The Jan. 10 national trade deadline has come and gone, roster moves have been made, and the Vernon Vipers can now turn their attention to the Road to the RBC Cup.
The 2014 RBC Cup hosts were quiet on Deadline Day, but made their big moves in the days leading up to the trade freeze with a pair of deals involving BCHL rivals. Vernon acquired defenceman Dylan Chanter from the Merritt Centennials on Jan. 3, and forward Brett Mulcahy from the Surrey Eagles on Jan. 6.
Mulcahy is no stranger to the RBC Cup, having captained the Eagles at last year’s tournament in Summerside, P.E.I., while Chanter is no stranger to Vernon, growing up in nearby Armstrong, B.C.
In fact, both players are Okanagan products; Mulcahy is a Kelowna native.
Chanter started this season with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, and was in the headlines across North America after a scary on-ice incident Oct. 12, when he had a seizure after hitting his unprotected head on the ice during a fight.
“After it happened, I just tried to have a positive spirit about it,” Chanter told the Vernon Morning Star. It was a freak accident, something that doesn’t happen every day. I was lucky to come out of it OK and I was back in about four weeks.
“It was pretty weird, but now that I’m back on the ice it doesn’t bother me too much.”
When Chanter made the decision to return to Canada to continue his junior career, the Vipers were the obvious choice, and Vernon head coach and general manager Jason Williamson was only too happy to add the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder to his line-up, sending Jason Bird and future considerations to the Centennials.
“It’s my hometown team, essentially,” Chanter said. “It’s been a lifelong thing to play here, and growing up watching them I never thought I would get the chance to. Now I’ve got that chance and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Mulcahy’s acquisition not only brings more leadership to the Vipers, it brings more offence; the Holy Cross University commit has 23 goals, good for a tie for fifth in the BCHL. He also becomes Vernon’s lone 20-goal man; leading scorer Michael McNicholas is second with 19.
“He’s a two-time captain and a guy that’s won before,” Williamson told the Morning Star. “That experience is valuable and he’s a good two-way hockey player.”
After coming within two wins of an RBC Cup title last season, losing in overtime to Summerside in the semifinals, Mulcahy relishes a second chance at a national championship.
He also knows what it will take to be the last team standing in May.
“It takes a lot for a team to win like we did last year, and there are a few guys in the room that can lean on that experience,” he told the Morning Star. “A team has to be cohesive and work together and play within the systems. If everybody takes care of their role, the wins will come and the team will be successful.”
The deadline trades were the eighth and ninth made by Williamson since the regular season began Sept. 7, although only Chanter, Mulcahy and defenceman Jared Wilson are on the roster from those deals.
Wilson was acquired Oct. 1 from Alberni Valley in exchange for Craig Martin and future considerations.
The deals also include the arrival and departure of goaltender Michael Stiliadis, who was picked up from the OJHL’s Georgetown Raiders on Oct. 10 when Austin Smith went down with an injury, and shipped to the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings a month and a day later when Smith returned, and a revolving door at forward that ended with the pick-up of Mulcahy.
Williamson sent future considerations to the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars on Oct. 3 for Josh Betinol, then sent Betinol and futures to the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs for Chase McMurphy on Nov. 4. McMurphy was part of the package to acquire Mulcahy.
The Vipers ended Jan. 10 with a 21-12-3-4 (W-L-T-OTL) record, good for third in the BCHL’s Interior Division, eight points behind the division-leading Penticton Vees, and just one point back of second-place West Kelowna.
Vernon opens the 2014 RBC Cup, its record-setting 10th appearance at Canada’s National Junior A Championship, on May 10 when it faces the East Region champions.