Game Preview: Vipers vs. Wild

Contributed by Jesse Adamson for BCHL communications

Tonight – Vernon Vipers (17-5-0-4) at Wenatchee Wild (15-7-1-1)

6:30 p.m. at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee.

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Previous Meetings

Vernon leads the season series 2-1. In the first meeting on Sept. 16 forward Brett Stapley had two goals and goaltender Anthony Yamnitsky stopped 36 of 37 shots against his former team as the Vipers won 5-1 over the Wild. Vernon defenceman Chris Jandric had two assists and was named the game’s first star.

In the second meeting between the teams, on Oct. 11, Wenatchee forward Sam Hesler scored the game winner in the third period as the Wild overcame an early two-goal deficit and won 3-2. Wenatchee defenceman Cooper Zech and forward Jack Lippis chipped in with two assists each.

The teams most recently met on Oct. 27 with the Vipers winning 4-1 led by two goals from Stapley, a goal and two assists from forward Jimmy Lambert and 32 saves from Yamnitsky.

Who’s Hot

Vernon forward Jesse Landsell comes into the game riding a ten-game point streak. He has two goals and 11 assists in that span. Landsell currently has the sixth-longest point streak in the BCHL this season. Vipers forward Brett Stapley is fifth in BCHL scoring with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 26 games, followed closely by Jimmy Lambert who is tied for sixth with 33 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 23 games. Stapley’s 14 goals are tied for fifth in the league. Michael Ufberg is second among BCHL defencemen with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) in 26 games. Vernon goalie Anthony Yamnistky is second in the BCHL with a 2.15 goals-against average and third in save percentage with .922.

Wenatchee forward AJ Vanderbeck is on an eight-game point streak with seven goals and six assists in that span. Wild forward Jasper Weatherby is tied for third in BCHL scoring with 37 points in 24 games and tied for first in goals with 21. Cooper Zech leads all BCHL defencemen with 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 24 games.

What’s at Stake

Vernon is the second-place team in the Interior Division as well as the entire BCHL with 38 points. They are one point behind the Trail Smoke Eaters and could move ahead of them with a win tonight and a Trail loss, who also play tonight at home to the Penticton Vees. Vernon and Trail play each other on Friday in Trail in a potential first-place showdown.

Wenatchee is in third place in the Interior Division with 32 points. They’re six points behind second-place Vernon with two games in hand, so a win tonight would help in their chase to climb the division standings. The Wild are also only a point ahead of Penticton and the West Kelowna Warriors so they will try to put some distance between themselves and the teams chasing them in the crowded Interior Division.

Coaches Comments

Wenatchee Wild coach Bliss Littler on facing Vernon tonight:

“They’re a very uptempo team, they like to get up the ice, their D gets involved. They try to make the other team’s D turn a lot and retrieve pucks. The one big difference is, they’re one of the most veteran teams in the league and we’re one of the least veteran teams in the league… right now we’re playing pretty good hockey and it should be a good measuring stick to see if we’ve been able to pick up our game since last time we played them.

“We need to be physical, we need to limit the outnumbered rushes we give up, we need to win the special teams battles… Against Vernon you have to do a good job on the penalty kill because they can really hurt you there. We need to stick to how we play and stick to our game plan and if we do that, we’ll have a chance.”

Littler on playing in the competitive Interior Division:

“It’s a grind every single night. In our situation, I think our fans like it, I know that our players love it. You’re in for a battle every single night.”

Littler on playing in Wenatchee:

“I think we have one of the better buildings in junior hockey. I think our fan support’s good…Whether it’s BCHL, USHL, or the Western Hockey League, I think it’s a good place to play junior hockey.”

Vernon Vipers coach Mark Ferner on facing Wenatchee tonight:

“They’re one of the best teams in the league. They’re very well coached, their back end is very mobile, they have very explosive forwards. We’re going to have to be close to our best to give ourselves a chance. We’ve had great games against them. I have the utmost respect for that program, so it’s going to another good challenge for us.

“I think the biggest thing with our group is to manage the puck real well. They’ve got mobile defencemen… When we’ve had a little bit of success against them we managed the puck well, got pucks behind their D, got them turned around and tried to play as much in their end as possible… We can’t turn the puck over against that hockey team. They’ve got a great transition team. If you get over-extended against them, that’s when they can do their damage.”

Ferner on playing in the competitive Interior Division:

“It’s great. I think that’s the way the game should be. The parity, not only in our division, but the league is very close. There’s no easy nights for us. You’re always watching the scoreboard, but at the same time focusing on our group. We just tell our kids that we don’t necessarily care who we play, that’s not disrespecting anybody, but we care how we play.”

Ferner on playing in Wenatchee:

“It’s so exciting for our kids… It’s a little bit of the American mentality, they make it an experience for sure. It’s a beautiful building, they do things the right way, they treat the visiting team very very well. It’s just a real good atmosphere to be in, not only for the fans but also for the players. We’re pretty fortunate to have Wenatchee in our league.”