GOJHL Vipers Fire Coach Nelson

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GOJHL Vipers fire coach Nelson – Prymack, St. John on bench against Leamington tonight

Languishing one spot out of the basement in the Western Conference of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, the LaSalle Vipers announced Tuesday they have let coach John Nelson go after nearly four seasons.

Associate coaches Greg Prymack and Jim St. John will split the head coaching responsibilities for the rest of the season beginning with tonight’s game against the Leamington Flyers at the Vollmer Centre at 7 p.m.

"It was time for a change," said Vipers general manager Kevin McIntosh, who informed Nelson after Sunday’s 7-4 win over London. "It was obvious a change was needed. It was time for a new voice, a new direction and a new philosophy.

"John’s a good coach, who improved a 100 per cent here, and he’ll land on his feet somewhere."

Nelson was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The highlight of Nelson’s tenure as head coach was the Vipers’ Sutherland Cup victory two seasons ago.

They were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last year and also made the post-season in his first year.

But the Vipers sat eighth in the nine-team league at 13-15-2 mark this year and trailed fourth-place Leamington by seven points and first-place Sarnia by 13.

McIntosh made the move even though his team had won five of its last eight games.

"It’s about the next 20 games," he said. "I honestly believe we’re a fourth-or fifth-place club. "We should be ashamed of where we are in the standings. The players are embarrassed about where we are now.

"It’s easy to point your finger at just one guy, but they need to look in the mirror too. The players need to take responsibility for what’s been going on."

While McIntosh said there were several reasons why he felt the time was right for a change, he kept coming back to his club’s lack of discipline.

LaSalle leads the league with 926 penalty minutes.

In comparison, Leamington, the least penalized club in the Western Conference, had only 566 minutes.

That works out to six full regulation games more of being short-handed.

"Our penalty minutes are atrocious," said McIntosh, who added he got no pressure to make a change from ownership.

"There’s no excuse for it. We’re nearly double Leamington. That comes from discipline.

"It’s a topic that John and I discussed every week because it kept being an issue. It’s a good thing our penalty killing has been so good or else we already would’ve been buried."

The tipping point seemed to come when the Vipers and Strathroy Rockets engaged in a five-man, line brawl Saturday and then LaSalle got into an ugly game with London the next day.

It leaves the Vipers short players for tonight’s game because of suspensions.

Banished for two games each are defenceman Chris Pignanelli and forwards Brad Caroll, Derek Haskell and Dylan Seguin.

The Vipers will call up some players from the Windsor midgets as they did Sunday.

"That’s not hockey," McIntosh said of the weekend games.

"A one-on-one fight because someone just ran your goalie is fine. But because someone said something or gave you a little slash . . . you look foolish and undisciplined doing it. Courage is not stupidity.

"We’ve allowed ourselves to get caught in that hurricane or tornado. We’ve got to shut our mouths and just play."

McIntosh said he and the coaching staff held a meeting Monday night with the players away from the Vollmer Centre to go over what had happened and what was expected.

"They know there’ll be major consequences going forward if they don’t buy in," said McIntosh, who said letting Nelson go was one of the hardest decisions he’s had to make. "Those that don’t buy in, won’t play."

In turning to Prymack and St. John, McIntosh said the team has the stability and continuity that will allow it to turn things around. Both coaches have extensive experience in the Junior A and B leagues.

"We’ll wait until the end of the season to name a permanent coach," McIntosh said. "We want to make sure we have the right person in place."

Also remaining on staff are goaltending/strength and conditioning coach Perry Wilson and video coach Chris Leeming.

Dave Waddell

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