The Vernon Vipers will honour the past before they look to the future Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Before they begin their run towards hosting the RBC Cup next May, the Vipers will recognize each of its national junior A hockey championship teams before their 7 p.m. home opener against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
In a pregame celebration, a member from each of the six teams, including four past Viper /Laker captains – Duane Dennis (1990 Lakers), Terry Klapstein (‘91 Lakers), Brian Finch (‘96 Vipers), Lenny Rampone (‘99 Vipers), Chris Crowell (‘09 Vipers) and Kevin Kraus (‘ 10 Vipers) – will step out on the red carpet to watch the raising of the host banner for the RBC Cup.
The Snakes enter the weekend having earned three of four points at the Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack. After outgunning the Surrey Eagles 7-3 in their season opener Saturday morning, the Vipers settled for a 1-1 draw with the Chilliwack Chiefs Sunday night.
Vernon head coach Jason Williamson felt his team probably deserved the extra point as they outplayed the Chiefs most of the night, outshooting them 43-34. They didn’t give up a shot in the first eight minutes.
“We let them hang around and when we put the pedal down they’re goalie (Lyndon Stanwood, formerly of the Trail Smoke Eaters) played well,” said Williamson.
“He made some unbelievable saves, especially in the overtime. They barely touched the puck.
“’We’d like to have four out of four (points), but it’s a good start. Up and down our lineup, everyone played well.”
Demico Hannoun collected his second goal of the weekend against Chilliwack, burying the rebound off a Mason Blacklock shot just as a Vernon powerplay had expired. He was named second star behind Stanwood (42 saves).
Jaret Babych, the son of former Vancouver Canuck d-man Dave Babych, was third star.
Kurt Black had the Chiefs’ goal, curling through the high slot and going top-shelf, glove-side over Vernon goalie Austin Smith with seven minutes to play. Smith recorded 33 saves for the Vipers.
Williamson said Hannoun’s first goal as a Viper, against Surrey, caught everyone by surprise. The North Delta native toe-dragged a defender on his off wing, and in one fluid movement, put a backbander short side past Eagles’ netminder Bo Didur.
“He’s dangerous out there. A guy was right on him and he shot the puck before anybody knew what happened.”
Williamson also said forward Michael McNicholas, who plays the point on the powerplay and also kills penalties, has been a pleasant surprise. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. product came to the Viper den, along with d-man Josh Bryan, from the Nanaimo Clippers in exchange for Aaron Hadley.
“I’m playing him in all situations and he’s been very good,” said Williamson.
Leading Vernon’s offence against the Eagles with two goals apiece were second-year forward Dexter Dancs and Liam Coughlin (first star), a rookie pivot out of South Boston.
The teams swapped goals until Vernon pocketed four straight snipes to put the game away in the third period.
“We just took the game over,” said Williamson.
Singles by Kootenay products Craig Martin and
Dallas Calvin completed the Viper offence.
Braedan Russell, who struggled through an injury-plagued rookie season with Vernon, haunted his old team with a deuce. Jonah Renouf (third star) had the Eagles’ other goal.
Vernon veteran Brendan Persley earned a pair of assists for second star, while Danny Todosychuk had 33 saves for the win. Didur had 27 stops for Surrey.
Meanwhile, the SilverBacks went 0-1-1 in Chilliwack, falling 5-4 in overtime to the Victoria Grizzlies Saturday, and bowing 5-1 to the Powell River Kings Sunday.
Vernon visits Salmon Arm Friday night at the Shaw Centre to open a weekend home-and-home. Given the off-ice connections between the two teams, Williamson said the Snakes vs ‘Backs rivalry will be lively as ever.
“We know they didn’t have the weekend they wanted, so you know they’re going to come out flyjng,” said Williamson. “It’s going to be an interesting weekend.”
SNAKE BITES: Viper veteran forward Colton Sparrow will likely be out of the lineup for a few weeks as he suffered a separated shoulder against the Eagles…Williamson released forward Dean Allison Tuesday, and he plans to use Vernon product Mat Halvorson of the North Okanagan Knights as a call-up for his seventh d-man…Vernon product Alex Gillies bagged two goals in Salmon Arm’s OT loss to Victoria.