With the Silverbacks season opener against Vernon a little over two weeks away, it was back to business as the club kicked off its main camp on Monday.
Forty hopefuls from across Canada and the U.S. are vying for the one of 22 roster spots available for the 2016-17 season.
In total, eight players from last season’s squad were back in action, including blueliners Ryley Booth and Cam Trott, and forwards Carson Bolduc, Elijiiah Barriga, Mitch Skapski, Josh Blanchard, Jared Turcotte and Marcus Mitchell.
Following registration, the 40 hopefuls were put through their paces in a NHL-style combine to determine each players level of fitness in more than 20 different tests and an on-ice practice.
A few of the combine tests include vertical jump, bench press, grip strength and anaerobic and aerobic testing.
On Monday evening the two sides faced off in the first of three intra-squad games.
Both sides came out with intensity but lacked finesse as the play was limited to the neutral zone in the first 10 minutes of the game. It didn’t take long for the returning ’Backs to make their mark on the game.
Team White broke the deadlock after 12 minutes, when Mitchell set up Penticton-native Nathan Iannone to beat the newly signed goaltender Michael Botiz.
Following the opening goal, Team White dictated the play of the game.
Defencemen Trott and new signing Carter Cochrane looked calm and confident moving the puck up the ice.
In the offensive zone, Mitchell controlled the play showing good vision and puck distribution.
Another Silverback veteran, Turcotte, got his name on the scoresheet while short-handed when he stripped James Hunter at the blueline and beat Botiz one-on-one.
Team Black struggled to find a way into the game and could not solve Valencia, Cali. native Trevin Kozlowski, who looked composed in goal.
The 6’4” goaltender played 23 games for The Gunnery Prep school in Connecticut and sported an impressive 1.63 GAA and a 0.940 save percentage.
Iannone, who suited up for the Vees four times last season, scored his second of the first period thanks to a great feed from Tre Dupilka-Sales and Isiah Hendricks.
A pair of returning ’Backs combined early in the second period for Team Black’s first goal of the game.
The speedy Barriga stormed into the offensive zone before dropping the puck to Bolduc, who skillfully toe dragged the puck around a defenceman and fed Barriga in the slot, who made no mistake scoring into the open net.
Barriga, Grayson Constable and Spencer Hora, who played three times for the Silverbacks last season, all scored in the second but that is all they could muster.
The final score in game one ended 8-4 in favour of Team White.
In game two on Tuesday morning it was another barn burner as the score was run up 7-5.
The two squads will meet again on Tuesday evening after the Observer’s deadline in the final intra-squad game.
Following a round of cuts, the ’Backs will open up their exhibition season on the road in the Nicola Valley against Merritt.
The Silverbacks will play their second exhibition game against the defending BCHL champions West Kelowna on Friday, Aug. 26 in West Kelowna, before hosting the Warriors the following night at the Shaw Centre at 7 p.m.