Goals have been a rare commodity lately for the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, and the prognosis just got a little bleaker as their top scorer will be gone as of Saturday and may be away for a while.
Salmon Arm scored just twice last weekend as they suffered a pair of 4-1 home losses to the Chilliwack Chiefs Saturday night and Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday afternoon. Further clouding the offensive outlook is the fact that Zug, Switzerland- native Devin Muller will be headed to Red Deer, Alta. on Saturday. He’ll try out for his country for the World Junior Championships on Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Calgary and Edmonton.
On Saturday, an energetic offence was foiled by great Chiefs goaltending from Mitch Gillam and a couple of double-minor penalties that gave momentum to the visitors. Salmon Arm outshot Chilliwack 12-3 in the first 20 minutes but came away empty-handed.
“We were all over them, we executed our game plan to a T,” said ’Backs head coach Colin O’Hara. “But we were unable to solve the goaltending there.”
When James Friedel was assessed a high-sticking penalty late in the first period, he earned himself two more minutes for objecting with the official and Chilliwack scored early in the second on the power play. Bennett Hambrook tied near the midway mark it but another four-minute penalty was given to Brett Knowles. Chilliwack got the game-winner on the following man-advantage. O’Hara didn’t think the call was justified.
“Brett’s (penalty) was a double minor for a high stick that apparently the linesman saw but no one else in the entire arena saw it.”
Particularly galling was that Chilliwack scored their second goal with just five seconds left in the second period.
“I thought we played OK in the second half of the second period but we have to do a better job of identifying the key guys on their power play,” said O’Hara. “It’s nice that we play them again this week; we’ll show our guys what we want when we look at the video this week.”
Against Prince George on Sunday, a fight early on between ’Backs 5-foot-11, 180-pound captain Brett Knowles and 6-foot-6, 230-pound Ben Woodley of the Spruce Kings set the tone. The two sparred in Prince George Nov. 20 with Knowles getting the decision. This tilt was more of a draw but injected the contest with some emotion. Unfortunately, Salmon Arm couldn’t build on the 1-0 lead. The Spruce Kings scored four unanswered.
“We outchanced them… but it was a lack of finish,” said O’Hara. “We missed three empty nets, hit a crossbar, missed a breakaway. Goals are at a bit of a premium for our group right now and guys are squeezing the stick. We need to get on track for the weekend.”
Salmon Arm visits Merritt Friday at 7:30, hosts Chilliwack Saturday at 7 p.m. and Powell River Sunday at 3 p.m. They’ll have Muller for the Merritt game only.
“I’d love to have him back but this is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said O’Hara.