On the heels of a two-week Christmas break, the Silverbacks opened up 2016 with games against the league’s last- and first- place teams, Surrey and Penticton over the weekend.
On New Year’s Day, the ’Backs hosted the lowly Surrey Eagles at the Shaw Centre.
A four-goal first period, led by first star Carson Bolduc, helped propel the Silverbacks to a 5-2 victory over the Eagles.
“The boys were excited to get back to game action after a week off and a week of practice. They were chomping at the bit for the puck to drop,” said head coach Brandon West of his side’s quick start to the game.
Former Silverback, Brett Stewart scored the Eagles’ early equalizer only two minutes after Bolduc’s first of the game. The Salmon Arm native scored his second of the game, midway through the first period.
Starting goalie Brandon Kegler was forced to make way for Angus Redmond after suffering a lower body injury when a Surrey forward crashed into him after 11 minutes in the game.
“At this time Kegler is day-to-day, we are just being cautious with him,” said West.
Ross Heidt and Josh Laframboise each added a tally before the end of the opening 20 minutes.
Taro Hirose notched the final goal for Salmon Arm on the power play in the second period with the assists going to Elijiah Barriga and Kodi Schwarz.
At 7:29 of the third period, emotions boiled over as a line brawl erupted, resulting in eight players being thrown out of the game for fighting.
Marcus Mitchell, Mitch Newsome and Cam Coutre each received two-game suspensions for participating in the multiple fight situation, and head coach West was also handed a game suspension for the altercation.
“There was a heated exchange between players, one thing led to another, and we have to face the consequences of our actions now,” said West.
“We had a lot of our young guys out on the ice at the time, and they were just trying to stick up for each other out there.”
The ’Backs travelled to Penticton on Saturday night, where they were defeated 6-1.
The always-lethal Scott Conway scored his second hat trick in as many nights, while Vees’ goaltender Anthony Brodeur made 27 saves.
“We beat ourselves. From start to finish Penticton looked good, after two periods the game looked very much over,” said West.
With four minutes remaining in the game, Josh Blanchard ruined Brodeur’s shutout bid, scoring his 12th goal of the season.
The Silverbacks now turn their focus towards Friday’s game south of the border in Wenatchee before returning north to face Penticton.
“We have to hit reset and find our game again in two very difficult buildings on the road,” said West.
He stressed his players will have to step up in the absence of Mitchell, Newsome and Coutre and tune out distractions.
The ’Backs are now tied for second in the division with the Warriors, but have three games in hand on the West Kelowna side.
The Silverbacks will return to the Shaw Centre when they open a three-game home stand on Jan. 15 against the Vipers.