The Beantown connection has been fruitful for the Vernon Vipers in past years.
This season will be no different as the Snakes will feature a trio of Boston-area products when they resume the B.C. Hockey League regular season tonight (7:00) at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.
Vernon’s home opener is Saturday (7 p.m.) against Troy Mick’s ‘Backs at Kal Tire Place.
Tapping into the scouting pipeline that brought defence- man Garrett Noonan and forward Mike Collins to the Viper den, head coach/GM Jason Williamson has high expectations for d-man Mark Hamilton and forwards Liam Coughlin and Mike Iovanna.
Coughlin, who played prep school hockey with Catholic Memorial last season, was named Massachusetts high school Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound centre got off to a stellar start with the Vipers last weekend at the Bauer Showcase, racking up two goals and an assist to earn first star in Vernon’s season-opening 7-3 win over the Surrey Eagles.
“He’s a big centreman that can put pucks in the net,” said Williamson. “He’s dangerous in open ice because he moves pretty well.”
Coughlin, who turns 19 next week, said living in Boston these days is a sports fan’s paradise. The Bruins (2011 Stanley Cup champi- ons, 2013 finalists), Celtics (2008 NBA champs), Red Sox (2004, ‘07 World Series champs), and Patriots (2001, ‘03, ‘04 Super Bowl champi- ons, ‘07 and ‘11 finalists) have all tasted success in the last decade.
“Going to games is amazing, especially Bruins games,” said Coughlin, who, like Iovanna, is a big Brad Marchand fan.
As a fellow South Boston native, Coughlin has spotted Marchand around town a few times.
At 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, Iovanna is one of the smaller Vipers on the roster and models his game after the feisty Marchand.
“He’s a scrappy player, so I like that,” said Iovanna, who is com- mitted to the NCAA Division 1 Massachusetts Amherst Minutemen.
“I’m a smaller guy so I tend to watch the smaller guys out there.”
Iovanna, who has the most noticeable Boston accent of the three, played prep school hockey with Malden Catholic. He said relo- cating across the continent to play Junior A has been a big adjustment.
“Just not seeing my parents every day and my family – that’ll take some time to get used to,” he said.
He added main camp was a little nerve-racking.
“It was a weird experience thinking I could go home at any time.”
One of the reasons Iovanna came to Vernon was a recommen- dation from Noonan, a Nashville Predators’ draft pick entering his senior year with the Boston University Terriers.
“We had a meeting with Noonan, and he explained the process of coming out here and sold us on the idea,” said Iovanna.
Said Williamson: “Relationships are key. Sometimes our former players are our best recruiters. If they’ve had good experiences and been treated well, it just breeds. We’ve got a good reputation out there.”
Williamson first noticed the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hamilton when he scouted the U.S. Under 18 national championships in Pittsburgh.
Hamilton captained the Salisbury Crimson Knights to the New England Prep School title before winning the U18 national crown. He is also committed to UMass.
“Hammy is a big, rugged dee,” said Williamson. “Pretty physical, a good shutdown guy and he’s good on the offensive blueline, just getting pucks through.”
“It’s going to take time to get used to the speed of the game and the physicality.”