Now two months into the season, Salmon Arm SilverBacks coach Scott Robinson likes the direction the team is heading but if he could just get his charges to play at home the way they’ve been on the road, he’d be really excited.
Friday brought a 4-2 road win over the West Kelowna Warriors while Saturday saw a 2-1 overtime loss at Shaw Centre to the Nanaimo Clippers. That makes the Gorillas 5-2 on the road this season but 1-6-2 at Shaw Centre. The team’s other two games came at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack.
“I think our focus on the game plan has been a little better on the road,” conceded Robinson. “It’s something we’ve addressed and continue to work on.”
Coming off Friday’s win over the Warriors, the ’Backs started sluggish against the Clippers, outshot 13-5 in the first but tied 1-1. After Kyle Kramer opened the scoring for the visitors, Bryden Marsh replied with his first BCHL goal to even it up. That was all the scoring until 11 seconds into double overtime when Reid Sturos scored the winner.
“The first period wasn’t our strongest against Nanaimo but we’re getting closer to playing to our identity,” said Robinson. “Guys are learning how we have to play to be successful; consistency now is the watchword.
“The prior weekend, we won in Vernon and came home and laid an egg against Trail; I think we’re better for that experience. It’s all about them learning and growing and I think we’re seeing our guys do that.”
The growth was evident Friday as the ’Backs doubled up the Warriors who had defeated them handily in the teams’ two previous meetings. Tied 1-1 after one, Salmon Arm got goals from Sean Flanagan and the winner from Harlan Orr in the second. The Warriors got back within one in the third but Brandon Mistal’s empty-netter sealed the deal.
“Going into the weekend, we had a real short lineup,” said Robinson, as affiliate players Mitchell Barker, TJ Christensen and Nick Fidanza all suited up. “To go into West Kelowna and get two points was good; the previous scores were 6-0 and 5-2 (losses) so it shows we’re improving.”
The play of goalie Colin Dzijacky helped as well. The 20-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont. native stopped 67 of 71 shots on the weekend, including 34 against the Warriors.
Other bright spots were the play of Mistal and the penalty kill, which was 9-for-10 in the two games. Of Mistal, Robinson says it was only a matter of time for the points to start coming.
“He’s a quiet leader on our club, he does every little thing right. He’s very coachable and it’s not a surprise he’s starting to find the net.
Of the home and road contrast, the power play might be the biggest indicator. Salmon Arm is second in the BCHL with the man advantage on the road but 15th at Shaw Centre.
“When the power play isn’t working at home and you’re losing one-goal games, that’s often the reason why,” said Robinson.
Salmon Arm will try to improve on that Friday when they host the Surrey Eagles. They play Saturday in West Kelowna. Both games begin at 7 p.m.