When you work hard in hockey, it’s funny how the bounces can go your way. And right now, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks are putting in the necessary effort and are being rewarded with some good puck luck.
The latest example was their 3-2 home win Dec. 7 against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. It was the Gorillas’ only game of the week and, in an evenly played contest, it was an early third-period power play that resulted in the game-winning goal off the stick of local product Shane Hanna.
Tied 2-2 after two, Salmon Arm went on the man advantage when the ’Dogs’ Matthew Hansen was sent off for hooking. Just 39 seconds later, Hanna scored his team-high 27th point of the season and it stood up as the difference.
“He’s been very key for us this year,” said Salmon Arm assistant coach Brandon West of Hanna, who is currently the highest-scoring defenceman in the BCHL. “He’s one of our best players, but also one of our most complete. He’s an assistant captain now; he’s taken on a bigger role and has flourished with it.”
The game was scoreless after one and the teams swapped a pair of goals each in the middle frame with Brandon Mistal and Alex Gillies providing the other SilverBacks goals. Shots on goal wound up 30 for each side with some pretty good looks at the net traded each way.
“It was one of those games where you feel each other out,” said West. “We didn’t have much information on them and they didn’t have much on us. I don’t know if both coaching staffs enjoyed the game but from a fans’ perspective, it was probably a pretty entertaining game.
“Our guys knew what they were going to bring, a similar style to Penticton, all about offence. We knew we had to skate and we wanted to get physical. Not to take away from the guys, but we were fortunate to get some bounces go our way.”
Mistal had a two-point night while Steven Iacobellis and Evan Anderson each chipped in helpers. It’s these players that have given Salmon Arm the offensive weaponry they lacked early in the season. The power play is also up to fifth in the BCHL, clicking at a 22 per cent success rate.
“The guys are playing hard right now… everybody’s contributing in their own way,” said West. “We capitalized on a couple of chances and that won us the game.”
After two straight victories, Salmon Arm is within a win off the .500 mark, one point back of Trail and four points back of West Kelowna. With new players settling into routine, the SilverBacks are in the thick of the Interior Division playoff race.
“I think the one thing we key on is we play hard every night,” said West. “Even though we’ve made a bunch of trades, we’ve kept our identity. We play hard, play with passion and play with speed.”
Lately it’s been a good recipe. Salmon Arm will put it to use tonight in Penticton and Friday at home against Merritt, both 7 p.m. starts. They play in Merritt Saturday in a 7:30 p.m. faceoff.