Silverbacks’ forward Nick Unruh returned to the ice with a vengeance Friday night, scoring three goals and pulling off a hat trick in his first game back after an injury.
Salmon Arm faced off with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Friday, Oct. 19 on home ice, locking down a 5-3 victory that puts them back on track after two shut-out losses to Prince George and Merritt.
The game kicked off with the Silverbacks being put on the back-foot as the Bulldogs fired two into the Salmon Arm net in the first period.
It was shortly after the second goal for Alberni Valley that Nick Unruh started his scoring streak, showing some serious grace under pressure as he took a pass from Ethan McLaughlin, shot on the Bulldogs’ net, circled around behind and snapped his own rebound past a sprawled-out Alberni Valley goaltender for the Silverbacks’ first goal of the night.
As the first period rolled into the second, the Silverbacks found themselves on the tail end of a power play. Unruh took a pass from Akito Hirose and landed his second goal of the game.
The Silverbacks inched out a lead late in the second period as Olson Werenka set up Noah Wakeford and Tyson Gayfer for a push and Gayfer landed a shot that made the score 3-2 for Salmon Arm.
The Bulldogs would score again just after two minutes into the third, tying the game up at 3-3. The Silverbacks’ penalty-kill had to rise to the challenge shortly afterwards, keeping the score tied while down a player.
Salmon Arm would get their own shot at a 5-on-3 power-play 16 minutes in, Matthew Verboon and Akito Hirose did some quick back-and-forth passing work and set up Trevor Adams for a goal that put the Silverbacks in the lead once again.
Alberni Valley pulled their goalie late in the third but failed to take advantage of the extra player. Nick Unruh saw his chance at the elusive hat-trick and took a pass from Hudson Schandor before flicking the puck into the empty net and sealing the victory for Salmon Arm at 5-3 with just 14 seconds remaining.
During the first intermission, a selection of fans got the chance to attempt a shot from the far blue-line to win a brand new Jeep from Braby Motors. It was a tough shot to attempt, and none of the fans managed to land the feat of hockey finesse — even Kong, the Silverbacks’ mascot, shot wide and didn’t seem too pleased about it.
The Silverbacks returned to home ice Sunday, Oct. 21 against the Vernon Vipers, the first time they faced off in regular season play this year after a tense overtime loss for the Silverbacks in their final game of the playoff series last season.
The Vernon Vipers’ recent inability to hold a late third-period lead cost them another point in the game against Salmon Arm.
Though the Vipers came into the first period strong, putting up a two-goal lead early on, Silverbacks’ forward Trevor Adams scored one for Salmon Arm near the end of the period that seemed to turn the momentum in a big way.
Vernon would come back with one more goal after six minutes into the second, but Nick Unruh kept up his scoring streak for the Silverbacks and close the two-goal gap over the remainder of the game. After two goals from Unruh, off the assist from Akito Hirose and Andy Stevens on the first and Hirose and Aiden Jenner on the second, the game was sent into overtime.
Silverbacks’ forward Hudson Schandor scored 2:47 into the extra frame to give the hometown a 4-3 win over the Vipers.
Unruh’s hunger for goals during these two home games put the Silverbacks in the BCHL spotlight this past week, seeing the forward as an honourable mention for the league’s player of the week. In the past two games he scored five goals, earning a hat-trick against the Bulldogs and closing the gap between the Vipers with two clutch goals.
In the span of just three games over ten days Unruh has moved from goalless to being second on the team in terms of goals scored this season.
The Silverbacks take on the West Kelowna Warriors in a road game Oct. 26 before a pair of home games against Trail Oct. 27 and Prince George Oct. 28.