The Vernon Vipers have traded defenceman Darren Rizzolo to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in exchange for future considerations.
Head coach and director of hockey operations Mark Ferner was forced to make a move as second-year forward Brett Stapley is set to come off the injured reserve list.
Rizzolo is an 18-year-old Mission product who compiled three goals and 10 points in 45 games last year with the Snakes. He was acquired in a trade with the Chilliwack Chiefs last year that saw forward Linden Hora of Kelowna sent to the Fraser Valley. Rizzolo, a former speed skater, is committed to the NCAA Northeastern Huskies.
“We had zero issues with Darren,” said Ferner. “It was him or one of the older kids that had to go. It breaks your heart trading such a good kid. He asked me: ‘What did I do wrong?’ I told him he did everything we asked him to; we just had too many defencemen with the addition of Cooper Watson. We sent Darren to a good program. Kevin Willison is a good coach and Darren will get to play more and have success.”
Stapley, a prize recruit at 16 last year, has been on IR for a month with an upper-body injury. Forward Nick Rasovic remains on IR with a lacerated kidney.
The move now leaves the Vernon active roster at 22 as they begin a three-game road trip Friday night in Powell River against the Kings. The Vipers still have room for one 20-year-old and one import.
Ferner may stick with the hottest goaltender rather than rotate the impressive 17-year-old tandem of Ty Taylor and Cole Demers.
“I’m going to have a talk with them. They’ve both played three games so the real competition starts now.”
The Vipers face the Bulldogs Saturday night in Port Alberni and then battle the Clippers in a Sunday matinee in Nanaimo. Vernon entertains the Surrey Eagles in their next home tilt, Friday, Oct. 7.