It’s do or die for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in game five of their BCHL playoff series against the Vernon Vipers, with their entire playoff hopes riding on the outcome of the March 8 game on Vernon’s home ice.
Salmon Arm kicked off the series with a solid 5-3 victory March 1, but the Silverbacks have only scored a collective three goals in the three games since that initial victory.
Both teams have been keeping the goal count low since that first game, chalking up three identical 2-1 finishes in this playoff series.
Silverbacks’ goaltender Ethan Langenegger and Vipers’ netminder Aidan Porter have both been in the zone for the last three games, making some breathtaking saves to keep the scoreboard from reaching higher numbers. Langenegger is in his rookie year, but has so far stopped 143 out 152 shots in the playoffs for a save ratio of 94 per cent.
The Vipers showed in game four that patient, defensive play could hold an early lead until the end. The Silverbacks generated the early advantage in the first two games of the series, but since then Vernon has pushed ahead with single-goal leads and worked to shut down offensive chances. A first-period point for Salmon Arm could change the flow of play and give them a chance to exercise their own strong defensive core.
Silverbacks’ communications director Ryan Lepper points out both teams have some players who have been key contributors so far in the playoffs. Salmon Arm defenceman Andy Stevens has matched his regular season goals-scored in just four playoff games, putting up two points so far. He also gives credit to the three-man line of Wyatt Marlow, Tyson Gayfer and Logan Shaw for their effort generating offense and drawing penalties for Vernon.
On the Vipers’ bench, Matt Kowalski has been an offensive force in the playoffs, his well-timed points pushing Vernon ahead for the win in the last two games. Defenceman Landon Fuller has also shown great hustle, seeming to always be in the right place to block Salmon Arm’s play.
The results of this game determine Salmon Arm’s playoff hopes for this season; a loss sends them packing as Vernon moves on, while a win puts them back to balancing on a razor’s edge as they attempt three straight wins over the Vipers.
The puck drops tonight, Friday, March 8, at 7 p.m. at the Kal Tire Place in Vernon.