With the BCHL’s Interior Division standings as tight as they are, it’s almost like the Salmon Arm SilverBacks are already in a playoff fight.
That’s why two losses in three outings last week hurt that much more. The Gorillas got off to a promising start to the week with a 2-1 road win over the Penticton Vees but losses of 5-0 and 3-2 to the Merritt Centennials have them in fifth place currently.
On Saturday in Merritt, Salmon Arm clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it on goals by Steven Iacobellis and Brandon Mistal but Sean Maaktak, a thorn in the ’Backs’ side all weekend, notched the winner shortly after.
“I thought on Saturday in Merritt we were full value for a win but they were opportunistic and we weren’t,” said SilverBacks head coach Scott Robinson. “I thought we got back to playing hard… it was our best 60-minute effort (of the week) but I thought we sat back a bit in the third.”
Some early misfires on the power play may have been the difference. Salmon Arm had three cracks on the man advantage in the first 25 minutes but couldn’t capitalize.
“Any time you come up with an ‘L’ and don’t take advantage of power-play situations (it costs you), especially since that rink presents unique challenges,” said Robinson, referring to the small ice surface at Nicola Valley Arena. “I think our team carried the play in the first two periods but in the third period we took some penalties; it took any momentum we had.”
Still the ’Backs had a chance to tie when Iacobellis was sent in alone in the dying seconds but was denied by Tyler Steel. A scrum ensued after the final horn and Jeff Kennedy landed an automatic one-game suspension out of it as he was assessed his second instigator penalty of the season.
It was perhaps not surprising that emotions boiled as it came on the heels of the shutout defeat at home the night before. Cents goals in the first and second were more than enough but when Maaktak drifted a long wrist shot early in the third that beat Adam Clark, it was too much to overcome.
“It was one of those nights where the group was off and we’ve had very few of those,” noted Robinson. “That’s not something we’ve seen out of Adam Clark; we wanted to file it and move on.”
Clark was the reason for the team’s victory in Penticton. Outshot 40-20, Salmon Arm came away with the two points as only a Sam Mellor power-play goal got past Clark, who earned first star. The outcome could have been determined earlier if not for some tough luck.
“Literally, we hit four or five posts or crossbars,” said Robinson. “We were as sharp as we’ve been all year with passing and communicating.”
Goals 59 seconds apart in the first period by Evan Anderson and Harlan Orr were the difference.
Salmon Arm has a pair of games before Christmas. Friday they play in West Kelowna and then host the Warriors Saturday. Both games are 7 p.m. starts.