Silverbacks’ forward Jack Sampson skids to a stop, coming face-to-face with Smoke Eaters’ defenceman Kyle Budvarson during the Jan. 26 game at the Shaw Centre. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Salmon Arm Silverbacks host two tight games against Trail Smoke Eaters

One overtime win, one close loss in weekend games

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks started their double-header against the Trail Smoke Eaters by locking down an overtime victory on home ice.

After a long slog playing three or more games every weekend, the Silverbacks prepped for back-to-back games against the Smoke Eaters this weekend at the Shaw Centre.

It was a quiet first period on the scoreboard, with no shots reaching the back of the net despite seven attempts by each team.

Coming into the second, the stalemate held for well over half the period before Salmon Arm finally made the go-ahead goal. Matthew Verboon caught the puck from a successful face-off win and fired it on a crowded net, sneaking the puck past the defenders and into the Trail goal. Cole Nisse and Justin Wilson were tagged with the assist on this goal, setting the Silverbacks ahead with a fragile 1-0 lead heading into the third.

This lead would be tested at the halfway mark of the third period, as the Smoke Eaters came in for a pair of goals that seemed they might turn the tide of the game. Hayden Rowan scored the first goal for trail, with Chase Stevenson coming in for the followup just a minute later.

Related: Silverbacks’ forward Justin Wilson makes NCAA commitment

After this pair of goals gave Trail the advantage at such a critical time in the game, the Silverbacks made a furious push to reclaim the lead. Things were looking dire for Salmon Arm as the clock ticked down the final minute of play in regulation time, but the Silverbacks made the call to pull their netminder and take advantage of an extra player to turn the tide.

With just 53 seconds left, Silverbacks’ forward Nick Unruh scored the clutch goal that would keep the win within their grasp. Assisted by Verboon and John Little, Unruh’s last-minute goal would send the game into overtime.

The extra frame was short-lived, lasting just over a minute, and both teams had good chances during the fast-paced OT play. Ethan Langenegger made a great save to rob the point from Trail, and Justin Wilson grabbed the loose puck after the save. Wilson and Silverbacks’ defenceman Akito Hirose made a two-on-one play together against the Trail net, with Wilson making a well-timed shot against Trail to score and end the game with an OT victory.

Revenge in the rematch

The Smoke Eaters were back on the Shaw Centre ice for a grudge match the following night, opening up the second game with a rough-and-tumble first period. Big hits echoed off the boards as each side made the game physical and pushed the net hard. Trail opened the scoring with a pair of goals in the first period, the first being scored by Paul Leroux and the second by Trevor Zins right after a faceoff win.

Coming into the second, the Smoke Eaters piled on their third goal just 11 seconds after the opening whistle off the stick of Mack Byers. The Silverbacks, down by three, made a serious push for the victory after three unanswered goals, scoring twice before the end of the second. Matthew Verboon scored their first, helped by Akito Hirose and Justin Wilson, with John Little scoring soon after, assisted by Verboon and Nick Unruh.

Related: Silverbacks go one for two in weekend games

Early in the third, Unruh brought the game to a stalemate with his second goal of the night on a power play, assisted by Darren Rizzolo and Andy Stevens. The tie held for about four minutes, until Trail found purchase with two more goals, from Tyler Ghirardosi and Owen Ozar, making it 5-3 with nine minutes remaining. Trevor Adams of the Silverbacks got Salmon Arm within one, scoring off the assist from Little and Hirose, but a defensive focus from both teams held off any further goals and gave Trail the 5-4 victory.

The Silverbacks host the West Kelowna Warriors in the Shaw Centre Friday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m., before a rematch on the Warriors’ home ice in Kelowna on Saturday.

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