Early days: Memphis Gervais

Early days: Memphis Gervais

Fitness key to SilverBacks’ success

Christmas break: Players to take eight days off, return to host Nanaimo Clippers Jan. 3.

Getting a few days off at Christmas is something everyone looks forward to and the Salmon Arm SilverBacks are no different.

Recent success on the ice makes the hiatus a bit inconvenient though and the coaching staff is aware of other temptations players face at home that can make the time off a tad concerning.

The SilverBacks’ leading scorer, Landon Smith, landed a BCHL player of the week nod on Dec. 16 and the team took five of six points from division opponents in games from Dec. 10 to 15.

Still, despite the momentum, ’Backs goalie Adam Clark knows having the ability to reset the mind and reconnect with loved ones is a key part of the season.

“I think it’s important to take a couple days off and enjoy your family and company,” said Clark.

The native of Edmonton will forego the chilly climes of northern Alberta and head to Jamaica for Christmas.

SilverBacks associate head coach Brandon West says he and the coaching staff trust their players to behave themselves and be ready to skate when they return.

“Our message is always, ‘be safe, be smart and be responsible,’” said West. “We want to make sure our guys enjoy the holiday break, get their minds off the game but are also taking care of themselves.

“They need the down time to get back to being a kid.”

West says the fitness foundation they’ve established for their players has kept them in the race in the ultra-competitive Island Division and also instilled good habits in the players that they’ll carry on, even when unsupervised.

“Our guys are in tremendous shape; one of our assistant coaches, Kevin Kraus, has done a fantastic job,” said West. “He’s in the gym with them every day. We can tell, late in games, we still have the energy. We’re still in the race in the standings because of our conditioning.

“It’s a credit to Kevin but the players as well.”

Clark agrees he and his teammates have proven they won’t slack off and simply belly up to the buffet when they’re home for the holidays.

“Absolutely, we have a group of guys that are trustworthy and accountable,” said Clark.

“That’s been a big word for us, accountability. It’s credit to our coaching staff. After Christmas, we’re going to hit the ground running and be ready for the last stretch.”

Most of the players were planning to catch flights home and head to their families on Dec. 23. But before the festivities could begin, there was the matter of two more important games with a visit to Merritt Dec. 20 and a home game against Powell River Dec. 22 (past Observer deadlines).

“For sure it’s tough, seeing other teams and other guys home already,” said Clark. “You’ve got to be careful to focus on the game at hand and not worry about Christmas break and all the fun.”

West knows the time at home will go by quickly for the players but he also knows they’ll conduct themselves properly.

“They’re only going to get eight days at home; we’ll make sure they’re in the gym a few days while they’re home. Most guys are pretty good about going to the gym anyway.”

The SilverBacks start off the new year by hosting the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, Jan. 3 and the Merritt Centennials on Saturday, Jan. 4.