There have been a few setbacks along the way, but the Vernon Vipers have a pretty good mind-set as they begin a three-game B.C. Hockey League road trip tonight in Powell River.
With points in seven straight games, and undefeated in regulation, in November, the Snakes have finally reached the .500 mark (7-7-0-6) as they visit the Kings at Hap Parker Arena.
They head over to Vancouver Island to take on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (11-9-0-3) Saturday at Weyerhaeuser Arena, before ending the swing with a Sunday matinee with the Coquitlam Express (11-9-1) at Poirier Sports and Leisure Centre.
“As of late, we beat Chilliwack (Chiefs), Nanaimo (Clippers) and Surrey (Eagles) – those are some of the top teams right now,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson, from the team bus Thursday morning.
“We’ve started to go in the right direction.”
Vernon is looking to improve upon a 2-4-0-3 road record, while Powell River (5-3-0-2) and Alberni (6-3-0-2) are strong at home. Coquitlam is 4-6 at Poirier.
Williamson planned to start Austin Smith against the Kings tonight, and Danny Todosychuk versus the Bulldogs.
Todosychuk was stellar in earning his second win last Saturday, recording 46 saves in Vernon’s 3-2 overtime win over Surrey.
“Our goaltending has been good,” said Williamson. “Smitty, even though we lost Friday night (2-1 OT loss to Trail Smoke Eaters), he was good. He only let two in on 30 shots.”
The Vipers fell 4-3 to the Kings in their second regular-season game in September (at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack), and Williamson expects a better showing tonight.
“It wasn’t our best effort, it was early in the season, and it was a one-goal hockey game. We were leading going into the third period; we still have a sour taste in our mouth about it.”
With Kent Lewis guiding the Kings, the Vipers can expect a hard-nosed, defence-first battle in Powell River. They are backstopped by netminder Jonah Imoo, who was teammates with Vipers’ alternate captain Aaron Hadley on the silver-medal winning Canada West at last week’s World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, N.S.
Imoo, an 18-year-old Surrey product, was named to the WJAC all-star team.
Vernon’s Jordan Burns, the younger brother of Tanner Burns (North Okanagan Junior B Knights), is third on Kings’ scoring with two goals and 11 assists in 22 games.
With 21 healthy bodies, Williamson will have the luxury of a healthy scratch for the second time in two years as a head coach. Veteran forwards Colton Sparrow (neck) and Brendan Persley (broken leg) are on injured reserve.
Williamson has been skating with the following lines at practice this week: Pearce Eviston, Logan Mick, Adam Tambellini; Craig Martin, TJ Dumonceux, Hadley; Mitch Van Teeling, Jedd Soleway, Braden Russell; Mike Roberts, Landon Robin, Mitch McAllister.
n The Salmon Arm SilverBacks swung a three-way trade Wednesday involving the Penticton Vees and Powell River.
The ‘Backs dealt 20-year-old d-man Sean Flanagan to Penticton in exchange for 18-year-old forward Alex Jewell of Vernon. The Vees then sent 18-year-old D Noah Henry to Powell River for 19-year-old F Steven Iacobellis, who becomes a member of the SilverBacks.
Jewell, who played alongside Salmon Arm sophomore forward Alex Gillies in minor hockey, will wear No. 11 in the Shuswap. He was No. 7 with the Vees, who entertain the SilverBacks tonight.
“Obviously, it sucks to be leaving my teammates in Penticton, but I’m really excited about joining Salmon Arm and helping them get back on the winning track,” Jewell told The Morning Star. “They’re all good guys.”
A natural centre who may play the wing for the SilverBacks, Jewell was preparing for his first practice with the Gorillas Thursday afternoon.
Jewell spent most of last year with the KIJHL Osoyoos Heat, but played 10 games for the Vees, producing one goal and five points.
“I’m going to try and use my quickness, finish my checks and generate some scoring chances,” he said.
Jewell joins the SilverBacks on Parents Weekend as Salmon Arm hosts the Merritt Centennials Saturday night and the Prince George Spruce Kings in a Sunday matinee.
n Vernon products Curtis Lazar (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Brady Brassart (Calgary Hitmen) helped Team WHL to a 1-0 shootout Team Russia in Subway Super Series action Wednesday night at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
Oil Kings’ netminder Laurent Brossoit made 30 saves, then denied all three Russian shootout candidates in front of 11,000 fans. Sam Reinhart (Kootenay Ice) scored the shootout winner.