Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Vipers Grab Gamache From Oilers:
Vipers grab Gamache from Oilers
By Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Published: November 30, 2011 10:00 AM
A six-game losing skid and 3-5-0-2 in their last 10 games. Already 16 points back of the Penticton Vees, who are averaging almost six goals a game and just got back their captain, Logan Johnston, from a 25-game suspension in time to ambush the Chilliwack Chiefs 9-0 Saturday night.
The defending B.C. Hockey League champion Vernon Vipers were in unfamiliar territory and their fans were getting restless. Enough embarrassment. Time to make a change.
Head coach/GM Jason Williamson pulled off a major deal on Grey Cup Sunday, plucking the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s second leading scorer Ben Gamache from the Okotoks Oilers.
The Vipers gave up secondyear winger Marcus Basara of Coquitlam (6-11-17) and rookie winger Connor Hartley of Red Deer (0-3-3), both 18-year-olds, along with future considerations. Hartley played four games with Okotoks as an affiliate player last year.
“This was obviously an extremely tough decision to move Ben Gamache who is a great hockey player and was very well respected in our community, but a decision that we felt was necessary for the betterment of the team and for Ben,” said Oilers’ head coach James Poole, on the team’s website.
“We look at this move as a positive change for Ben and for our hockey team. Ben will be going to another great organization in the Vernon Vipers and will get a fresh start to achieving his personal goals.”
Gamache, 20, racked up 20 goals, 45 points and 115 penalty minutes in 32 games with the twotime defending Southern Division champion Oilers, who are fourth at 14-17-0-1 this season.
The 5-foot-8, 195-pounder was co-captain of the 2008 Telus Cup national Midget title-holding Notre Dame Hounds with Patrick McGillis, now captain of the Vipers. He pocketed 37 goals and 86 points in his first two years in Okotoks.
“I was kind of surprised and kind of happy,” said Gamache, as he rode around town Monday with McGillis trying to find his billets’ house. “I needed a new site and a new place to play and after one day here, I already like it.”
Gamache rushed from Kelowna International Airport to Wesbild Centre for part of the Vipers’ practice Monday morning.
Williamson saw Gamache play with Notre Dame when the Vipers were recruiting McGillis and Drew George (traded two months into his rookie year).
“We knew what kind of player we were getting,” said Williamson. “He’s an energy guy who plays hard and is captain material (also wore the C for Okotoks). He competes and he can score and he’s a 20-year-old; he’s just what we need right now. You could tell at practice this morning that he’s a good all-round player. He’s a pretty smart player who is good on the defensive side and can really go on offence.”
The Vipers now have four 20-year-olds and are allowed six. Gamache makes his Viper debut tonight in Penticton against the first-place Vees, who at 21-3-0-2, are rated No. 4 in the nation.
Gamache, who plays summer hockey with McGillis in Calgary, will earn his shower every night wearing Basara’s old No. 17. “I hope to bring leadership,” said Gamache, who hails from the small, former mill town of Longlac in northwestern Ontario. “I’m a pretty physical, in-yourface guy who goes to the greasy areas. The front of the net is my spot. I’m the kind of player whon bangs away at loose pucks. I just want to help out this team in any way I can.”
The amiable Gamache, a Montreal Canadiens’ fan whose first language is French, comes with high praise from McGillis. “He’s hard-nosed and wears his heart on his sleeve,” said McGllis. “He’s not afraid to mix it up and he’s good on the forecheck. We’re a young team so he will bring experience and a lot of energy while leading by example. He’ a real honest player.”
Gamache, whose parents now live and work in Yorkton, Sask., enjoys racing snowmobiles on the more than 4,000 kilometres of trails back home in Ontario. He also likes ice fishing, hunting and handling remote model airplanes. “You can go for years if you want,” he joked about snowmobiling in Longlac.
He played a lot of baseball (shortstop) in high school and now plays fastball in the summers. His cousin, Trevor Gamache, plays university hockey for the Lakehead Timberwolves in Thunder Bay.
The Vipers bowed 3-2 to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks in overtime, before 1,220 fans Saturday night at the Sunwave Centre. It was the second straight OT loss to the Gorillas in as many nights.
Kindersley, Sask. product Sean Flanagan supplied the winner 86 seconds into four-on-three overtime with Viper d-man Geoff Crisfield off for hooking.
Adam Tambellini, with his 11th goal of the year, and Aaron Hadley, with the 2-2 equalizer midway through the third period (his fourth), handled the Vipers’ offence in front of Kirby Halcrow. Shane Hanna and Garrett Hendrickson, two of three players the SilverBacks obtained from the Vees in exchange for top scorer Bryce Gervais, both with their second goals of the season, gave Salmon Arm a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes. Vernon outshot the Gorillas 36-26 with Kurt Williams earning the win and third star. The SilverBacks are four points back of fifth-place Chilliwack.
“We couldn’t put the puck in the net,” said McGillis, who was scheduled to view results of an MRI on his ankle Tuesday. “We deserved a better fate, but sometimes when you’re losing, you don’t get the bounces.”
SNAKE BITES: The Vipers were without key d-men Ryan Renz and Luke Juha, both suffering from concussions...The Woodstock Slammers of the Manitoba League and Spruce Grove Saints are ranked one-two in the CJHL...The Vees have six players in the top-10 scoring, led by Minnesota product Connor Reilly, with 22 goals and 49 points...The second-place Merritt Centennials, who are five points in front of the Vipers, visit Wesbild Friday night.