It’s onward and upward for the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
Monday night in Penticton, the ‘Backs clinched the Interior Conference Semi-final with a 4-2 win over the Penticton Vees. Although the Gorillas didn’t manage a sweep, they took the series in five games, with a single 4-3 loss Saturday night in Salmon Arm.
After Tuesday night’s Game 6 between Westside and Vernon, the ‘Backs may know who they’ll face in the final. The Warriors are down 3 to 2 after Monday’s 7-2 rout by the Vipers. Westside must win tonight to stay alive.
* On Saturday, though the ‘Backs were down by three heading into the third, they managed to come within one goal of tying the game – but weren’t able to score despite pulling their netminder during the final minute.
The final score, Vees 4, SilverBacks 3.
* On Friday night at home, for the third straight game, netminder Kris Moore handed a win to the SilverBacks.
The ‘Backs defeated the Penticton Vees 2-1 Friday at Sunwave Centre in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal series.
Moore stopped 51 shots in a game that saw the ‘Backs outshot by far – the Vees have held the SilverBacks to under 25 shots per game.
* On Wednesday night in Penticton, Moore again earned the game’s first star as he helped lead the visiting SilverBacks to a 3-2 win.
Moore stopped 40 of 42 shots in the victory as the ‘Backs took a 2-0 series lead. Rookie Bryce Gervais was named the second star for his pivotal game-tying penalty shot.
Brad Reid scored the only goal of the first period, the set-up coming from Mike Hammond. Penticton took the lead with two unanswered goals in the middle frame, both on the power play as Salmon Arm struggled to stay out of the penalty box. With Jarryd Ten Vaanholt in the box for tripping, Brendan O’Donnell scored at 2:55. A little over five minutes later, Kevin Mills was sent to the box for hooking, allowing the Vees to score and giving them a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
At 5:05 into the third period, Bryce Gervais scored his first goal of the playoffs on a penalty shot to tie the game at two. At 10:19, a Vee’s tripping penalty led to the Gorillas scoring their only power play goal of the night. Brett Knowles assisted David Killip’s game-winning shot, providing the 3-2 victory. The Apes went one for four with the man advantage while the Vees went two for six. Penticton outshot Salmon Arm 42 to 24 in the contest.
• In Game 1, Mike Hammond scored a hat trick while Kris Moore stopped 40 shots as the SilverBacks skated to a 3-1 win in Penticton Tuesday night.
Moore would be named the game’s first star for stopping 40 out of 41 shots and teammate Hammond the second star for his hat trick.
The home team outshot the visitors 41 to 22 but Penticton struggled on the power play going one for seven. The SilverBacks were not much better going one for four.
Hammond scored the only goal of the first period on the power play from Bryce Gervais. The 1-0 lead would carry on into the third period even after the Vees dominated the final 10 minutes of the second period, outshooting the Backs 14-8.
Salmon Arm took a 2-0 lead thanks to a pretty tick-tack-toe passing play that began with a pass from Morgan Zulinick to Hammond. Hammond passed to Brad Reid who then passed back for Hammond’s seventh goal of the post season.
Penticton’s Troy Stecher got the home team on the board after he grabbed his own rebound shot off the pads of Kris Moore, went behind the net and came back out front to score unassisted. The Gorillas would not make it easy on themselves in the final half of the third period playing shorthanded several times including once with a six on three.
Playing four on four, Hammond scored an unassisted empty net goal.
• From Tim Kehler’s perspective, Round 1 of the playoffs really couldn’t have been any better preparation for the Interior Conference semifinals.
The Salmon Arm SilverBacks bench boss considers the four-game sweep of the Merritt Centennials ideal because it allowed them valuable time away from competition before Round 2, got Devin Gannon’s game revved up again and provided sufficient adversity to make his players more battle-tested moving forward.
“I was thrilled to be able to get through that series in four games,” said Kehler. “To have a full week off gives our guys not only an opportunity to rest, but also to have a great preparatory week. We feel like we’re a prepared team and we’re chomping at the bit to get at it.”
The Gorillas are, of course, already at it with Game 1 happening last night in Penticton (past Observer deadline). Kehler said there’s not much to choose between the two squads as they were almost dead even in their six regular season games. Salmon Arm won three times and there was one tie with each team scoring 21 goals.
“We’re very, very similar,” noted Kehler, adding he thinks the series will be a fast-paced one. “We both had 38 wins on the season. I think Penticton is a team that can match us with their depth and their scoring from the back end.”
Each team has a strong power play with Salmon Arm’s ranked first during the regular season, mere fractions of a per cent above the Vees.
“Both teams don’t want to give the other any opportunities with the man advantage,” said Kehler. “But when given chances, we expect (the power play) to be effective for us.
“I hope, as (Vees coach) Fred (Harbinson) does, that the bulk of the series can be determined five-on-five.”
Another impressive note from Round 1 is the ’Backs dispatched Merritt without the help of David Killip. The captain is now healthy and was ready for Game 1 Tuesday night. Only Brandon Mistal was sidelined for the series opener against the Vees, but he is expected back soon.
Killip’s absence was made up for by Gannon, who slid from wing to centre and responded with five goals and three assists. Brett Knowles was also highly productive with three goals and seven assists against the Cents.
“I thought the play of Knowles and Gannon without David was exceptional,” said Kehler, adding Gannon will move back to the wing with Killip returning and Cody Michelle, who had filled in on the second line, will move back to the third line.
Despite needing the minimum number of games to move past Merritt, only the first game, a 7-2 win, was a no-doubter. The other three were one-goal games including an overtime triumph in Game 3.
“I love the way that tested our mettle; we answered the bell every game with flying colours,” said Kehler. “I was pleased with the competitive nature of the series and everyone knows how tough it is to win in Merritt.
“I thought we were full value for our wins there.”
• SilverBacks forward Bryce Gervais has accepted a scholarship to Minnesota State University at Mankato for the 2012-13 season.