Every new season in junior hockey, graduating players go on to bigger and better things, with rookies replenishing the ranks.
It’s a story as old as training camp itself: New faces trying to step and make the big club.
This season in Vernon, one new face is going to have a big impact — without even stepping on the ice.
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“We’ve got a long ways to go, but we’ve done what we can so far and I like what we have done,” said Vipers new head coach Jason McKee,
Last season, Vernon advanced to the BCHL championship before being swept four straight by Prince George in the league final.
So the coaching change, from Mark Ferner to McKee, may have caught some fans by surprise.
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McKee was handed the reigns in Vernon after spending the last two years as bench boss of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
“Once we get our team in place here, get our roster set, we want to be an aggressive team in all areas of the ice,” McKee said.
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One of the big, aggressive blue-liners that Vernon’s new coach will count on is Landon Fuller.
“I think we are doing really good right now, and I think it’s going to be a good group this year,” Fuller said.
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This season, the 20-year-old veteran is looking to improve his offensive output.
“But still bring that presences as a defensive defenceman, too,” Fuller said.
Gone is this season is Jagger Williamson, but another Vernon local will captain the Vipers.
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Connor Marritt will wear the C on his jersey in his third season with the team.
“I’m really excited for our group this year. I really like our new recruits; they have been really good at camp so far,” Marritt said.
“I had a great mentor for me in Jagger Williamson. Before me, he was a two-year captain and one of the all-time greats here.”
Marritt will try to follow in Williamson’s footsteps, in the dressing room and on the ice.
The Vipers open their season on the road in West Kelowna when they take on the Warriors on Sept. 6.