By Kevin Mitchell
Check-till-ya-drop and look to Angus Redmond for big saves.
It’s a strategy working wonders for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks as they try and secure a playoff berth in the Interior Division of the B.C. Hockey League.
The Silverbacks, Merritt Centennials and West Kelowna Warriors shared third place with 62 points apiece after weekend play. Salmon Arm visited the Langley Rivermen Tuesday night in a highly winnable game.
Veteran defenceman Jordan Burns says the Gorillas are a calm bunch despite what’s on the line over the next five days.
“I think it’s (mindset) excitement rather than nervous,” said Burns. “The guys have confidence and we’re obviously anxious to play these final games and see what happens. We’re just concerned about what we’re doing; we’re not looking at who Merritt and West Kelowna have left.”
Salmon Arm, who barely missed the post-season dance last year, entertain the Cents Friday night at the Shaw Centre and finish the regular season Saturday night at the No. 6 nationally-ranked Penticton Vees.
The Cents host two last-place teams in the Surrey Eagles (tonight) and the Trail Smoke Eaters (Saturday).
West Kelowna tangled with the visiting Smokies Tuesday night and then battle Surrey Saturday at Royal LePage Place.
The Silverbacks and Coquitlam Express are the hottest teams in the BCHL, going 8-2 in their last 10 tilts.
Salmon Arm grounded the Vernon Vipers 4-2 Friday night and brushed off the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-3 the next night in two huge home encounters.
Redmond, who played just nine games two years ago as Adam Clark’s caddy, got in 29 games last season and is the definite go-to-guy with 47 appearances this campaign.
“We’ve got great defence,” said Burns, chosen second-star versus Alberni Valley. “If it’s not a power-play goal, we don’t give up too many. Angus is playing unreal. He hasn’t let in any soft ones and he’s been really solid. The goals that do beat him are back door or two-on-ones where they make a nice pass. We have a lot of trust in him.”
Redmond, a 19-year-old Langley product, has a sparkling 2.70 goals against average and a .910 save percentage with five shutouts. He has a scholarship locked up with the NCAA Michigan Tech Huskies for next fall.
With superstar d-man and leading scorer Andrew Farny on long-term injured reserve, Burns says several players have stepped it up taking Farny’s place on the power play.
Burns is a minute muncher and with Farny sidelined, is now being paired with Michigan freshman Damian Chrcek as the Silverbacks’ top backline duo.
Carson Bolduc registered his 19th snipe of the year, with 24 seconds left, as the Silverbacks toppled the Dawgs before 1,100 fans Saturday. It was Bolduc’s second goal of the night and earned the former Western Leaguer first star.
Dylan Haugen, with his 18th, had levelled the score for Alberni Valley 10 seconds earlier.
Colton Thibault, with his 11th, and Josh Blanchard, with his 17th, shorthanded, completed the Silverback offence. Redmond registered 28 saves for his 23rd win.
Chris Schultz (24th) and Eric Margo (6th) also produced goals for the Dawgs, who went winless on their Interior swing. Alberni Valley holds the fourth playoff spot in the Island Division.
The Silverbacks got the best of Vernon for the third time in four recent starts in front of 1,700 fans Friday night.
Redmond pocketed 19 saves and has allowed just four goals in his last four games against the Snakes, who will finish second in the Interior.
The teams played a scoreless opening 20 minutes before Joshua Laframboise (11th) and first star Taylor Maruya (5th) gave the Silverbacks an early lead in the second period.
Vipers’ MVP TJ Dumonceaux produced his 27th six minutes later on a power play.
Thomas Plese pocketed his eighth of the year seven minutes into the third, on a power play, making it 3-1 Gorillas. Bolduc converted 1:48 later with rookie Jagger Williamson connecting on a Vernon power play with 3:46 to play, his ninth.
“They (Silverbacks) played pretty desperate hockey and I’m not gonna say we were going through the motions, but we didn’t play the right way,” said Vernon head coach Mark Ferner.