What began as a two-game lead for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the BCHL Interior Conference Final has turned into a two-all tie.
Although the visiting SilverBacks embarrassed the Vipers with a 6-0 shutout on Saturday night, giving the Gorillas a 2-0 series lead, that advantage quickly dissolved at home.
Monday night, a lacklustre performance by the SilverBacks resulted in a 5-1 loss.
Tuesday night Salmon Arm fans were treated to a much better game, but a win wasn’t in the cards. Final score, Vipers 3, SilverBacks 2.
The series returns to Vernon for Game 5 Thursday night, where it’s hoped the SilverBacks away-game charm will continue. Friday night it’s back to Salmon Arm and, if a Game 7 is needed, it will take place Saturday in Vernon.
*On Saturday night in Vernon, the Salmon Arm SilverBacks shocked fans with a 6-0 shutout of the Vernon Vipers.
Salmon Arm’s Jarryd Ten Vaanholt was named first star of the game with two goals, Brett Knowles the second star also with a pair and Mike Hammond the third star with three assists. Kris Moore recorded the shut-out, stopping all 34 shots as the Snakes outshot the Gorillas 34 to 17. Vernon netminder Kirby Halcrow was pulled after allowing five goals on nine shots in the first period and was replaced with Blake Voth.
On Friday night, the win wasn’t so dramatic but it was a win just the same.
With the score 4-3 for Salmon Arm in the third period, Vernon pulled their goalie for the sixth attacker. With the net empty, Jayson Reardon scored for the 5-3 win. The home team outshot the visitors 41 to 30 as Kris Moore had another big night in goal for the SilverBacks. Paul De Jersey, Brett Knowles and Vernon’s Pat McGillis were the three game stars.
As the higher-seeded team, the Vipers had home-ice advantage. The schedule is as follows:
• Game 5 – Thursday, March 24 in Vernon at 7 p.m.
• Game 6 – Friday, March 25 in Salmon Arm at 7 p.m.
• Game 7 – Saturday, March 26 in Vernon at 7 p.m.
The Gorillas advanced after defeating the Penticton Vees four games to one. The Snakes defeated the Westside Warriors four games to two to move on to the final.
• Over two playoff rounds, Salmon Arm has displayed a chameleon-like ability to change according to what’s going on around them. Against the Merritt Centennials, they scored plenty and also allowed their fair share. Against the Vees, they didn’t score as much and allowed even less.
A big reason why was the play of Kris Moore in net. The current BCHL player of the week stood on his head for the first three games against Penticton, stopping 131 of 135 shots as Salmon Arm took a 3-0 series lead, winning by scores of 3-1, 3-2 and 2-1.
“He made significant improvement series over series,” said Salmon Arm bench boss Tim Kehler. “It doesn’t surprise me because (against Merritt) we were scoring five, six, seven goals a game and when we’re getting good (scoring) support, we tend to relax a bit and that’s when we tend to see pucks go by him.”
Kehler confesses that particular characteristic is one his team and starting goaltender share and can cause consternation for the coaching staff. But in crunch time, Moore has shown the ability to rise to the occasion
“He takes on the persona of our group,” said Kehler. “When we get a bit of leeway, he gets a bit relaxed but with the critical moments like a key penalty kill or late in a close game, he gets key saves…”
Penticton’s only win in the series came in a 4-3 victory on Saturday at Sunwave Centre. Though the Vees outshot Salmon Arm 196-127 in the five games, the Gorillas had the better numbers in the only place it counts: the scoreboard.
“Through the series, you try to make adjustments and learn,” said Kehler. “I think by Game 5, we had taken over the series. I don’t mind saying I think we were fortunate to be up 3-0 and did so largely on the back of Kris, but at the critical times, we were the better team.”
Another story line of the series was the depth of the Salmon Arm blueline. Kehler rolled his defensive pairings with Jayson Reardon, Josh Manson, Charlie Vasaturo, Kevin Mills, Clinton Atkinson and James Friedel seeing equal ice whereas the Vees leaned heavily on Joey Laleggia, Troy Stecher and Derik Johnson.
“There was no point in the series that we shortened that (defensive) group,” said Kehler. “Penticton relied on three guys… and they played exceptional but it takes its toll.”
Penticton also didn’t have sniper Mark MacMillan for the series. The Montreal Canadiens draft pick was injured and while Kehler believes Penticton would have been stronger with him in the lineup, he preferred to credit his team for taking advantage of what was presented to them.
Salmon Arm went 7-1 against the Vipers in the regular season.
The SilverBacks box office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets can also be charged by phone by dialing 250-832-3856 ext. 108.