Sunday, March 29, 2015
Vipers Begin BCHL Re-Load:
Vipers begin BCHL re-load
by Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Mar 29, 2015
During Mark Ferner’s first tour of duty in Vernon, opposing coaches and GMs would joke about how the Vipers weren’t exactly rebuilding for the following year, but rather re-loading.
When you win back-to-back Royal Bank Cup national championship titles and almost pull off a threepeat, players and parents take notice. Cold calls to the Viper office from prospects all over North America started hours after they were finished their playoff runs.
It’s happening again. Ferner is more stoked about the talent he has already lined up for next season than he was when the Vipers were perennial Canadian champions.
“Our camp is gonna be very competitie,” said Ferner, five days after the Snakes lost Game 7 of the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division final series. “We have 13 guys who are eligible to come back and we will invite six kids from our spring camp, and they’ll have a chance to make the team. It’s been crazy busy around here since we were knocked out. I’m very happy with our recruits.”
A total of 88 players attended the spring camp last weekend. A few 1997- and ‘98-born prospects and one ‘99 will be back for the main trials.
The Vipers, meanwhile, took in the Canucks-Colorado game Thursday night at Rogers Arena in Vancouver as part of post-mortem week.
“Nick Rasovic’s dad has a construction company so 16 of us were in a luxury box; it was a lot of fun,” said graduating goalie Danny Todosychuk, who hopes to land a U.S. scholarship soon. “We all stayed overnight at Rasovic’s house.”
Todosychuk spent four years with the Vipers and was the consummate teammate. Go to the Junior B Golden Rockets for a few months while we sort out our crease will ya Danny? We’re gonna go with Smitty (Austin Smith) in the playoffs and Royal Bank Cup, Just so you know, Danny. No hard feelings?
Hampered by injuries and a six-game suspension for sticking up for a teammate in West Kelowna, Todoyschuk could have easily sat back and whined.
Instead, he went the extra mile for the Vipers and his hometown of Vernon. He won the Community Award in addition to a $1,300 scholarship from the Blueliners Club. Both well deserved.
“We had promos right from the start of the year,” he told me on awards night at Kal Tire Place. “I’m a local guy so it’s easy to ask me because I can’t say no. There was one where we got home at 6 a.m. from an exhibition game in Prince George. We didn’t get any sleep and we got off the bus and did the Terry Fox Run at Coldstream school at 7 a.m. It’s fun; I love doing stuff for the community.”
When Ferner left the WHL Kamloops Blazer to take over from Jason Williamson a few days after the season-opening Showcase in Chilliwack, there was loads of optimism in town.
Ferner inherited a decent group that some hockey people figured may miss the playoffs.
“They don’t know that,” said Ferner, when I told him what the Hot Stove Leagues were saying about the team.
He brought in quality d-men Mitch Meek and Brandon Egli from the Victoria Grizzlies, signed rugged F Colton McCarthy from the WHL Prince Albert Raiders and added Rasovic for energy from the Fred Page Cup champion Coquitlam Express.
Ferner received supreme leadership from captain Riley Guenther and alternates TJ Dumonceaux, Liam Coughlin and Kenny Citron as he taught the Vipers how to play the right way. They actually outplayed the Vees in Game 7 and the future looks bright.
“We had higher expectations,” said Dumonceaux, moments after that heartbreaking 2-0 loss Sunday night. “One lucky goal and it’s your season, and it’s tough, but you learn a lot from this. I’m pretty thankful I had Ferner for a coach for a year, and that coaching group (assistants Kevin Kraus and Eric Godard will be back). I met a lot of good guys this year and saved my best year for last in Vernon which was good.”
Guenther, who took Top D-man honours, moved to Vernon after more than two years trying hard to earn ice time with the WHL Raiders and Tri-City Americans. He loved his two years here.
“I’ll probably remember games like this. Penticton-Vernon, soldout barns, the atmosphere and passion the fans have for Okanagan hockey.”
Rookie Jagger Williamson, who was a reliable player as a 16-year-old, hasn’t even grown yet. He gets ribbing because his mom drives him to and from the rink, but the Vipers love the kid.
“It feels good to win Most Improved,” said Williamson. “Coming from Midget, I’ll take it. I think I was getting better and better. First game, I was a little antsy, but the older guys told me I’d get used to it and it took about 10 minutes. After that, it was all good and I found my spot.”
Jagger was waiting for a teammate to get the rookie shoe-check when veteran Anthony Latina blindsided him with the initiation move.
The Vipers lose 103 goals with the departures of Thomas Aldworth, Coughlin, Latina and Dumonceaux, but Ferner believes he can find that offence with a mix of returnees and prime-time recruits.
Promising rookie Mitchell Oliver, who did radio colour analysis during the Interior finals, and Meek are the only d-men returning next year. Up front, leading scorer Liam Finlay, Riley Brandt and McCarthy will nicely complement the newbies. Jarrod Schamerhorn will carry the mail in net.