The Silverbacks Main Camp wrapped up this past Sunday at the Shaw Centre, with 36 players still competing for 22 available roster positions.
“This year has been the most competitive camp we’ve had, it’s been a real grind,” said Silverbacks head coach Brandon West.
“The camp has been intense, there are quite a few guys with bumps and bruises,” said goaltender Angus Redmond.
Ten returning ’Backs and 50 new faces were invited to the Silverbacks Main Camp, which started Friday.
Following registration, the 60 hopefuls were put through their paces in an NHL-style combine to determine each player’s level of fitness in more than 20 different tests.
A few of the combine tests included vertical jump, bench press, grip strength and anaerobic and aerobic testing.
“I think we really opened the players’ eyes by starting off with such demanding fitness testing,” said West. “This testing put into perspective what we expect from our players.”
Most players agree that the most difficult fitness test carried out was the aerobic exercise, known as the beep test, used to measure a player’s maximum oxygen intake.
“The beep test was very demanding, it definitely takes a lot out of you,” said Jack Berezan, a returning Silverback.
After the gruelling fitness testing the players finally took to the ice, playing two games a day, giving the coaches and general manager, Troy Mick, enough time to watch each player perform.
“I’ve been impressed by the level of talent and character at this camp, the scouts have done an excellent job this year,” said West.
The first round of cuts were made Sunday before the black versus white intra-squad game.
Both teams started out strong, trading chances at either end. Team White defenceman Andrew Farny broke the deadlock just over four minutes into the game, jumping up into the play to score, set up by new signings Shane Danyluk and Logan Mick.
After the first goal, Team White hemmed Team Black in their own zone, owning the majority of the puck possession and creating many scoring opportunities.
Two-and-a-half minutes after the first goal, Nick Josephs scored for Team White thanks to a costly Team Black turnover in their own zone.
Shortly after trailing by two, Team Black pulled back to within a goal, courtesy of Thomas Plese.
The first period ended in a 2-2 tie, when Nick Hutchinson scored for Team Black with two minutes remaining in the first frame.
In the first half of the second period the majority of play was in the neutral zone, with scoring chances hard to come by.
Midway through the second period Ross Heidt fed Logan Mick in the slot and scored on a quick shot, once again giving Team White the lead.
Soon after the goal, the pace of play really picked up. Both teams used speed to their advantage, with many of the attacks coming down the wings and driving to the net.
Team Black had many opportunities to score but couldn’t find the scoring touch.
One such chance saw Colton Thibault collect a rebound at the right side of the net, with a desperate goaltender Kyle Michalovsky sprawled out on his stomach, forcing Thibault to make a move for a better shooting angle and having the puck roll off his stick, while the net was wide open.
Team Black eventually equalized the game, thanks to a hard-nosed team effort.
Will Scherer and Karl El-Mir worked the puck off the boards and got a shot off, and the rebound fell onto the stick of Anthony Siderio, who was in the right place at the right time to score, and tied the game at three.
Team Black would go on to win the game 5-3, with Mitchell Mueller and Marcus Russell contributing the go-ahead goals.
Head coach West was thrilled with the talent and skill seen throughout the camp, noting that many of the returning players exceeded his expectations.
“Angus Redmond has been great, the work he did over the summer has really showed off in camp this year,” said West.
Redmond is expected to take over the starting position between the pipes from Adam Clark, while the back-up goaltender position is up for grabs between the remaining three goalies at the camp.
“I’m really looking forward to this year, we have lots of new guys who can really play,” Redmond said. “This season I just want to give the team a chance to win every time I play.”
On defence, West stated they will be looking to take on five new blue liners, with two returning from last season.
Arguably the largest hole to fill will be the loss of the top line, which produced one-third of the ’Backs offence last year.
“We have addressed our team’s concerns, and have taken positive steps forward,” West said.
“I think our offence will be better rounded out, with a lot more depth, through all the lines.”
West said there is a positive vibe in the dressing room and this will be important to carry through exhibition and the start of the season.
The Silverbacks play six exhibition games, which will be used to better fine tune their squad, before naming the final roster around Sept. 10.
The Silverbacks will be hosts to rivals, Vernon, in exhibition action on Friday, Sept. 5 at the Shaw Centre.
The ’Backs kick off their season against Langley in Chilliwack.