Morning Star Staff
It seems like every B.C. Hockey League player that signs with the Quinnipiac Bobcats these days is a Kootenay kid.
Recent years have seen former Vernon Viper twin forwards Connor and Kellen Jones of Montrose and Penticton Vees’ grad Travis St. Denis of Trail head to the Hamden, Conn. campus. A pair of Trail products – ex-Viper Craig Martin, now with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, and Scott Davidson of his hometown Smoke Eaters – are headed to the Bobcats next season.
Vernon’s Logan Mick, a second-year forward with the Vipers, bucked that trend when he signed this week with Quinnipiac for the 2015-16 season.
“They’ve been with me right from the start of last year. It was a pretty easy decision,” said Mick, 17, of the Bobcats’ scouts.
“The campus was amazing and you could just tell the way the coaches treated you that it was the right place to go.
“The Jonesies took care of me down there.”
The Vipers are coming off a huge 3-2 win over the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, coached by Mick’s father, Troy.
Mick’s first goal of the season was part of a three-goal barrage over a 46-second span late in the third period that gave Vernon its first win over Salmon Arm in nine games. He has 1-1-2 and 10 penalty minutes in 11 games.
“It was amazing – all the boys were going,” said Mick. “As soon as we got the first one, it took off from there. We’ve got a lot of character in the room, so that kind of took over.”
Asked if he has a little more jump in his stride when he plays against his old man, Mick grinned: “For sure. It’s bragging rights.”
The smooth-skating Mick will be lining up alongside Mike McNicholas and Dexter Dancs this weekend as the Vipers (4-4-1-2) face the struggling Chilliwack Chiefs (1-6-1) starting tonight (7:00) at Kal Tire Place.
Vernon visits Chilliwack Saturday at Prospera Centre.
“The guys are looking pretty sharp in practice so it’s going to be a good weekend for us,” said Mick.
“They’re (Chilliwack) pretty big-bodied, so we just got to use our speed to get around them and take it to the net and let our skill take over.”
The Chiefs have managed a league-low 14 goals, 10 fewer than the next closest team (Victoria has 24).
“We’re going to have to face the fact that we’re not as gifted as we have been the last few years,” said head coach Harvey Smyl. “But we’re also not nearly as bad as it looks right now. Confidence and frustration is an issue, and I really think it will come.”
Vipers’ assistant coach Dave Robinson sees a high ceiling for Mick’s potential.
“The scouts love him,” said Robinson. “He skates at the pro level already and he’s got good hockey genes (Troy amassed 466 career points in 267 WHL games with Portland and Regina, and was a 1998 draft selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins).
“Last year, he was a wide-eyed rookie coming into the league,” added Robinson. “He’s a little more comfortable. He’s not seeing the offensive numbers he would like, but he’s still working hard.”
Also picking up an NCAA Division 1 scholarship is Viper forward Liam Coughlin, who will join Vernon d-man Mark Hamilton with the UMass Amherst Minutemen for next season.
Coughlin, an 18-year-old South Boston product, has 2-2-4 and 11 penalty minutes in 11 games.
“It’s good to get it out of the way,” said Coughlin, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder. “It’s been weighing on my shoulders where to go to college.
“They’ve always wanted me and it’s good to be wanted. I talked to the coaches, met the guys. It’s a great facility to play in. I can’t wait to get there.”
After starring for Catholic Memorial in prep school hockey last season (51 points in 21 games), Coughlin is being challenged to round out the defensive aspect of his game in Vernon.
“He was able to do that (score) at will in that league,” said Vernon associate coach Kris Mallette. “He’s got a lot of talent and grit to his game and now he just has to pick up the defensive side.
“He hasn’t been coached to play that way. He’s definitely up for the challenge and he’s asking a lot of the right questions now.”
Added Coughlin: “I like taking the body, I like playing physical. When I play physical, more opportunities happen for me.”
Meanwhile the Vipers have added netminder Michael Stiliadis for insurance while Austin Smith recovers from a groin injury sustained last Saturday against the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
Stiliadis, a 6-foot, 160-pound of Woodbridge, Ont., posted a 2.97 goals-against average and .895 save percentage in 31 games with the Victoria Grizzlies last season. The Vipers picked up the 19-year-old from the OJHL Georgetown Raiders for future considerations.
“Smitty’s going to be out for a while and with this schedule we have for the next bit we need someone we can rely on,” said head coach Jason Williamson.
SNAKE BITES: Rookie forward Dallas Calvin has left the Vipers for personal reasons and has returned to his hometown of Trail. He will rejoin the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks…Hamilton and forward TJ Dumonceaux will miss tonight’s game serving two-game suspensions. Hamilton will return Saturday in Chilliwack…Vernon will also be without netminder Austin Smith, who left Saturday’s game in Salmon Arm with a groin injury…Forward Brendan Persley, who left last Friday’s game against Prince George after taking a hard open-ice hit, is questionable for tonight.