Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer Nic Tallarico deflects a shot on goal during the Silverbacks’ game against the West Kelowna Warriors at the Shaw Centre on Friday, Sept. 1.

Silverbacks’ roster looking strong

Team splits a series with West Kelowna before regular season games start.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are heading into the regular season with momentum.

The ‘Backs closed out their exhibition season with a 5-1 win on the road against the West Kelowna Warriors on Sept. 2.

The Silverbacks came out strong, racking up two goals from Justin Wilson and Austin Chorney and leaving the score 2-1 at the end of the first period.

Salmon Arm stretched the lead to 3-1 in the second period and closed out the game with another two goals in the third from Nick Unruh and Marcus Mitchell. Despite being out-shot 41-36, more of Salmon Arm’s shots found the back of the net.

Silverbacks head coach Scott Atkinson said the team fielded a roster close to the one they will be taking into the regular season in their final pre-season game. He said West Kelowna approached both pre-season games the way the Silverbacks approached the second one, with close to their final roster.

The night before, the Silverbacks lost to the Warriors 7-4 in front of the home crowd at the Shaw Centre.

“On Friday night we had a very young lineup and we have been training hard, so they looked tired and they were young and maybe a bit intimidated,” Atkinson said.

West Kelowna opened the game with a flurry of offence, firing 18 shots at Nic Tallarico in the Salmon Arm net during the first period. At the first intermission West Kelowna had the lead. Grayson Constable scored for the ‘Backs but the Warriors tallied up two – one on the power play.

Salmon Arm attempted a comeback, scoring just after the midway point of the second period. West Kelowna replied with two goals in quick succession. The ‘Backs struck again before the end of the period leaving the score 4-3 heading into the final frame.

West Kelowna scored twice before the three-minute mark of the third period. Spencer Hora scored gave the ‘Backs their fourth goal of the game, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win. The Warriors found the back of the Salmon Arm net three times in third period. The ‘Backs were out-shot 47-38.

The Silverbacks traded Connor Sundquist to the Surrey Eagles for future considerations prior to the final two pre-season games. The 20-year-old forward played 49 games with the Silverbacks during the 2017 regular season and playoffs – he scored 13 goals and 17 assists.

“Trading Connor Sundquist was a difficult decision for the coaching staff, but in the end we felt that to benefit his development he needed to be in an environment that allowed him to be a top six forward,” Atkinson said. “We were able to find that environment in Surrey, reuniting him with a former coach. Connor is a quality young man whom I’m sure will be an offensive force for Surrey and we wish him nothing but success there.”

The Silverbacks concluded the pre-season with three wins and three losses. They open the regular season at home against the Vernon Vipers on Sept. 8. The Sliverbacks won one of their pre-season games against the Vipers in double overtime and lost the other.

“I think I see some tendencies in their game and some commonalities in their game,” Atkinson said about meeting the Vipers in the regular season after having already faced them in the pre-season. He emphasized that although the Silverbacks had played them already, neither team had selected their final lineup or had any time to work on strategy and systems yet.

Atkinson said the first part of season, particularly the BCHL showcase held Sept. 20 to 24 in Chilliwack, will be all about learning for both players and coaches.