Dealt a bad hand just prior to leaving for a three-game Vancouver Island road trip, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks still refuse to make excuses for their winless weekend.
The team came down with a collective bout of what’s believed to be food poisoning and hit the road with just 15 skaters on the bus. It was that group that took to the ice in Powell River and fought hard but lost 3-1 to the Kings.
Reinforcements arrived the next day as Salmon Arm GM donated a vehicle to team director of marketing Phil Stewart. He drove five more players, who were feeling better after another night of rest at home, to Vancouver Island for the remaining games against Alberni Valley and Cowichan Valley.
There were more options for the coaches with a full lineup but hot goaltending from the opposition and a lackluster ’Backs penalty kill resulted in losses of 4-2 to the Bulldogs and 2-1 to the Caps.
“We felt we had a good effort in each game but we were a day late and dollar short,” said SilverBacks associate head coach Brandon West. “We didn’t capitalize on the chances when they were given and that was probably the main reason (for the losses).”
Of his crew of under-the-weather skaters, West said he hadn’t seen anything like it in his coaching career.
“It was unreal; we played hard against Powell River but we were exhausted after the warm-up.”
Icing a complete lineup, albeit of players still recovering from their symptoms, Salmon Arm came up against a pair of netminders on top of their game in Alberni Valley’s Connor LaCouvee and Cowichan Valley’s Robin Gusse.
“We ran into some hot goaltending,” said West. “We threw everything but the kitchen sink at the goalies; we just weren’t rewarded.
“I think in all the games we had an opportunity to win the game. We had a good work ethic; we were lacking certain areas at certain times, maybe a missed assignment or a Grade-A chance missed.”
Also, they allowed two power-play goals against to both the ’Dogs and Caps. The once-mighty penalty kill has been humbled over the last month.
“I think when it comes down to it, we weren’t sacrificing,” said West. “There’s no blame on one person, just some missed assignments. Whether it’s shot-blocking or getting sticks in passing lanes, we just weren’t sharp this weekend.”
Landon Smith continues to lead the BCHL in scoring and now has 65 points after picking up two goals and two assists last weekend. Even he was not feeling his best but battled through and West says dealing with that adversity should serve them well down the stretch.
“Everybody at some point this weekend had something but it’s never an excuse and never the reason we lost.”
The players got Monday and Tuesday off to rest and recover. The focus will be on a rematch with Alberni Valley, who visit Shaw Centre Friday at 7 p.m.
The SilverBacks visit the Penticton Vees Saturday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. and then host the Vernon Vipers Sunday in a 3 p.m. start.