There were more whistles than a swimsuit model walking by a construction site Wednesday afternoon at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon Vipers’ recently reacquired head coach Mark Ferner was constantly stopping drills to hammer home the finer details of the systems he wants his team to employ as it gets ready for a two-game B.C. Hockey League weekend.
The Snakes (2-2-0-1) visit the Merritt Centennials (3-1) tonight at Nicola Valley Arena. Vernon, losers of two straight, hosts the Cowichan Valley Capitals (1-3) Saturday at the Big Wheel.
Luke Pierce’s Cents are coming off a two-win weekend, including a 5-0 spanking of the Penticton Vees in Merritt. The Caps have dropped two in a row.
“He takes his time to really demonstrate the drills and get us to do what he wants,” said third-year forward TJ Dumonceaux, of Ferner, adding it feels like main camp all over again.
“First few weeks, it’s just been the basics to get it in your head so when you go play the game you don’t think about it, you just do it. It’s totally different systems than I’m used to.”
Dumonceaux has yet to play in the regular season, having tweaked his knee on his final shift of Vernon’s last preseason tilt against Price George. He will debut on a warp-speed line with rookies Thomas Aldworth and Linden Hora in Merritt.
Captain and defenceman Riley Guenther is also cleared to play after overcoming a bout of mono.
“We’ve got more than 50 games to go,” said Dumonceaux. “It’s the beginning of the season and lots more hockey to go. I just want to come back at 100 per cent and be ready to go.”
Despite having to play a little catchup, and having just five returning players, Dumonceaux is confident Vernon will come on strong as the season progresses.
“Start slow, finish fast. I’m not even worried what happens in the first few weekends,” he said. “It’s just starting our systems, figuring them out and going from there.
“Don’t think of it as a rebuild year; we’re still going for it.”
As one of the five returnees, Dumonceaux relishes the opportunity to play a more prominent role with the club. He has been a fixture in the North Okanagan ever since he began tearing it up with the Junior B Knights as a 16-year-old.
“It’s a bigger role this year, more of a leadership role. I’m not a very vocal guy in the room. I just try to work hard and they can see what I do and just work off that.”
Dumonceaux says most teams tend to use a more juggernaut approach when it comes to offence in the ancient Nicola Valley Arena, where anything inside the blueline could be considered a scoring chance.
“Just rip that thing at the net and go at it,” he grinned. “It’s a totally different game than anywhere else. It’s one we’ve got to get used to because we play there four times this year.”
SNAKE BITES: The Salmon Arm SilverBacks have acquired forward Josh Blanchard from the last-place Surrey Eagles in exchange for d-man Andy Chugg. Blanchard, a Kelowna product committed to the NCAA Division 1 St. Cloud State Huskies, racked up seven points in 28 games last season with Penticton. He was part of a futures deal at the end of the year with Surrey.