Just two days into main camp and the Vernon Vipers will get their first taste of live action when they host the Wenatchee Wild in a Junior A hockey exhibition tilt Saturday night (7:00) at Wesbild Centre.
Jason Williamson, entering his second season as Vernon’s head coach (after four as an assistant), plans to dress a relatively young roster for the game and is excited to see how they respond.
“Competing against other teams is an easier way to gauge where we’re at,” said Williamson, who invited just 35 skaters and five goalies to camp, which started Thursday.
“We went with a smaller camp knowing we really focussed on certain players and went into camp making it as competitive as possible. We want to make sure we have the chance to evaluate each kid fairly by not having too many guys.”
The Vipers entertain the West Kelowna (formerly Westside) Warriors in B.C. Hockey League preseason action Monday night at Wesbild. They head to Royal LePage Place to face the Warriors again Tuesday, and conclude their preseason schedule with a weekend home-and-home against Troy Mick’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks, starting next Friday at the Shaw Centre.
The ‘Backs visit Wesbild the following night at Wesbild.
The Vipers will enter the season eager to erase a forgettable 2011-12 campaign in which they missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade. They will be led by the formidable blueline corps of newly anointed captain Brett Corkey, Marc Hetnik, Ryan Renz and Geoff Crisfield.
Up front, they are returning Adam Tambellini, Aaron Hadley, Colton Sparrow, Jedd Soleway, Brendan Persley and Riley Hunt.
Williamson and head scout Larry Black seem to have done their homework in signing defensive prospects Michael Statchuk and Kevin Guiltinan.
Statchuk, the younger brother of former SilverBack forward Travis, was captain of the Saskatchewan AAA Midget league’s Prince Albert Mintos. He registered 13 goals and 26 assists in 44 games.
Guiltinan played with Toronto’s Hill Academy last year and earned the Vipers’ attention after an impressive showing at the team’s spring camp.
New forwards to watch for are Pierce Eviston, Braeden Russell and Craig Martin.
Eviston is a skilled power forward who comes to Vernon from the WHL Portland Winterhawks. He previously played in the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies.
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Russell will add size to the Viper lineup. He played with the Oakville Blades the last two seasons.
Martin racked up 48 goals and 48 assists in 50 games as a 16-year-old with the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
In net, the Vipers have brought in Joe Young, a Boston-area prospect ranked by Central Scouting, to challenge Vernon’s Danny Todosychuk for the starting role.
Other netminders vying for a roster spot are Austin Smith, a 19-year-old who played with the WHL Swift Current Broncos, and a pair of Vernon products – Conrad McMillan and Harrison Whitlock.
SNAKE BITES: The 2014 RBC Cup committee will be selling ticket packages for the Junior A nationals at each of the Vipers’ three home exhibition games. They have until Oct. 15 to purchase 13-game RBC Cup packages for $150 ($199 for non-season ticket holders)…There will be a charity silent auction for KidSport at Saturday’s game.