The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are missing a few key skaters ahead of this weekend’s games, but head coach Scott Atkinson says the team is as ready as ever for the challenges waiting ahead.
The ‘Backs have been breaking pretty much even so far in their October games, chalking up wins over West Kelowna and Penticton but falling to Victoria, Prince George and Merritt. Over the weekend the Silverbacks have two challengers coming to town, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Friday, Oct. 19 and the Vernon Vipers, Sunday, Oct. 21.
The Silverbacks are going through a bit of a scoring drought at the moment, unable to find the back of the net in their most recent games against Prince George and Merritt. The team is missing four of their key players from the lineup due to injuries and a suspension. While this has created a challenge for the team, Atkinson says their focus is on moving forward and making the most of their situation.
“They are top end guys – I think that it does impact what happens but we have a next-man-up philosophy here, so we expect the players to fill in the gap,” he says. “I can understand people thinking because of our recent results they coincided with those guys being out; there is no doubt it has an impact but we played a lot better than our results have indicated. We just found a way to make some major mistakes at the wrong times. I anticipate us getting back on the page here tonight. We’ll practise hard and expect things to go better.”
Justin Wilson and Yewta Plamondon are out with injuries while captain Sol Seibel is serving a suspension. Nick Unruh was off the ice for the team’s last game against Merritt due to an injury as well, but Atkinson says he looks like he may be able to lace up for this weekend’s games.
First up is the match against Alberni Valley Friday (tonight), who haven’t faced off with the ‘Backs since the Bauer BCHL Showcase Sept. 22.
“Alberni is a good team, we beat them 4-1 at the showcase but I think they are a very good team,” Atkinson says. “They are very well coached. Matt (Hughes) used to coach here, as a matter of fact. I know they are very well prepared so I expect them to be ready to go.”
The game against Alberni Valley features a shootout contest sponsored by Braby Motors, where six lucky fans will get the chance to make a shot-on-goal to win prizes — including a car.
On Sunday the Silverbacks hit the ice against the Vernon Vipers for an early game that kicks off at 3 p.m. The Vipers are among the top teams in the BCHL, stopping Salmon Arm’s playoff run in 2018 in a nail-biter 1-0 overtime victory. This will be the first time these two teams have met in the regular season this year, and Atkinson says the Silverbacks are ready to put it all on the line.
“I think Vernon’s reputation sort of speaks for itself. Mark (Ferner) does a great job down there. They have a very structured style and we’re going to have to be good to beat them,” Atkinson says. “But that’s what we signed up for, we are looking forward to playing the good teams, and I think we are looking forward to the challenge.”
After the 3 p.m. game against Vernon on Sunday, the Silverbacks invite fans to join the team on the ice for a public skate session. Bring a pair of skates and take advantage of this chance to share the ice with the local junior A team.