Brandon Whistle hopes to land a NCAA scholarship for next year. In hockey or golf. He’s not picky.
The newest Vernon Viper is a two-sport star and for now, he’s focussed on making the B.C. Hockey League Snakes even stronger. The 19-year-old West Kelowna product, who turns 20 in December, was obtained Monday in a trade which sent rookie forward Adam Panacci to the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
A 6-foot-1, 205-pounder, Whistle was in his third season with the Pontiacs. He has 100 points in 106 career AJHL games. Whistle is also a former Okanagan Major Midget Rocket who led them in 2014-2015 with 48 points. His older brother, Jackson, spent four seasons as a goalie with the WHL Kelowna Rockets.
“It’s going to be awesome playing closer to home,” said Whistle. “I came home two weeks ago and our assistant coach, Neil Langridge asked me if I wanted to spend my last year closer to home. I told him ‘Yes’ right away.”
Whistle knows Viper winger Tanner Wishnowski well – they were Bantam teammates at Pursuit of Excellence Academy – and has played Midget Rep against Viper alternate captains Jimmy Lambert and Brett Stapley.
“I would say I’m a complete player,” said Whistle, a big Patrick Kane and Blackhawk fan. “Making the adjustment from Midget to Junior, I had to learn how to play defence fast. My first year (19 goals with Pontiacs), I didn’t have any points until my 18th game. Somebody on the first line got sick and I ended up getting five points and I stuck there. I don’t go looking for the big hit, but I finish my checks.”
Born in Bracknell, England, Whistle is a Mt. Boucherie Bears high school golf grad who plays to a scratch handicap.
He has written letters to a few NCAA schools about securing a golf scholarship, but isn’t ruling a hockey deal.
The trade saw the Vipers give up Panacci, 18, of Toronto, who had two goals in 13 games this season.
“You don’t get these opportunities very often,” said Vipers’ head coach and director of player operations Mark Ferner, moments after a Monday afternoon practice at Kal Tire Place. “It’s always tough to make a trade. We liked Adam, but we’re getting an older guy and a big body who has averaged a point a game for three years. We have a very good group here so we’ll see where he fits in. He played for the Okanagan Rockets so he’s familiar with the area. He’s on his way here and he will be in our lineup tomorrow (Tuesday) night.”
Vernon starts a home and home series Friday in Penticton versus the Vees. Josh Prokop pulled the hat trick as the Vipers dispatched the West Kelowna Warriors 5-3 Saturday night.
Prokop, who is expected to sign a NCAA Division 1 scholarship any day now, completed his hatty into an empty net with 1:32 remaining. He has six goals in his rookie season.
Vernon, who held period leads of 3-1 and 4-2, got singles from Jordan Sandhu (his sixth) and defenceman Michael Young (third). The Vipers’ Fortis Energy Player of the Game was Young. Jesse Lansdell provided two assists as Vernon (14-4-0-3) stretched their undefeated streak to six games.
Parm Dhaliwal registered a deuce for the 12-8 Warriors, while Stephen Kleysen also scored. Dhaliwal now has five goals. Kleysen converted for the only powerplay of the tilt, his fourth of the season. Anthony Yamnitsky blocked 25 shots for the Snakes, while ex-Viper Cole Demers turned aside 21 drives.
SNAKE BITES: Viper F Alex Swetlikoff earned one assist as Team Canada White lost 4-3 in overtime Monday to the U.S. at the World U17 Championships in Dawson Creek. Canada White fell 1-0 to Canada Black on Sunday. Canada White meets the Czech Republic Tuesday afternoon…Defencemen Shane Kelly and Sol Seibel join Wishnowski on the Vipers’ injured reserve…In a separate deal made last week, the Vipers dealt winger Finn Evans to the Ottawa Junior Senators of the CCHL for future considerations, leaving them one under the BCHL roster limit of 23…Former Viper goalie Andrew Hammond, was one of four players the Colorado Aalanche acquired in a three-way, blockbuster trade which saw forward Matt Duchene head to the Ottawa Senators and Kyle Turris of Ottawa go to the Nashville Predators. Hammond spent two seasons with the Vipers, backstopping them to the 2009 Royal Bank Cup in Victoria…Viper F Alex Swetlikoff Team Canada at the World U17 Championships in Dawson Creek