With the Vernon Vipers wallowing in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division basement, it was only a matter of time before head coach/GM Jason Williamson took action.
The timing turned out right as the second-year bench boss capitalized on the Western League’s overage player deadline, plucking forward Cody Fowlie from the Everett Silvertips.
Fowlie, an Airdrie, Alta. native, was a 40-point man (14 goals, 26 assists) and alternate captain with the Tips last season. He became available when Everett picked up 20-year-old Saskatoon Blades’ forward Connor Cox off waivers. Fowlie will make his BCHL debut tonight as the 3-5-0-3 Vipers host the 7-3-1 Merritt Centennials at Wesbild Centre.
Luke Pierce’s Cents are tied with the West Kelowna Warriors (6-2-0-3) for second place in the Interior.
Everett head coach Mark Ferner, who guided Vernon for four seasons before heading to the Dub, relied on Fowlie in all situations and says he will bring skill, experience and leadership to the Viper den.
“He’s a fabulous kid; I know he’ll help for sure,” Ferner told The Morning Star as the Tips prepared to play the host Moose Jaw Warriors Tuesday night.
“There is no deficiency in his game – he can skate, he can shoot, he’s physical. He scored 40 points for a team that didn’t score a whole bunch. He was a real popular kid within our room.”
Fowlie joins forward Pearce Eviston and d-men Brett Corkey and Marc Hetnik as an overage player (the league limit is six). Williamson said Fowlie will add stability to a young forward corps that is struggling to manufacture offence.
“It was something we needed to address,” said Williamson. “We wanted to send the right message that we’re going to try to win this year.
“Guys are gripping their sticks pretty tight because they feel the pressure too. There’s definitely potential, it’s just we’ve got to get it out of them. If we do, it could be dangerous.”
The acquisition of Fowlie presents a problem as the Vipers are two players over the 22-man limit, and one over the eight import players allowed.
Williamson remedied the import issue by recalling last year’s backup netminder Danny Todosychuk and placing rookie keeper Joe Young of Hanson, Mass. on the wire. Williamson was in the process of searching for a place for Young to play at The Morning Star’s press time Tuesday afternoon.
Todosychuk, a 17-year-old Vernon product who was cut from main camp, has kept busy with the KIJHL Golden Rockets, going 4-1 with a 2.94 goals-against average, and .900 save percentage in five games.
On the forward front, Williamson has a little breathing room with forwards Mitch McAllister (shoulder) and Braedan Russell (hand) on the long-term injured reserve. However, McAllister could return to action this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Vipers dropped their second straight game in a 4-1 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night at Prospera Centre.
With forwards Logan Mick, Mitch Van Teeling and Eviston either injured or ill, Williamson dressed just nine forwards against the 7-2-1-1 Chiefs, who got two goals from Austin Plevy and 34 saves from Mitch Gillam in front of 2,200 fans.
A quick powerplay goal by Josh Hansen at 3:32 of the first period, and an even-strength tally by Jaret Babych four minutes later helped the Chiefs extend their unbeaten streak to six games.
Viper rookie Kevin Guiltinan sparked his team later in the first period by challenging 6-foot-7 defenceman Cooper Rush to a scrap. Rush started strong, landing several punches, but Guiltinan took the punishment, then dealt some out, finishing the fight with several rights before pulling Rush’s jersey over his head. A couple shifts later, Chilliwack’s Ben Masella dropped the mitts with Vernon’s Jedd Soleway.
Vernon responded during a 5-on-3 in the second frame as Adam Tambellini (6th goal) one-timed a Brett Corkey pass past Gillam from a sharp angle. The Chiefs came right back with a powerplay goal of their own, with Plevy crashing the net, and from his belly, sweeping a loose puck home.
In the closing minutes, McNaughton and Vernon’s Geoff Crisfield squared off for the third fight of the game that ended in a draw.
Plevy pocketed his seventh of the season with less than seven minutes remaining.
With files from Eric Welsh/Chilliwack Progress