SilverBacks stake claim on second place

The goals are nice, but the wins are better.

Between the pipes: Bryce Gervais

Between the pipes: Bryce Gervais

The goals are nice, but the wins are better.

That’s the take Salmon Arm SilverBacks head coach Tim Kehler has on his team’s six-game winning streak. They’ve also scored an average of eight goals in their last four outings.

Last weekend, the Gorillas disposed of the Cowichan Valley Capitals 6-3 on Friday and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 9-2 on Saturday.

“The scoring is one thing, but winning is what we’re in the business for,” said Kehler, whose team is now tied with the Penticton Vees for second in the Interior Conference. “We had a four-game win streak before but never pushed it beyond that; now we’ve pushed it to six, but we’re far from being satisfied.”

Still, it must have been pretty satisfying taking two wins from Vancouver Island opponents on the weekend. Especially in Friday’s game when three former SilverBacks came to Sunwave Centre with the Capitals. Matt Cassidy, Matt Ridley and Chase Martin faced their former team and despite a goal from third star Cassidy, the Caps were no match for the ’Backs.

David Killip, Josh Manson and Mike Hammond, who was facing his former team also, scored before Cowichan Valley could respond. But Hammond and Manson each scored their second of the game in the second and third periods respectively to seal it.

The score may have been more lopsided if not for Cassidy’s efforts and Martin in the Caps’ net.

“I thought Cass had a terrific game, he has the opportunity to play on the top line there,” noted Kehler. “Chase Martin was great for them; he made some terrific saves in a losing effort.”

Against Alberni Valley on Saturday, the onslaught was well underway before the Bulldogs registered a goal. A Brett Knowles hat trick and singles from Devin Muller, Clint Atkinson, Hammond, Bryce Gervais and Morgan Zulinick made it 8-0 before another former SilverBack, Mike Puddifant, scored for Alberni Valley.

Paul De Jersey capped off the Salmon Arm scoring and all but two forwards got on the scoresheet.

“When we’re scoring goals like that, we’re really sharing it around offensively,” said Kehler. “We have 10 players with 10 goals or more and that’s something we take a lot of pride in as a coaching staff.”

Kehler credited the fourth line of De Jersey, Muller and Brandon Mistal for setting the early tone.

“Those guys got the ball rolling and everybody caught on after that; scoring nine is a surprise because Alberni Valley is usually pretty tough defensively.”

Improved play at even strength and a committed forecheck have been vital for Salmon Arm in their recent success, says Kehler. Earlier in the season, the effectiveness of their power play was making up for some other weaknesses, and even though they went 6-10 with the man advantage in the last two wins, it’s not the sole reason they won.

“The power play has continued to roll, which has been nice, but it’s more our five-on-five play, because that had been a sore spot,” said Kehler. “And the players are really buying into our forecheck system.”

Even though momentum appears to be on the SilverBacks’ side right now, Kehler says he and the players remain hungry. They’ll face a tough test tonight hosting the first-place Vernon Vipers ( 7 p.m. puck drop) before going to Trail Friday and then hosting Trail Saturday, also at 7 p.m.

“The players have a real business-like attitude; these are our last games against conference rivals… and the guys realize how critical it is.”