Though they finished the pre-season winless in three tries and go into the season opener Friday in Vernon with a starting goalie who hasn’t faced game action yet, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks feel they’ve done all they can to prepare for the 2011-12 campaign.
The team’s last result was a 6-3 loss to the Westside Warriors Friday at Sunwave Centre. Goaltending duties were again split between Adam Clarke, who has won the backup job, and Aaron Brandoli who will be listed as a ’Backs affiliate player and will report to the Junior B Sicamous Eagles. Number-one netminder Kurt Williams was unable to play pre-season games as he recovered from a hip injury.
In the final tune-up for the regular season, coach Colin O’Hara saw his team get out to a sluggish start against the visiting Warriors who are led this season by former Gorillas bench boss Rylan Ferster. However, the home side turned the tide in the opening 20 minutes to take a one-goal lead into the locker room.
“We were kind of slow out of the gates, they scored first but we battled back and felt we deserved the 2-1 lead after one,” said O’Hara, adding that sniper Bryce Gervais was shut down after the opening frame. “But we were bad again at the start of the second.”
A goal off an offensive zone faceoff salvaged a 3-3 score heading into the third. But the final 20 minutes of the game were poor for the SilverBacks and Westside scored three times to seal the win.
The coaching staff now has a 21-man roster with Brandoli and forwards Jake Matkin and Ryan Crosson being the final cuts. Brett Knowles, who was announced as the team’s captain last week, Gervais and Morgan Zulinick are expected to lead offensively but O’Hara says they’ll be split up to spread out the scoring. Devin Muller and Kody Dhaliwal are veteran BCHLers who will provide secondary scoring and Stefan Nicholishen is a big body with two BCHL seasons behind him.
On defence, Matt Brown and Brendan Kennedy will likely pair up as will Sean Flannagan and Klay Kachur. James Friedel and Bennett Hambrook look like the fifth and sixth blueliners on the depth chart right now.
Salmon Arm should find out in a hurry what kind of group they have as they’ll be tested with back-to-back games against the defending BCHL champion Vernon Vipers. Vernon hosts Salmon Arm Friday at 7 p.m. and then comes to Sunwave Centre Saturday for a 7 p.m. faceoff.