Hit sends Salmon Arm player to surgery

The opening weekend of BCHL action brought no wins and a costly injury to a local player but the positive building blocks are there even if the points in the standings aren’t quite there yet.

Puck stop: Sean Flanagan keeps Vipers forward Connor Hartley from getting a good shot off

The opening weekend of BCHL action brought no wins and a costly injury to a local player but the positive building blocks are there even if the points in the standings aren’t quite there yet.

That pretty much sums up Colin O’Hara’s take on the Salmon Arm SilverBacks opening weekend of BCHL action that saw them drop two games to the Vernon Vipers, the second of which earned them a point in an overtime defeat.

Salmon Arm started in Vernon Friday but despite a strong first shift, they found themselves down 1-0 early on after a costly turnover at the Vernon blueline.

“We had all the pressure in their zone so I was actually happy with the start,” said O’Hara. “We got the puck deep and banged a few bodies but it was a mistake by us (that cost us).”

Vipers forward Darren Nowick took advantage and finished a two-on-one set up by Michael Zalewski and Brett Corkey.

More bad news came shortly after as Salmon Arm-raised defenceman Joel Kipp was pushed into the boards by Vernon’s Alex Hagen. Kipp was taken to hospital with concussion concerns but turned out to have a ruptured spleen which was removed and the 18-year-old will be out for at least

10 weeks. Hagen was assessed a two-minute boarding penalty on the play.

“Joel was hit from behind, we feel,” said O’Hara. “And now he’s lost for 10 to 12 weeks.”

Vernon added insult to injury, going up 2-0 after the first. A Morgan Zulinick tally 20 seconds into the second period got Salmon Arm on the board but it was their only goal of the night in a 5-1 loss.

Coming back to Sunwave Centre for the rematch on Saturday, the Gorillas again surrendered the first goal but impressed their coach by storming back with three of their own from Alex Gillies, Klay Kachur and Sean Flanagan. The second period was tight until late when Vernon struck for three, prompting O’Hara to insert Adam Clark in net to finish the period.

“The second period was a pretty even affair but we went to sleep as a whole, burned a timeout and changed our goaltending,” said O’Hara. “We were able to get a five-on-three but didn’t score.”

Kurt Williams went back to the crease for the third period where Salmon Arm again showed resolve by forcing overtime on Devin Muller’s tally on a setup from Bryce Gervais.

“(Kurt) battled, showed resiliency in his play and gave us a chance,” O’Hara said of his starting goalie.

Vernon won it 5-4 on Nowick’s goal late in the first overtime. O’Hara says even though Jason Williamson is the new Vipers coach, they play just like last season and their 11 returners are well-schooled in the team’s system. The Vipers had a clear edge in the special-teams battle, going 4-10 on the power play while Salmon Arm was 0-11. O’Hara was also quick to credit Vernon’s goalie.

“Kirby Halcrow stood on his head – on Saturday night with the game tied 4-4, he came up with two saves back to back while he was doing snow angels in the crease to push the game to overtime.

“We’ll look at (our penalty killing and power play),” said O’Hara of his practice plans this week. “Our power play created a ton of opportunities but we just didn’t capitalize. Saturday’s push and resolve was good so we’re excited to get back working this week.”

The SilverBacks play tonight at 7 with Rylan Ferster and the Westside Warriors coming to Sunwave Centre. Salmon Arm goes to Coquitlam Friday and Chilliwack Saturday.


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