneuve (17th) capped the assault in support of netminder Jonah Imoo, who recorded his fourth shutout.
Vernon upped the pressure in the final period, outshooting Powell River 14-4 (and 25-24 overall), but couldn’t solve Imoo.
“These guys are putting a lot of pressure on themselves,” said Robinson. “Some guys felt they had to step up, and you have to have confidence, but maybe they’re gripping their sticks a bit too tight right now.”
Meanwhile, Tambellini seems to have made a seamless adjustment to life with the Surrey Eagles.The ex-Viper had five goals and two assists in two weekend games, good enough for BCHL Player of the Week honours.
Tambellini scored both goals in Friday’s 2-1 win over the Penticton Vees. He followed that with a hat trick and two assists in a 10-2 victory over the Langley Rivermen.
“The early returns are pretty good,” said Eagles’ head coach Matt Erhart. “Adam is a great talent, and putting him and Brady (Shaw) on the same line, that can create some problems for opposing defences.”
The 18-year-old Edmonton native is the top BCHLer listed on NHL Central Scoutings mid-season rankings at No. 62. He is tied with Langley’s Mario Puskarich for the league lead in goals with 27, and is fourth overall in scoring with 46 points in 38 games.
SNAKE BITES: Forward Dexter Dancs is the lone Viper to crack Central Scouting’s list at No. 154. Six other BCHLers made the list… The Vipers have yet to reassign the ‘A’ worn by Hadley…Vernon product Curtis Lazar collected a hat trick as the Edmonton Oil Kings blanked the host Medicine Hat Tigers 3-0 in WHL action Sunday. Lazar has 19-13-27 in 44 games played.