The preamble is over, and now the Vernon Vipers are ready for the real deal. Well, almost ready.
Head coach/GM Jason Williamson still has two tough cuts – a forward and a goalie – remaining to get down to his 22-man roster before the B.C. Hockey League’s inaugural Showcase tournament this weekend in Chilliwack.
Williamson released forwards Adam Fauchoux and Joe Serpico over the weekend. He also dealt the Junior A rights of forward Brendan Persley to the Manitoba league’s Virden Oil Capitals Monday in exchange for forward Mitch Van Teeling.
Persley is trying out with the WHL Tri-City Americans, and Williamson didn’t appear willing to wait and see if he made the team.
Van Teeling, a 19-year-old forward from Brandon, spent the last two seasons with the MJHL Dauphin Kings, finishing second in team scoring last year with 19 goals and 47 assists for 66 points. He played alongside former Viper Dylan Walchuk on Team Canada West at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge.
“He should add some pretty good depth for us,” said Williamson, who is liking the balance he sees throughout the roster.
“I like the way it’s put together, and it’s going to make teams take notice. I like our speed up front. We’ve got some good energy guys, we’ve got some size, we’ve got some high-end and we’ve got some guys that are going to be feisty and create some energy in the building.
“On dee, we’ve got some big rigs back there that are going to keep the other teams honest.”
Vernon’s season opener goes Saturday at Prospera Centre versus the defending Fred Page Cup champion Penticton Vees (who will play host). The Snakes will be the ‘home team’ as they face the Powell River Kings Sunday morning at Prospera.
Williamson, entering his second year as head coach, has largely been impressed with the Vipers, who went 2-1-2 in preseason action. They wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a home-and-home set with the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, starting with a 2-2 draw Friday night at the Shaw Centre, and ending with a 3-1 win the following night at Wesbild Centre.
“We went down early, scoring two goals on ourselves and then we battled our way back,” said Williamson, of the draw.
Mitch McAllister and Aaron Hadley handled the scoring Friday night.
“He’s a kid we recruited hard to come to camp and he definitely came and showed us something,” said Williamson, of McAllister, who captained Strathmore’s UFA Bisons of the Alberta Midget league last season.
Hadley, a third-year forward, made it two goals in as many nights in Saturday’s win. Fellow veteran Colton Sparrow and rookie Craig Martin completed the attack.
“We showed some good jump and had some good energy from some guys that were getting worn down,” said Williamson.
“We had spurts of when we hemmed them in pretty good.”