They have surpassed the quarter pole and while not in first place, head coach Jason Williamson is content with the Vernon Vipers.
However, the Dec. 1 carding deadline has in past years been a time when Mark Ferner and Williamson discussed a wishlist, made some calls and bolstered their lineup.
Williamson will give this year’s B.C. Hockey League roster “the benefit of the doubt” for now, but said he may tweak things come the deadline.
“I think we can beat anybody when we bring our A game, but we just need that every night,” said Williamson, moments after a 5-4 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night before 1,600 fans at Wesbild centre.
“We can score goals, as we’ve shown. We just gotta shore up our dee zone. We’re young back there, no 20-year-olds back there. Max (Mowat) and (Ryan Renz) Renzy, are playing a lot and they’re still 18-years-old.”
The Vipers were without d-man Brent Corkey and Luke Juha, and forward Aaron Hadley, all in Langley playing for Canada West at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge. Vernon iced the Smoke Eaters Friday night in Trail and showed some bus legs early versus the Chiefs.
Chilliwack got a goal from Derek Huisman (his 10th) in the first minute and then added snipes by Trevor Hills and Mathieu Tibbet before the game was four minutes old. Starting goalie Kirby Halcrow was replaced by Danny Todosychuk after the third Chiefs’ goal.
“Bad 10 minutes of hockey and then we tried to ramp it up,” said Williamson. “Not to make excuses, but I think the guys were a little tired and ran out of gas a little bit but then they showed they didn’t wanna be beat, but it was too late. We hung our goalie out to dry for 10 minutes. You can’t fault Kirby I just had to make a change and it seemed to work, Our guys responded but you can’t play 50 minutes and expect to win.”
Mowat (1st) and Alex Hagen (4th) scored for the Vipers 68 seconds apart before the first period ended. New Jersey product Peter McMullen scored his first BCHL goal to pull the Vipers even in the second, but the Chiefs went ahead 41 seconds later on Jaret Babych’s second of the season.
Malcolm Gould made it 5-3 Chiefs early in the third with Marcus Basara replying for the Snakes with five minutes left, his fourth.
“I think we got a little jump on them,” said Chilliwack head coach Harvey Smyl, in his 22nd year in the league. “They looked tired from last night’s game. I’m guessing the travel and that maybe cost them a slow start. We got the jump and I think that might have been the difference in the game.”
The Chiefs caught a break in the second period when referee Jim Maniago ruled that Mike Zalewski of the Vipers and David Thompson of the Chiefs staged a fight, and thus gave them ejections. Zalewski is Vernon’s leading scorer, while Thompson, who clearly won the scrap, is a d-man with two goals. It was a battle of New York (Zalewski) versus Philadelphia.
The Chiefs, who have eight players from the Quesnel Millionaires of last year, improved to 8-6-0-1, good for a share of fourth place with the Prince George Spruce Kings, who they beat Friday night in Chilliwack.
Smyl is also pretty happy with what he sees at the quarter point, but will likely look to upgrade on Dec. 1.
“We’re real inconsistent, we’re up and down We’re still trying to fit everybody in the slots, still trying to figure out exactly where guys need to play and still trying to learn the character of each of these kids. In general, inconsistent, but for the most part, I like the group.”
Vernon hosted the Westside Warriors (7-7-0-2) Tuesday night. The Warriors lost 3-2 in OT to the Trail Smoke Eaters Sunday afternoon
The Vipers dropped to 11-5 for a share of second spot in the Interior Conference with the Merritt Centennials, who took advantage of the depleted Penticton Vees for a 3-2 overtime road win Saturday night. Vernon product Tyler Steel made 23 saves and earned second star for the Cents (9-5-1-3).
Canada West opened the World Junior A Challenge Tuesday night against Sweden and play the U.S. tonight.
SNAKE BITES: Adam Tambellini, a rookie centre with the Vipers, will play in the Prospects Game Sunday in Langley…The Woodstock Slammers of Ontario are ranked No. 1 in the CJAHL. Penticton is third and Vernon is 19th…Vernon’s Curtis Lazar scored once as the Edmonton Oil Kings stopped the Seattle Thunderbirds 4-1 in WHL action before 4,000 fans Saturday night at Rexall Place. Lazar, 16, has 5-7-12 in 17 games, and is a plus-eight. The Oil Kings visit the Kelowna Rockets Friday night…Vernon’s Alex Jewell got his first BCHL goal in Penticton’s Friday night win over Westside. He was one of six affiliates the Vees used with several players busy in Langley…The Vipers, who are 5-5 in their last 10 games, visit the Smokies Saturday night.