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Game on for eager Vipers
Too bad life doesn’t hand out second chances like Oprah. It did in the cases of four Vernon Vipers who get another shot at the Canadian Junior A Hockey League title.
Michael McNicholas, 20, and defencemen Josh Bryan, 21, lost in the semifinals of the Western Canada Cup with the host Nanaimo Clippers last year.
Forwards Brett Mulcahy, 21, and 18-year-old Demico Hannoun lost in overtime in the semifinals at the RBC Cup with the Surrey Eagles last year in Summerside, P.E.I.
“I feel pretty fortunate, not many guys get the opportunity to play in one, let alone two RBCs,” said Mulcahy, a Kelowna product.
Mulcahy returned to the Okanagan this year as the Surrey Eagles traded their captain to the Vipers for Chase McMurphy and future considerations.
A Sidney product, Bryan is revelling in the fact that he gets another crack at the Royal Bank Cup.
“It feels like someone is looking down on me by giving me a chance to play for the host team. It feels like someone up there wants me to win it,” said Bryan.
The Vipers open the tournament against the Carleton Place Canadians (54-6-1) of Ottawa Saturday night at Kal Tire Place.
Saturday nights’ game will be the first meaningful game for the Vipers since April 15.
“We have been practising way too long, I’m jealous of all the other teams that have been playing,” said Bryan.
One more sleep until the RBC Cup gets underway. McNicholas, who came to Vernon in the Aaron Hadley trade with Nanaimo last year, believes the Snakes will be ready.
“Our team last year at Westerns wasn’t nearly as focused as this team is right now. These tournaments are always fun and we will be ready to go,” said McNicholas.
The RBC presents a format unlike anything the Vipers have experienced this season.
“It is going to be different, we gotta treat each game like Game 7,” said Hannoun. “We need to limit our mistakes and make sure we capitalize on the other teams.”
Hannoun came to the Vipers from the Eagles in the blockbuster deal involving Adam Tambellini.
It may have taken two and a half weeks for the RBC to get here for the Vipers, but it will be over before you know it. The RBC looks to be a grind house as the teams that play the finals will end up playing six games in eight nights.
“We know its going to be tough. We need to eat good and drink a lot of water, just like we have been doing all playoffs,” said McNicholas.
The tournament gets underway Saturday with the Dauphin Kings taking on the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots at 2 p.m. The Vipers-Canadians game follows at 7 p.m.
Sunday features the Yorkton Terriers and the Patriots at 2 p.m., with the Canadians and the Kings at 7 p.m.
Carleton’s Andy Sturtz picked up some serious hardware, as he was named the 2014 MVP and the Top Forward at the CJHL awards Wednesday in Calgary.
Sturtz sits second in Canadians’ playoff production with 12 goals and 22 points. He exploded for 51 goals and 104 points in his first CJHL season.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Buffalo product is headed to Penn State University next fall to play for the Nittany Lions.
The Canadians have 10 players committed to NCAA schools next fall. D-man Jim Roll will be attending Lake Superior State along with Vipers’ captain Ryan Renz. Forward Evan Peterson will head to Colgate University with Vipers’ blueliner Kenny Citron.
Carleton Place set a record with 54 wins and 110 points in the Ontario League this season.