As the mercury fell over the weekend, inside the Shaw Centre the Silverbacks play continued to heat up.
In front of family and donning eye-catching Remembrance Day-themed jerseys, the ’Backs nabbed two more crucial wins against division rivals in consecutive nights at the Shaw Centre.
“It’s always a nice weekend, it’s special for the team to get to play in front of their families, and it provides us a chance to showcase our community,” said Brandon West, Silverbacks’ head coach.
On Friday evening, Taylor Ward and Colin Grannary gave the Centennials a two-goal lead heading into the second period, goals that West described as uncharacteristic for his team to concede.
“Early on we backed in a lot and gave up goals which we shouldn’t have, but we stuck in there and slowly chipped away,” said West.
A single goal in the second by Chase Zieky got the ’Backs to within one goal as they started their comeback.
“We have a lot of experience in our room, and we challenged our experienced guys to respond because they have been in these situations before,” explained West of what was said between periods.
A pair of special teams goals, on the penalty kill and power play by the team’s top set-up man, Taro Hirose, before the midway point of the third period turned the game in favour for the Silverbacks.
Zieky repaid the favour to Nick Hutchison, setting up the ’Backs’ top scorer for his 11th goal of the campaign, before Ross Heidt scored an empty netter for the three-goal victory.
On Saturday, an early goal 15 seconds into the game that took an unfortunate bounce off the chest of the Warriors’ Rylan Yaremko did not deter the Silverbacks as they would come from behind to win 5-3, in front of 1,183 fans.
“The puck took a terrible bounce and it was unfortunate, but we can’t be giving up those chances for guys to drive to the net like that,” said West of the game’s opening goal.
After giving up the early goal, West was pleased with the way his team responded.
Despite being outshot 21-13 in the period, the ’Backs created numerous quality scoring chances and hit the post twice but were unable to solve the Warriors’ net minder Keelan Williams.
After working the puck well on the man advantage, the ’Backs were rewarded for their hard work when Colton Thibault banged in a rebound to tie the game at one. A minute later the Silverbacks were on the receiving end of yet another wild and unfortunate bounce, which led to a West Kelowna goal.
A point shot from Scott Allan sailed wide of the net to Brandon Kegler’s right, took a wild bounce off the end boards and fluttered over the net, landing on the stick of Kylar Hope, who was unmarked as he slotted home the puck into a yawning cage.
“A goal like that happens once every 10 years in hockey, it was a bad bounce. When that happens all you can do is suck it up and get the next one,” said West.
The Warriors captain Kyle Marino would give his side a two-goal lead with a little more than three minutes remaining in the second.
With 40 seconds left in the middle frame, the ’Backs chipped away at the visitors’ lead as Heidt scored his team-high 15th goal of the season. Josh Laframboise busted into the offensive zone and slammed on the brakes, feeding Hirose on the overlap before faking a shot and feeding Heidt on a cross-seam pass.
Early in the third, Zieky would knot the game at three on the power play, as he roofed the puck over a sprawling Williams.
Laframboise would find his name on the score sheet for the third time on the evening as he sniped a shot past Williams from the top of the right circle – the eventual game-winning goal. Thibault would add his second of the evening, an empty netter with 11 seconds left in the game. West was eager to acknowledge his team’s strong special teams play, as they went three-for-10 on the man advantage, nine-for-10 on the penalty kill and added their league-leading seventh short-handed goal over the weekend.
“Our special teams was a huge contributing factor to our teams momentum and a large reason we got the results we did this weekend.”
In addition to the strong special teams play, West was also satisfied with how both goaltenders Angus Redmond and Kegler played, citing many key saves by both.
“This weekend was not all about one player. There was a solid effort from each and every guy,” praised West.
With the two weekend victories, the ’Backs now have a seven-point cushion over the third place Warriors in the Interior Division, something West is not overly worried about.
“We are not concerned about the standings. Yes, it is important to make every division game count, but we just have to be focused on continuing to develop on the right path.”
The Silverbacks will host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs next Friday at the Shaw Centre before heading north to face the Prince George Spruce Kings.
“We’ve got a week off here to rest up and take care of a few bumps and bruises before Alberni opens up their road trip here in Salmon Arm.”