The Salmon Arm Rona Tier 3 Midget Silverbacks travelled to Clearwater and returned as the midget league champions for the 2018-19 season.
The ‘Backs participated in a four-team playoff tournament over the March 1-3 weekend, battling Clearwater, South Okanagan and Winfield with the league championship title on the line.
They opened the tournament Saturday against host Clearwater, and jumped out to an early lead with goals from Grady Powell and Sammy Lerose. After the Icehawks scored, David Kline would net a natural hat-trick to put the Silverbacks up 5-1, and Connor Kociuba sealed the deal with a backhand for a 6-3 victory. Rod May was strong in net for the Silverbacks throughout the game.
It took the most of the first period to get rolling against South Okanagan, but Bradley Hlina’s marker at 7:53 opened the flood-gates. Kline, Jacob Ancell and Lerose all scored to give the Silverbacks a four-goal lead. South Okanagan scored late to spoil the shutout for Dom Donato, but Lincoln Yarama potted an empty-netter for Salmon Arm to cap off an impressive 5-1 victory.
The toughest test of the round robin was regular season champs the Winfield Bruins. Winfield opened the scoring in the first and added to their lead early in the second, but the remainder of the period was owned by the ‘Backs.
Penalty trouble came early and often in the second for Winfield. Yarama would score for the Silverbacks on a delayed penalty call, and Kociuba would tie it up just eight seconds later. Tyson Sessa bounced a rebound off the goalie’s back to give Salmon Arm the lead, but Winfield scored just three minutes later to tie it up.
Winfield’s goal sparked the Silverbacks, however, with Kociuba and Ty Bailey both scoring to take a 5-3 lead. Kline would rip a wrister just under the bar and Ancell would snap one between the goalie’s blocker to seal the win.
Clearwater managed to make the final after a tie against South Okanagan, which meant a rematch against Salmon Arm.
Yarama would open the scoring in the first, and Hlina would extend the lead with a shot under the bar just 15 seconds later. The Icehawks would get one goal later in the first, but Yarama would regain the two-goal lead early in the second, and then snap one in for the hat-trick a few moments later.
Lerose would push the lead to 5-1 and that seemed to be the final straw for the Icehawks. The Silverbacks surrendered three unanswered goals to make it interesting, but Powell, Yarama and Ancell continued to score. Clearwater ended the game with a total of 98 minutes in penalties and three players ejected.
The tournament victory and league championship title for Salmon Arm earns them a spot to represent the region in the provincial championships, March 17 in Cranbrook.
Submitted by Peter Kociuba