The Salmon Arm Silverbacks unveiled a new addition to the roster who hopes his experience between the posts can be a boon for the junior A squad.
The team announced they acquired the rights to 19-year-old netminder Matthew Armitage from the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), who will be taking his first steps into the BCHL in the coming week.
“I am really excited, we have a really good team this year. We are a bit younger, but it seems like we have a lot of skill and speed, and play with a lot of energy each game from the sounds of it,” Armitage says.
Originally from Creston, Armitage spent last season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. He played 19 games with the Hitmen and posted a 0.890 save percentage. He came to the Hitmen from the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL.
Though he moves to Salmon Arm from Calgary, Armitage’s history in Creston makes him glad to be back in B.C. and a little closer to home.
“I actually really love it, it reminds me so much of Creston. It’s a little bigger but it’s the same kind of vibe, it feels like home to be honest,” he says. “I feel really comfortable here and I’m excited to get going.”
Armitage also spent time at the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary where he trained under current Silverbacks’ head coach Scott Atkinson, so he comes to the team with some history with the coaching staff. Fellow Silverbacks Akito Hirose, Aiden Jenner, Sam MacBean, Nick Unruh, Noah Wakeford, and Max Wutzke also graduated from Edge.
“Matt played for me at the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary, where he starred for our Midget Prep team before playing in the AJHL for Okotoks and subsequently for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He is an excellent goaltender, and an outstanding teammate. We feel Matt will help our team both on and off the ice,” said GM and Head Coach Scott Atkinson.
“I really like Scotty, there is definitely a good connection with him,” Armitage comments. “He is a very knowledgeable man in every aspect of the game. It’s good to always have that on your side, and he has a lot of connections, so I’m really excited for that. I think the transition has been really good so far, the boys have been great and welcomed me in, they are all really good guys.”
As for what he hopes he can bring to the team, Armitage thinks his experience in net with a WHL can be a benefit.
“I think I can definitely add some depth in the back end for goaltending. We have a good goalie in Langenegger too, it’s good we have two solid goaltenders. You need that if you want to make a deep push in the season if someone gets injured and the other guy needs to step up,” he says. “I think I bring a lot of energy and a little experience that maybe I can share with the room.”
In other ‘Backs player news, Nick Unruh was put in the spotlight by the BCHL this week when he received an honourable mention as the league’s player of the week for his efforts in scoring five goals in two games while coming fresh off a break due to an injury.
“It’s nice to finally have some results come, I feel pretty confident right now, I definitely feel a lot better going into the games coming up this weekend,” Unruh says. “It’s nice to hear that you’re getting recognized for your performance by the league, it is really humbling.
In just 14 games this season the forward is halfway to surpassing his recorded goals over 54 games last season, and he notes he has worked to improve his speed over the summer.
“Being a rookie last year I noticed how much faster it is and it’s something I really kind of focused on during the summer, getting faster and being quicker so I can be a bit more effective at this level,” Unruh says. “The speed and the quickness of everything on the ice has been a huge change compared to what I was used to.”
Heading into a series of three games this weekend and another next week, Unruh and Armitage are both looking forward to hitting the ice and seeing what kind of plays they can make happen.
“It’s a huge weekend coming up, we have four games in the next six days,” Unruh says. “Our division obviously is really tight so it’s just a huge opportunity to prove to everyone that we are more legit this year and move up in the standings.”
“I think this first game I am just going to take it section by section,” Armitage says. “I’m not going to try and set any goals… this is kind of dipping my toe in, I have to figure out some things and where it goes from there is just where it goes.”
Armitage joins his new teammates this weekend as the Silverbacks host the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. and the Prince George Spruce Kings on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.