Morning Star Staff/Black Press Sports
The Vernon Vipers are madly working the phones to fill their roster for a Saturday night showdown against the Vees in Penticton.
The B.C. Hockey League team has lost forwards Christian Cakebread, Riley Brandt, Luke Gingras and Jimmy Lambert in the last few days.
Cakebread is gone for good, accepting a scholarship to Niagara University in New York, effective immediately.
Brandt is out six weeks with a broken thumb, Gingras is sidelined with a broken thumb and four-game suspension and Lambert is suffering with strepthroat.
Viper head coach/GM Mark Ferner hopes to add two players through Western League and USHL cuts before the Jan. 10 trading deadline.
“We’re making lots of phone calls,” said Ferner. “We’re short four forwards so we have to add some bodies. We’ll probably call up three guys for Saturday.”
The Vipers will look to the KIJHL Junior B and Major Midget ranks for affiliates.
Cakebread departs the Vipers having appeared in 35 games this season, recording nine goals and 20 points.
The product of Gilbert, AZ is just the second Viper in recent memory to leave the club for school at the mid-way point of the season.
Goaltender Bryce Christensen became a member of the University of Alaska Fairbanks partway through the 06-07 season.
“Anytime you lose a player of Christian’s calibre at this point of the season it is going to be a really tough situation,” said Ferner. “You can’t blame him for taking this opportunity that was presented to him, and we have never been an organization that holds players back.
“The Vernon Vipers have always been about moving kids on to the next level and giving them the best opportunity. We wish him the best of the luck for the rest of the season and going forward.”
Cakebread, 19, is expected to make his Purple Eagles debut against the Holy Cross Crusaders tonight.
A linemate of NHL rookie sensation Auston Matthews in Arizona U16 all-star hockey, Cakebread racked up 30 points in 35 games with Vernon last year after two years with the Fargo Force of the USHL.
Cakebread de-committed from the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the offseason in the hopes of landing a more lucrative deal.
Brandt has seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 28 games. He earlier served a 10-game suspension.
The Viper captain broke his thumb when Salmon Arm Silverback forward Elijiah Barriga took Brandt into the side wall Thursday, Dec. 29 at Kal Tire Place. Barriga, who had just been rocked by Brandt with a heavy hit, was assessed a boarding minor.
Gingras was slashed by a Silverback in the second period of last Friday’s return tilt at the Shaw Centre and then finished a check on Salmon Arm’s Carson Bolduc, receiving a major for a blow to the head, a penalty which carries an automatic four-game suspension.
Lambert didn’t practise Wednesday or Thursday and may be fit to play in Penticton.
The Vees may be in a sour mood after losing 3-2 to the Trail Smoke Eaters before 2,651 fans Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Vees head coach Fred Harbinson was not impressed as the Vees surrendered a 2-0 lead starting at 11:36 when Ross Armour scored going hard to the net on Mathew Robson.
“I thought we should be ashamed of ourselves on how we played in the last 20,” said Harbinson, whose crew lost its first game of the season while holding a lead after two periods. “Clearly the guys thought that the game was over and they found differently. They are going to pay for it tomorrow. I don’t do this very often, but you know what, you can’t be one of the better defensive teams in the league and you can’t close a team out like that is absolutely uncalled for.”
After facing just six shots over two periods, Robson was peppered with 19.
“It was pretty slow the first two periods. We kind of figured it out in the third period,” said Armour, a Bemidji State Beaver commit with 11 goals and 32 points. “We got a lucky break there. It was pretty good. It was good to get two points out of it.”
When asked how his team turns it around versus the Vipers, Harbinson said the players were going to learn Thursday at practice what happens when they don’t compete.
“If it costs us the game Saturday, it costs us the game Saturday,” he said. “It’s not about now, it’s about months from now. When we get everybody healthy in the lineup, if guys don’t compete on Saturday, then we will get APs (affiliate players) in the lineup until we are healthy. There is going to be consequences, not for losing, consequences for not competing. Everybody in town has to work when they get up in the morning. These guys have to work. They don’t just come here to hang out.”