Sunday, August 17, 2008

All Quiet On The Viper Front:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

August 17 2008

All Quiet On The Viper Front:

As far as off seasons go, life in Viperland has been about as quiet as it gets. While other B.C. Hockey League teams have been wheeling and dealing, the Vernon Vipers have flown below the radar. Their three commitments-to Midget defenceman Adam Thompson & forward Barry Switzer of the Calgary Buffaloes, and to Steven Weinstein of the Los Angeles Selects were announced in the spring, and since then, not a peep. While this lack of news might be driving the Viper faithful crazy with anxiety, there is a sound theory behind head coach Mark Ferner's approach. While some teams have made the majority of their commitments, and all but inked in their starting rosters, Ferner is intent on watching the 75 invites (including 15 returning players and eight goalies) battle for spots at the Viper's main camp, wich starts Tuesday at Wesbild Centre. "We've convinced players to come out and make our hockey team," said Ferner. "I have to be loyal to those players that were here last year, but if we have a player that comes in and does better, we have to do the right thing. We're going to put the best team on the ice, regardless of where they came from, or where they played last year. "There are going to be some veterans on our team that'll get pushed really hard, wich is what camps should be about. We want it to be a very competetive training camp." Fans will get the chance to see the Viper hopefuls at the annual Blue and White intra-squad game Saturday night (7pm) at the Wesbild Centre. Admission is $2. The Snakes will then play a pair of exibition games against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The first one goes Saturday, Aug. 30 at the Sunwave Centre, and the other goes Sunday, Aug. 31 at the Revekstoke Forum.Ferner learned a lesson from last years camp when the Vipers invited just 40 players. "We didnt have enough players to fill a 23-man roster," said Ferner, adding some of those 40 players wern't even eligible to play in the BCHL. "We took a different approach this year because we don't want to get caught in the same situation." With netminder Lucas Gore expected to make another bid to play with the Chilliwack Bruins, Andrew Hammond, 20, who was picked up from the Surrey Eagles at last season's trade deadline, will look to cement his starter status. He went 21-17-1 with a 3.19 GAA and .899 save percentage. Hammond could be pressed by Anthony Manfredi (14-4-1) of the Kamlopps Storm, whose 2.28 GAA led the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Ryan Faragher (13-17-2), who posted a 3.71 GAA. and .896 save percentage with the Fort Frances Junior Sabres of the Superior International Junior Hockey League, will also be in the hunt for a roster spot.With the loss of Viper grad Hunter Bishop (scholarship with the Ohio State Buckeyes), who led the Snakes with 57 goals and 40 assists in 60 games, his former linemates, twins Connor and Kellen Jones, who turned 18 on Saturday, will be looked to fill the offensive void. However, Kellen broke his collar bone when he took a foul tip while catching for the Trail Jays of the American Legion Baseball League. According to Ferner, Kellen will likely take it easy at training camp (if he skates at all), but anticipates him being ready for the regular season.Other notable returning forwards include Braden Pimm, Rob Short, Chris Crowell, John Digness and Dallas Goodrunning. Forward Ryan Santana, who split last season between the Des Moines Buccaneers of the U.S. Hockey League and Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League, will look to lock up one of the Viper's 20-year old cards. Kyle Bigos, who devoted his summer to an off-season training program (he's walking into camp 20 pounds lighter than last year), Kevin Kraus, Cody Ikkala, Justin Palazzo and Steve Tresierra will look to retain their positions on the blueline.

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