One rink, three days, 16 B.C. Hockey League teams and a couple hundred college and pro scouts.
It added up to some great exposure for the next wave of Junior A talent at the league’s inaugural Save-On Foods Showcase last weekend in Chilliwack.
The Vernon Vipers were on the wrong side of a pair of one-goal games at Prospera Centre, falling 3-2 in overtime to the defending Fred Page champion Penticton Vees Saturday afternoon, followed by a 4-3 loss to the Powell River Kings Sunday morning.
Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson has some tinkering to do with his lineup, but he took some positives from his team’s start despite the losses.
“We got the nerves out, and it was something to build off for sure,” he said. “We showed some things we need to work on and work out some kinks, and we need to find ways to win those one-goal games.”
With representatives from Central Scouting, NHL and NCAA (the Anaheim Ducks had four scouts in attendance), Williamson said the post-game scouting interviews were as action packed as the games themselves. He had never seen anything like it.
“It was an absolute schmozzle; all three coaches were talking to scouts,” said Williamson.
“Jedd (Soleway) and Craig (Martin) played well and they probably talked to 20 scouts each. Some got offers (Sunday).”
Against Penticton, Soleway and Martin worked a 2-on-1 to open the scoring, with Martin burying a one-timer for the lone goal in the first period.
Williamson said Martin is already showing the scoring potential that made him a threat as a 16-year-old with the Junior B Beaver Valley Nitehawks last season.
“He could have had three or four goals. He had a couple roll off his stick when he had the goalie beat.”
Sam Mellor, a former Trail Smoke Eater returning to the BCHL after a year at college, counted back-to-back goals to give Penticton a lead early in the third period.
With Austin Smith (29 saves) pulled for the extra attacker, Vernon sniper Adam Tambellini converted on a goal-mouth scramble to force extra time.
OT was a free-for-all, with both teams going on the counterattack, especially in 3-on-3 play. The Vees’ Michael Rebry rifled a slapshot, top corner past Smith for the winner with two minutes to play.
Chad Katunar, who was stellar in relief of injured Michael Garteig during the Vees’ run to the Fred Page Cup last season, had 29 saves.
“Pretty even in shots, pretty evenly matched game,” said Williamson. “Listening to the scouts, they said it was by far the best game at the Showcase.”
A quick turnaround saw the Vipers come out flat against Powell River. Goals by Luke Nogard and Matthew Dupont had the Kings up 2-0 by the 8:10 mark, forcing Williamson to pull Joe Young after allowing two goals on four shots.
Vernon’s offence surged later in the frame, collecting three goals in a little more than three minutes.
Aaron Hadley pressured a Powell River d-man with his speed and ended up going in alone on a breakaway, beating Jonah Imoo low, stick side at 16:43.
Tambellini jammed home a rebound after Hadley took the puck wide and crashed the net with 43 seconds to play in the period.
Mitch Van Teeling wired a wrister from the slot just 21 seconds later to give Vernon the lead heading into the break.
Singles by Mat Scarth and Jarryd Leung in the third period secured the Kings’ win.
“We were playing pretty well; the game was probably going in our favour going into the third and we just ran out of gas,” said Williamson. “They kind of took it to us in the third.”
Vernon rookie blueliner Kevin Guiltinan and Luke Ripley, a towering Powell River d-man, entertained the crowd with a solid scrap early in the third period.
Vernon resumes regular-season action this weekend with a home-and-home set against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, starting Friday night at the Shaw Centre. The ‘Backs visit the Vipers Saturday night (7:00) at Wesbild Centre.
SNAKE BITES: Viper d-man Marc Hetnik (lower body) and forward Mitch McAllister (shoulder) were injured over the weekend. Williamson said Hetnik is questionable for this weekend, while McAllister will likely be put on the injured reserve…Rylan Ferster’s West Kelowna Warriors and Fred Harbinson’s Vees were the only Interior teams to go undefeated at the Showcase. The Warriors pummeled the SilverBacks 6-0 Saturday, and then whooped the Surrey Eagles 6-1 Sunday. Penticton doubled the host Chilliwack Chiefs 2-1 in their first game Friday night…There is a fan bus heading to Salmon Arm for Friday’s game. $25 gets you bus fare, game ticket and Panago pizza. Bus leaves at 5 p.m. Call Viper office at 250-542-6022 to book.