Viper forward Mitch McAllister returns to B.C. Hockey League action tonight after missing the last 12 games with a shoulder injury.

Viper forward Mitch McAllister returns to B.C. Hockey League action tonight after missing the last 12 games with a shoulder injury.

Vernon Vipers shuffle lines in search of offensive jumpstart

Vernon Vipers shuffle forward unit to jumpstart offence; Forward Mitch McAllister returns to action after 12-game absence due to injury.

In desperate need of an offensive spark, the Vernon Vipers have shuffled their forward lines for a pair of weekend B.C. Hockey League tilts at Wesbild Centre.

Up first, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks visit Vernon tonight (7 p.m.), followed by the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday.

Head coach/GM Jason Williamson has placed rookie Logan Mick on a unit with Adam Tambellini and Pearce Eviston, leaving Aaron Hadley to play alongside Jedd Soleway and Mitch Van Teeling.

The only trio that will remain intact is the kid line of Craig Martin, Landon Robin and Michael Roberts.

With only 11 healthy forwards (Brendan Persley is out four to six weeks recovering from surgery on a broken leg, and both Colton Sparrow and Braedan Russell are day-to-day), Williamson has paired Mitch McAllister and TJ Dumonceaux, and will rotate another forward through the lineup.

He is also toying with the idea of unleashing defenceman Marc Hetnik to play up front.

Riding a five-game losing streak, Williamson says gaining confidence on a shift-by-shift basis will be key.

“We’ve got to start with the little details and little victories and build towards full games,” said Williamson. “Winning those puck battles will add up to winning games.”

The 3-7-0-4 Vipers are one point ahead of the 4-9-0-1 SilverBacks in the Interior Division, while the Chiefs are tops in the Mainland at 9-3-1-1.

Vernon has earned points in each of their three meetings against Salmon Arm, however two of them were overtime losses. Salmon Arm netminder Adam Clark, a 6-foot-5 Sherwood Park, Alta. native, played a major role in those outcomes.

“We need to focus on doing the things to make his life difficult and going to the net with a purpose,” said Williamson.

McAllister, an 18-year-old Medicine Hat product, played just three-and-half periods before going down with a shoulder injury. He recovered ahead of schedule and is stoked to be making his home debut tonight.

Win or lose, anything beats watching from the stands, said McAllister.

“It’s tough to watch when the team struggles; it’s tough to watch when the team’s successful. You’re excited for the guys, but you want to be part of it.

“I’m looking forward to being a difference maker and pushing towards a win.”

McAllister, captain of the UFA Major Midget Bisons of Strathmore last season, is no stranger to long-term injury. A few seasons ago, he missed nearly four months with compartment syndrome after taking a knee to the thigh.

“It felt like a bad charley horse, I had to leave the game,” said McAllister, who was rushed into surgery the day after it happened.

“I was a couple hours away from losing my leg.  My leg swelled up to double its size.

“It was tough to get your mind wrapped around you’d be out for so long.”

SNAKE BITES: Penticton Vees’ forward Wade Murphy leads the BCHL with 9-14-23 in 13 games, and is on an 11-game point streak. Former Viper Marcus Basara, now of the West Kelowna Warriors, is fifth with 11-7-18 in 14 games…Vernon’s Conor Barrie, a backup netminder with the Surrey Eagles last season, is 2-0 in a supporting role with the Yorkton Terriers of Saskatchewan’s Junior A circuit. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder boasts a 1.68 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.