It may only be preseason, but the Silverbacks are feeling confident after sweeping a home-and-home series with bitter rivals Vernon, over the weekend.
From the opening faceoff on Friday night at the Shaw Centre, both teams played with playoff-style intensity.
Both sides were initially frustrated. Salmon Arm hemmed Vernon in their own zone for the majority of the period but were unable to solve Jarrod Schammerhorn.
However, the tides turned for the ’Backs as Josh Blanchard finished off Taro Hirose’s cross-crease pass with about four minutes remaining in the opening period.
Adding to Vernon’s frustration in the first frame was the fact that they only directed eight shots towards Zach Dyment and did not create a scoring chance.
The Silverbacks began the second period brightly and doubled their lead when a beautiful team play ended when Nick Hutchison found a wide open Aaron Aragon at the side of the net for a tap in.
Salmon Arm headed into the final period up by five, scoring three more times in the period courtesy of Colton Thibault, Sam De Melo and Hutchison.
The visitors would pull one back when Callum Volpe beat Silverbacks hopeful Daniel Toews.
Just over a minute later, Josh Laframboise iced the game for the Silverbacks.
“The boys competed at a very high level tonight, which is what we want to see. It’s always exciting to play against Vernon,” said Brandon West, Silverbacks head coach.
On Saturday evening in Vernon, the Vipers dressed a more experienced lineup than the previous night. The ’Backs controlled much of the opening play, peppering the Vipers goaltender Andrew Shortridge with 18 shots in the first period.
After a Vernon goalie change in the second period, the ’Backs Cam Coutre and Hutchison gave Salmon Arm a two goal lead in a span of 47 seconds.
The Vipers tilted the ice in their favour and scored three unanswered goals, taking the lead for the first time in the game.
With time winding down and Angus Remond pulled for an extra attacker, the ’Backs newcomer on the blueline Brett Stewart blasted home a point shot through traffic, forcing overtime.
Despite a handful of quality scoring chances, the Vipers couldn’t grab their first win of the preseason as Hutchison would score his second of the night to give the ’Backs a 4-3 win in the extra frame.
West said the main camp started with more than 45 players was extremely successful. Thirteen of those players were returnees.
“I was really impressed by our returning players, it was great to see their improvement,” said West.
There were two hometown products that did not take part in the training camp, Alex Astasiewicz and Carson Bolduc.
Astasiewicz puzzled the organization by not attending the camp, and has since made a decision to retire from the junior hockey.
In Bolduc’s case, he missed the camp due to personal family matters. No time frame was given as to when he would return to the roster. West said the team is pulling for him and his family.
With only two exhibition games remaining before the start of the season, there are only a handful of roster positions left up for grabs.
“We are looking for 22 leaders in the room this year. Whether they are 16 or 20-years-old they will be a leader on this team,” said West.
The Silverbacks face off against West Kelowna in their final home game of the exhibition season this Friday at the Shaw Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m. The Silverbacks open regular season play on Sept. 11 against Penticton at the Shaw Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.