With a pair of wins in their pocket, their first victories of the year, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks are headed in the right direction. But head coach Colin O’Hara says his team needs to do a better job of sticking to the game plan.
Salmon Arm earned wins of 6-4 and 3-2 over the Trail Smoke Eaters last weekend but showed a propensity to wander from their instructions at times. At Cominco Arena Friday night, the ’Backs got an early goal from Brock Balson and a few players began to freelance a bit. It cost them as Trail notched a pair to go up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
“We just challenged our guys,” said O’Hara of the message in the locker room after the first period. “We played a great first 10 minutes on the road but got away from the game plan and we’ve seen enough of it now that it’s a concern for us.
“We have some success and guys figure we can do this or do that. That’s not our M.O. here.”
The team responded with a five-goal second period that included a pair of tallies by Devin Muller but it was an important start to the period established by the fourth line of Alex Gillies, Mak Barden and Jeff Kennedy that started it.
“I give our fourth line huge kudos for getting us going,” said O’Hara. “We’ve been able to play them against any line and they haven’t hurt us. They’re all rookies and they’re just playing.”
Trail got a couple back in the third but, overall, it was therapeutic for the team to get a win and pile up a bunch of goals in the process.
“I really think it was something we definitely needed and it got some of our key guys going,” said O’Hara. “We had some guys on the verge of breaking out so hopefully it gets them going on a more nightly basis.”
Saturday night at Sunwave Centre was a different type of game with the Gorillas earning a win in a tighter, low-scoring game. The fourth line was again key with Jeff Kennedy opening the scoring in the first and Barden making it 2-0 early in the second. Trail countered with goals by Logan Proulx and Brent Baltus to tie it going into the third.
The game-winner was scored on the power play by Stefan Nicholishen who gathered up the puck after a Trail scoring chance that missed the net, carried it the length of the ice going wide around the Smokies defender and snapping a shot that beat Matt Larose.
“We’ve been asking him to shoot the puck more and he’s finally been shooting it,” said O’Hara of Nicholishen, who tallied his first goal of the season.
Salmon Arm did surrender 73 shots in the two games but O’Hara was satisfied as many of the shots posed little threat because they came from perimeter areas. Kurt Williams made 29 and 38 saves in earning both wins.
Salmon Arm hosts the Prince George Spruce Kings tonight at 7 p.m.