Tonight the Salmon Arm Silverbacks head into a match against the BCHL’s top team in the standings, the Chilliwack Chiefs, and the team seems to have the right mindset to spin a victory out of the encounter.
Looking back on the past month, it’s been a rough road for the Silverbacks rife with injuries, an untimely suspension and big stretches of back-to-back games that tested their endurance. Despite this, they recorded seven wins — including two over division rivals Vernon Vipers — and just four losses. They clutched more than one game in the final minutes, including a frenetic three-goal spree in two minutes against Trail, two shootout wins and an overtime victory.
While these victories might be attributed to several things, Silverbacks’ head coach Scott Atkinson and captain Sol Seibel say it largely comes down to a mindset they have been working hard to instill in the entire team.
“It feels great, we picked up some momentum through this month I think, we battled through some injuries but I think the team was resilient enough to still move up the standings and keep this momentum,” says captain Sol Seibel.
“We are trying to get the idea that the most important game is the next game, because you can’t do much with whats already gone on,” Atkinson says. “You can only look forward to the immediate future and if you take care of that you continue to take care of the distant future, and that’s our mindset. I think if you take a look at the standings it’s a pretty good mindset to have.”
At the core of this mindset is the idea that players take on a sense of collective responsibility when they hit the ice, stepping up to do what is needed for the team to secure a victory.
“It is an easy thing for a coach to say we have a ‘next man up’ philosophy, and we do expect guys to just get their job done. A lot of teams do say that but then it doesn’t happen,” Atkinson says. “That is completely a result of having great leadership and having the right guys in the room on my mind, having players that legitimately step up.”
“There is an abundance of leaders in the room, not just the guys wearing letters,” Seibel adds. “Even with the rookies there are guys who step up both on the ice and off the ice and I think you need that.”
Atkinson has high praise for the team’s ability to turn games around and win late in the contest, something he says builds up the team’s confidence, though he would like to see them be able to take control of the game more fully in the early stages.
“There is only one way to build confidence, I can pat as many guys on the back as I want but when you experience success in high-pressure situations that builds much-needed confidence and I think with a young team that is imperative,” Atkinson says. “But that also points out a weakness, we have to start better. We have rarely scored the first goal, but we found a way to get ourselves back into games.”
Looking ahead to November, the Silverbacks have a stretch of tough games against heavy-hitting teams. They start the month against the league-leading Chilliwack Chiefs, play twice against division rivals the Vernon Vipers and twice against last season’s playoff champions the Wenahatchee Wild. The team is standing firm on not getting psyched out, however, focusing on their own game and not the stats of their opponents.
“I don’t think you should put more weight on any one game, you should look for the same outcome in every game: a win,” Seibel says. “ I think we are in a good spot, it feels great to start moving up the standings it gives us confidence throughout the year. We just want to be that team everyone looks at like ‘we gotta beat these guys.’”
Coming into November, the Silverbacks also announced some new additions to their coaching and support staff with the arrival of Tyler Shattock as a new coach and Mike Bois as athletic therapist, replacing Brett Knowles who is moving to Victoria to remain with his family.
“I think Tyler is a big addition, number one he is a local guy, born in Salmon Arm. I think he is a wealth of knowledge that we can utilize,” Atkinson says. “We are sad to see Brett go but fortunate to have a real good guy coming in with Mike, who has lots of experience. You have to get lucky sometimes, and I think we got lucky with Mike.”
The Silverbacks face the Chilliwack Chiefs tonight, Nov. 3, before a bit of a break and a trip to Penticton Nov. 9 to face the Vees.