Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Lambert Turning Heads With Vipers:
Lambert turning heads with Vipers
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Sep 21, 2016
At first glance, Mark Ferner wasn’t sure if Jimmy Lambert could handle the physical battles in the B.C. Hockey League.
Lambert was with the Saskatoon Contacts and getting prime-time minutes with Garrett Pilon and Kole Lind, the highest-scoring line in the Saskatchewan Major Midget League.
Pilon signed with the Kamloops Blazers and was plucked by the Washington Capitals in Round 3 of the 2016 NHL entry draft. Lind went to the Kelowna Rockets.
All three players racked up decent rookie numbers a year ago and Lambert signed a NCAA scholarship deal with the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks while with the Vernon Vipers. WHL players are considered professional and ineligible for the NCAA.
“He (Lambert) was so tiny in Midget and I wondered if he could take the hitting,” laughed Ferner, head coach/GM of the Vernon Vipers. “He has sprouted up and you could argue he was our best player at the end of last year. His line this year is clicking; they get it.”
Ferner noted that Pilon was dead-last in dryland sprints and he wondered if the son of former NHLer, Richard Pilon, could play in Kamloops, where Ferner was an assistant at the time.
“Once he was on the ice, his hockey IQ was so high, he could definitely play.”
Lambert is close to six-feet these days and added some muscle over the summer.
“It’s a tough choice between Junior A and the WHL, but going from the WHL to pro is a huge step compared to jumping from college to pro,” said the alternate Viper captain. “I never really got any interest from the WHL. I wanted to focus on my development here and play four years of college. I’m getting thicker and our line, with Steven (Jandric) and Niko (Karamanis) has lots of speed which you need to be successful in the BCHL.”
The Pilon-Lind-Lambert combo rang up 232 points with the Contacts and Lambert is now tied for ninth in BCHL points with four goals and two assists through four games.
Lambert and company were held pointless as the defending national champion West Kelowna Warriors iced the Vipers 3-1 before 900 fans Saturday night at Royal LePage Place.
It was normal feisty Warrior-Viper affair that saw 15 power plays awarded between the two rivals.
“It kind of looked like most of us were tired,” said Lambert, who wears No. 23. “Our work ethic wasn’t quite there. Anybody can beat anybody in this league as Penticton lost to Alberni Valley. If you have an off night, you’re going to lose.”
The Warriors peppered the Vipers net with 16 shots in the first period but couldn’t beat a red-hot rookie goalie Cole Demers.
The Vipers missed multiple opportunities on a five-minute power play with Tyler Anderson ejected for a checking-from-behind penalty on Viper captain Riley Brandt in the second period. The Warriors’ penalty kill blocked at least seven Viper shots.
Anderson was assessed a major, but the league reviewed the penalty and much to Ferner’s disappointment, changed it to a minor so Anderson will not face any disciplinary action. Brandt, meanwhile is sidelined with a knee injury.
“They are big and fast and they play the same style they did last year,” said the soft-spoken Lambert. “They compete hard and that’s what you want.”
Captain Nick Rutigliano gave the Warriors the 1-0 lead late in the second frame.
The Vipers power play evened things up with birthday boy Jagger Williamson converting from Carter Stephenson and Christian Cakebread, at 7:59 of the final 20.
Just 79 seconds later, Quin Foreman swiped the puck and made 2-1. Mitchell Barker scored his first of the season two minutes later for insurance. Foreman and Chase Dubois drew helpers.
The Vipers tried to rally late but couldn’t get anything past Xavier Burghardt. West Kelowna is 2-1. The Warriors outshot the Snakes 42-31, including a 16-4 advantage in the first period.
“We were second to pucks all night,” said Ferner. “Cole kept us in the game in the first period and we pressed hard after that but couldn’t get a clean shot. Cole was very good: he competed hard.”
The Vipers are 3-1 and head to Chilliwack’s Prospera Place for the BCHL showcase where they face the Nanaimo Clippers Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. They take the bus Friday morning. Vernon plays the Wenatchee Wild Saturday night.
Forward Nick Rasovic had a kidney lacerated with a stick in Friday’s win over Coquitlam and will be sidelined at least a month. Ferner is still working the phones on trades. He has room for two 20-year-olds and two more imports.
F Brett Stapley skated in practice Monday but remains on IR. Vernon G Tyler Steel (Brown Universty Bears/Merritt Centennials grad) blocked some pucks at Tuesday practice as he prepares to play for Huntsville Havoc of the SPHL.
In other Saturday games, it was: Wenatchee 11 Prince George 4; Coquitlam 3 Salmon Arm 1; Merritt 3 Trail 2; Nanaimo 3 Surrey 2; Alberni Valley 2 Penticton 1; Langley 4 Chilliwack 1; Cowichan Valley 2 Victoria 1.
In Sunday play, it was: Penticton 4 Cowichan 3 (2OT); Powell River 3 Surrey 2.