If the Salmon Arm SilverBacks could simply play the Trail Smoke Eaters all the time, they’d be much higher in the BCHL Interior Conference standings.
Of the Gorilla’s four wins on the season, three have come against Trail. The latest triumph was Saturday’s victory at Sunwave Centre, a 7-4 win that came on the heels of two losses to the Merritt Centennials, 3-2 in overtime Wednesday and 3-2 again on Friday in Merritt.
The first period continues to be a strong point for Salmon Arm as they opened the scoring in each of the three games last week. The difference against Trail, where they took a 4-3 lead after 20 minutes, was sustained offence that allowed them to tally three times in the second, including Graham McBain’s first of the season that proved to be the game-winner.
“I really liked our start; that hasn’t been an issue,” said ’Backs coach Colin O’Hara. “But I didn’t like where we went with our game. At the (BCHL-mandated) marketing timeout, we had to give our group a bit of a wakeup call about the things we weren’t doing.
“After the first (period), we talked about raising our game and not lowering it.”
The message sunk in and Salmon Arm cruised home despite allowing a goal in the third.
The win was a fitting result to what was, overall, a pretty good week of hockey for the SilverBacks. O’Hara felt the team could have won both of the Merritt games as well, and they did get one point with the overtime loss where Bryce Gervais and Morgan Zulinick scored.
“Both teams created opportunities to score goals and (goalie Adam) Clark played well here,” said O’Hara. “We made two costly errors and they scored on both of them.”
At Nicola Valley Arena in Merritt on Friday, bad luck was a factor as Kody Dhaliwal beat Cents’ netminder Lino Chimienti but not the post. A few centimeters the other way and it could have been the winning goal. Instead, it was a small execution miscue that wound up leading to the winning goal for the Cents.
“I thought we were dominating in the third period but we made an error on the forecheck and didn’t get the puck deep,” said O’Hara, adding Jeff Kennedy’s instigator penalty for fighting late in the game erased any comeback hope. But the recent trio of games marks growth for the club in the coach’s view.
“I like where our game is from where it was; we’re playing a much more complete game,” said O’Hara. “We’re playing better without the puck… We need to find a way to win on a nightly basis as opposed to finding a way to lose.”
Puck possession remains a theme with O’Hara and he talks a lot with the team about putting the puck to areas where there is a high probability of winning it back. It’s a new concept for some of the players but one that seems to be taking root.
The SilverBacks hope their success against those Trail Smoke Eaters continues at home tonight in a 7 p.m. start. Westside visits Sunwave Centre Friday at 7 p.m. and Salmon Arm goes to Chilliwack Saturday.