Whether they are a returning vet, or a fresh-faced rookie, it makes no difference – home opener is a big deal to the Vernon Vipers.
Aaron Hadley, one of four third-year Vipers, still gets giddy on opening night at Wesbild Centre. It comes, in part, from placing a new set of expectations on himself every season.
“Every year is a new year, and every year I want to improve my own game, along with the team,” said the 6-foot-3, 200-pound power forward.
“It’s exciting. We have a great fan base here in Vernon, so it’s always nice to show the fans the new players we bring in every year. Being a second-year assistant captain, I have a huge role in helping out the young guys, making sure they know what’s expected of them.”
Fans will get their first glimpse of the 2012-13 Vipers Saturday night (7:00) when they host the Salmon Arm SilverBacks in the second leg of a home-and-home at Wesbild Centre. The teams battle tonight at the Shaw Centre.
The Vipers, who opened the B.C. Hockey League season with a loss and an OT loss at last weekend’s inaugural Showcase event in Chilliwack, will be feeling extra pressure to perform after missing the playoffs last season.
“That was huge for us,” said Hadley, a Castlegar native. “It gives us a lot of motivation going into this year. No one wants a long summer like last summer.”
Rookie forward Craig Martin, a Trail product with good hands, pocketed his first-ever BCHL goal in his debut last weekend against the Penticton Vees. He had a bunch of scoring chances in that game, but opening-night jitters might have got the best of him.
“I was pretty nervous the first weekend, but I’m going to be ready to go this weekend,” said Martin, 17, who lined up with Pearce Eviston and Jedd Soleway at the Showcase.
Colton Sparrow is expected to line up in Eviston’s place against the SilverBacks, allowing head coach Jason Williamson to load up his top line with Eviston, Hadley and Adam Tambellini.
Martin skated alongside some talented players with the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks last season, but he said Vernon’s depth allows for some spectacular line combinations.
“There’s pretty good talent there (in the KIJHL), but nothing like this,” he smiled.
SNAKE BITES: Viper defenceman Marc Hetnik (lower body) remains questionable for weekend action, while forward Mitch McAllister (shoulder) is sidelined indefinitely…Kiss FM is hosting a tail gate party starting at 5 p.m. before Saturday’s game. It will feature live music by Vernon performers Raquel Warchol and The Original Shakedown…The Vipers will be participating in the annual Terry Fox Run Sunday, 9 a.m. at Coldstream Elementary…Adam Fauchoux, a forward prospect from the Prince Albert Mintos Midget AAA program who attended the Vipers’ main camp, has signed with the Cowichan Valley Capitals…The SilverBacks sent F Travis Stephens, 19, to the Trail Smoke Eaters in exchange for F Alex Holland, 20, and future considerations in a Thursday transaction. Stephens, a Victoria native, and Holland, a Woburn Mass. native, each put up 34 points in 2011-12…Former Viper Turner Lawson will wear an ‘A’ with the Victoria Grizzlies this season. Lawson was named as the future considerations in the deal that brought D Sean Robertson to Vernon at the BCHL trade deadline (the Grizz also acquired the rights to F Zach McPhee in the deal).