The Silverbacks’ six-game winning streak was snapped by the Vipers last Friday in Vernon with a 2-1 loss.
More concerning than the defeat was the loss of the ’Backs leading scorer, defenceman Andrew Farny.
Midway through the game, Farny suffered a deep laceration on the back of his leg after a collision with Vernon’s Colton McCarthy.
He was immediately helped off the ice and attended to by medical staff in the dressing room before being transported to the Vernon Jubilee Hospital by ambulance.
Farny received surgery for the laceration on Sunday, and will be out of action for three to six months.
Defenceman and Vail, Colo. native, Phil Middleton, opened the scoring for the visitors on a blast from the point on the powerplay.
Vipers veteran TJ Dumonceaux struck twice in the final 20 minutes to down the ’Backs.
The winner came late in the period with less than two minutes remaining, off a Dumonceaux one-timer, which beat a stellar Angus Redmond.
The Silverbacks number one faced 36 shots, making 34 saves and earning a third-star nomination.
“I thought it was a playoff-like game tonight,” said Silverbacks’ head coach Brandon West.
“It was really tight-checking, limited chances for and against for both teams. I thought they carried the play, especially in the third period.”
Last Wednesday the Silverbacks visited Trail, where they won a thrilling see-saw contest that saw the ’Backs come out on top, 6-5 in overtime.
Both teams traded two goals each in the first period, before Chase Priskie beat Smoke Eaters starter Adam Todd twice to give the ’Backs a one-goal lead heading into the third frame.
“I don’t think the long bus trip affected the guys, we had a great start. The bus legs weren’t a factor.”
Taylor Maruya extended the Silverbacks lead to two, but Trail clawed their way back to tie the game at five and forced overtime.
“There were a few moments when we weren’t engaged and they took advantage of those chances,” said West.
Just four seconds into the extra frame Ross Heidt scored the overtime winner, securing two crucial points for Salmon Arm.
Currently the ’Backs are holding onto the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Division.
Salmon Arm sits in fourth, tied at 58 points with West Kelowna, who squandered two points against Trail on Friday.
If both teams remain tied on points and games won, the tiebreaker between the two Interior rivals will be the goal difference in their season series, which sees the ’Backs hold a plus-three difference over the Warriors.
While the two teams are tied, Salmon Arm holds a game in hand on West Kelowna, which has four games left in the regular season.
Merritt sits two points ahead of the Silverbacks and both teams have five games left.
Three of the ’Backs remaining five games are at the Shaw Centre, which bodes well as they are above .500 at home and just below .500 on the road.
“Morale in the room is high right now, we’re in a position to make the playoffs and that’s where we want to be.”
With the loss of Farny for the rest of the season, Anthony Gardner will step up to replace the league’s top-scoring defenceman.
“We’re not going to sit back now, we’ve faced adversity all season, and we will play for Andrew and everyone else.”
The Silverbacks will play host to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the Vipers this weekend.
The game on Friday with the Bulldogs could very well come down to a special teams battle.
Alberni Valley holds onto the second-best powerplay in the league and best on the road at 28.70 per cent, while the ’Backs have the second-best man advantage on home ice, sitting at 27.5 per cent.