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Backs Finish Off Pre-Season By Doubling Up Vipers

Backs' defenceman Noah Lugli defends against Ben Helgeson of the Vipers as goaltender Dylan Kruss focuses on the puck (Lisa Mazurek Photography).

Salmon Arm B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks edged the Vernon Vipers 4-2 on Friday night at Kal Tire Place in their final exhibition game. They finish the pre-season with a record of 2-0-2.

GAME SUMMARY

Just like Wednesday, it didn’t take long for the Silverbacks to find the back of the net. This time, on his first shift of the pre-season, forward Coalson Wolford ripped a wrist shot perfectly into the top corner right from the slot just over two minutes into the game. Logan Shaw dropped the pass for Wolford, while Holden Knights also drew an assist on the play.

A few minutes later, Viper forward Connor Sleeth made good on an opportunity from the slot, beating Backs’ goaltender Dylan Kruss just under the glove and over the pad to tie the game 1-1.

Not long after the game was all knotted up, Daniel Rybarik made good on an odd-man rush by firing a shot short-side from the face-off dot that beat Dawson Pelletier. Rybarik’s third of the pre-season was unassisted. The Backs’ went into the intermission up 2-1, despite trailing in shots on goal 14-7.

The second period was filled with Silverbacks penalties, as they killed off four in total, including a 19-second 5-on-3. Kruss was busy in the crease, making 19 saves in the second period.  With 3.3 seconds to go in the middle frame, Akito Hirose went to work, getting free in the slot area for a top-corner snipe that gave Salmon Arm some much-needed insurance. Tony Andreozzi got the lone assist on the goal. After two periods, the Backs led 3-1, but trailed in shots 33-17.

Noah Wakeford kept the Silverback’s momentum going to start the third period, converting on a wrap-around just 16 seconds in. Saskatoon native Zach Gabruch picked up an assist on the tally. The Vipers got one goal back eight minutes later after JoJo Tanaka-Campbell stuffed one in right from the crease to make it a 4-2 game. Following that, the final period wasn’t too eventful other than your usual shenanigans following some crease scrambles, and the Backs’ held on for a 4-2 win.

STANDOUT PERFORMANCES

Dylan Kruss, SA Silverbacks: The Thornhill, Ont. native made quite the first impression, making 39 saves on 41 shots, including 31 saves in the first two periods alone. The refs also didn’t make it easy on him, not only putting the Silverbacks short-handed six times, but also by allowing the Vipers to run fairly freely around the crease area. Kruss stood his ground, making for a memorable debut.

Connor Sleeth, Vernon Vipers: Sleeth scored the first goal of the game for the Vipers and also had a few other Grade-A scoring chances in this one. The Markham, Ont. native also had the OT winner on Wednesday. His finishing ability has been evident the past two games.

Akito Hirose, SA Silverbacks: While Hirose’s puck skills are on display each and every game, it was the timing of his goal tonight that gets him a ‘standout performance’ nod. Not only did it hold up as the game-winner, but it was scored with 3.3 seconds to go in the period and doubled the Backs’ lead. Scoring that close to the intermission had to have been a tough pill for the Vipers to swallow, especially after they outshot Salmon Arm 19-10 in the period.

STAT OF THE GAME

Silverbacks PK 6-for-6: The second period was particularly rough in the penalty department, with the Backs’ having to kill off four straight, including a brief 5-on-3. But time after time, the PK units were up for the challenge. Vernon had trouble setting up in many instances, and when they did settle down in the offensive zone, either Kruss was there to make the save, or the Backs were able to apply pressure at the right time and clear the puck.

WHAT’S NEXT

With the pre-season now all wrapped up, the Silverbacks have nine days off before their regular season opener, set for Sunday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m. at the Shaw Centre against the West Kelowna Warriors. Fans can stream the game on HockeyTV, tune in on 91.5 EZ Rock or come on out to the Shaw Centre. For tickets, click here.