Next time you visit Shaw Centre for a Salmon Arm SilverBacks game, be sure to pick up a copy of the game-night program so you can identify all the new faces.
Having already acquired Evan Anderson and Mitchell Ferguson from Penticton for Brock Balson, they partnered with the Vees again in a deal that sent Sean Flanagan in exchange for Alex Jewell and Steven Iacobellis. And on Tuesday, the ’Backs sent captain Bennett Hambrook to Trail for future considerations.
It’s a lot to process, but so far, the results have been pretty good. The Gorillas scored home wins of 6-4 over Merrit and 4-3 over Prince George on the weekend after a 3-2 road loss in Penticton. Brandon Mistal, reunited with former Cowichan Valley Capitals teammate Iacobellis on Salmon Arm’s top line, caught fire on the weekend with seven points, earning the BCHL player of the week award.
Of the Hambrook trade, Salmon Arm head coach Scott Robinson felt it was best for all given the youth movement the SilverBacks are making.
“Giving the younger guys (ice) time took away from the opportunity we had for (Hambrook),” said Robinson. “This is a young man of such high character we want to do the right thing for him; of all the captains I’ve had coaching, he is right at the top in terms of the leadership he’s provided.
“We just want to wish him all the best.”
Robinson said in the meantime, alternate captains and twins Jeff and Brendan Kennedy assume the leadership mantle.
On the ice, Robinson likes what he sees now from a skill perspective. That was illustrated with a six-goal outburst against the Centennials, including four from Mistal, and again with four against the Spruce Kings.
“We hadn’t scored six times (in one game) all year, so it was really nice to see that,” said Robinson, adding he was pleased for Dustin Nikkel, who got the win in net in his first BCHL game. “We’re a deeper team up front and we can make a few more plays. It’s not often Merritt gives up six; I’m sure they weren’t happy but it was good for us.”
Against the Spruce Kings, Salmon Arm surrendered just 19 shots and but the opportunistic Spruce Kings scored on three of them and it was tied late before the hero of the weekend, Mistal, popped the winner with under two minutes left. The Kamloops native scored the winning goal in both victories and earned first star in both games too.
The wins were a good bounce-back from Penticton on Friday where the ’Backs were down 3-0 after 20 minutes in part due to some undisciplined penalties that led to Vees goals. Robinson said it was also a bit of an odd game as Flanagan and Balson were on the other side while Jewell, Ferguson and Anderson settled in with the ’Backs.
It’ll be a similar situation this weekend when they visit Hambrook and the Smoke Eaters Friday before hosting them Saturday at Shaw Centre in a 7 p.m. start.