Vernon, BC: We continue a showcase of 20 year olds as written by Don Klepp. Volume 2 features Michael Young and Carver Watson.
Young In Name Only
Michael Young is one of the most mature Vipers ever. Coach Ferner was impressed when the 18-year-old defenceman from Medford, Massachusetts essentially interviewed the coach, with probing questions about the character of the team’s returning players for 2017-18.
In retrospect, Mike is delighted with the character displayed by the Vipers over the past two years. He says, “The overall character of each team was a little different, but I can’t praise the team character of both groups enough. Character is very important to me and it’s obviously important to Mark Ferner. It showed in the way we came together after Christmas this year. We overcame adversity by sticking together and digging deep.”
He adds that “the fans seem to sense that we had a group of hard working players who deeply cared and they really got behind us. It meant a lot to see those huge turnouts for the playoff games.”
Mike played some of his very best hockey in the 2019 playoffs, rock solid in his own end and scoring some important goals among the six that he notched in 21 playoff games. Developing that offensive ability was one of the reasons he chose two years of Junior hockey instead of going straight to college. He explains, “At the Rivers prep school, we had an excellent coach, Shawn MacEachern, who taught a tightly structured system. He’s a very knowledgeable and effective coach but I wanted to add some creativity to my game and I needed to get better at reading a wide variety of on-ice situations. D-zone coverage is my main strength but with the Vipers I also learned when and how to jump into the play.”
Mike neglects to mention that his booming slap shot is also an asset. Most of his 25 Viper goals in two years were scored on blasts from the point.
Another reason for coming to Canada to play hockey was to experience a somewhat different culture. And he loved it in Vernon. “Everybody seems to know everybody else here, and people are so welcoming. That includes my billets, Paul and Cathy Davies. Whoever gets them next year has won the lottery! I will definitely return to visit Vernon in the future.”
When Mike was younger, he committed to study and play at the University of Connecticut, but later he de-committed and chose to go to Yale University. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Connecticut,” he says, “but I got thinking about my academic goals and about a career after hockey and I decided that Yale would be a better fit for my career goals.”
This is indeed a mature “young” man.
In his five years of Jr. “A” hockey, Carver Watson has played for five different teams, finishing with the Vipers. “My brother Cooper said I would love it in Vernon and he was right!” says the native of Appleton, Wisconsin.
As a promising 16-year-old, Carver played 58 games for the Madison Capitols of the USHL. His performance earned him a scholarship to Michigan Tech, the alma mater of his brothers Cliff and Cooper. Then a back injury slowed his progress the following year and Madison traded him to the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. He played just 23 games in 2015-16, but he was able to play 37 games the next season in Chilliwack, where he was a mainstay on the Chiefs’ power play.
Carver suited up for 53 games for the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers in 2017-18, but the chance to play a more offensive style of play brought him back to the BCHL. He chose the Vipers. He says that back home everybody knows about the Vipers, more so than other Canadian Jr. “A” teams. “When Cooper played here, he lobbied Coach Ferner to trade for me. That didn’t happen, but when I was about to leave Green Bay, I texted Jagger to ask if the Vipers could use a D-man and he replied that the Vipers would indeed like me to come.”
Unfortunately, the injury bug visited him again this year, limiting him to just 26 regular season games. Plagued with a lingering back injury and a rib injury suffered in the weight room in the off-season, he missed time early in the season. Then a broken collar bone in early November sidelined him for two months. When he returned in February, he was a little rusty, but he rebounded for a strong showing in the playoffs when he played every game, showing the speed, skill, and decisiveness that had drawn Michigan Tech’s attention in the first place.
Carver explains that “The playoffs were like the beginning of the season for me, a fresh start, and a way to prove myself to a new college after I de-committed from Michigan Tech.” He adds that “bouncing from team to team and dealing with injuries can play havoc with your confidence but I credit Coach Ferner with helping me understand how to regain confidence.”
Three college final exams kept Carver in Vernon until the very end of April, after which he was slated to visit Mercyhurst College. Since that visit, he has accepted a college opportunity at Mercyhurst for next year. His hockey journey continues.