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Game Preview: Divisional Rival Smoke Eaters Visit Silverbacks

The Silverbacks host the Smoke Eaters twice this weekend, with four huge points on the line, as Trail is now just five points behind Salmon Arm in the standings (Photo: Mike Hockley).

Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks (15-3-1) host the surging Trail Smoke Eaters (12-6-2) in the first of a double-header at the Shaw Centre on Friday night, going for their fifth straight victory.

The Silverbacks haven’t played in nearly a week, with their latest triumph coming last Saturday via a 4-2 score over the Wenatchee Wild. The Smoke Eaters, who are 12-1-1 in their last 14 games, won 5-1 on home ice on Wednesday against the Wild.

This is the third of six head-to-head meetings between Trail and Salmon Arm. The Backs defeated the Smoke Eaters twice in their own building in September, winning 4-2 and 3-2 on Sept. 13 and 14, respectively. In addition to facing off tomorrow, the Interior Division rivals will also battle on Dec. 15 in Salmon Arm and on Feb. 21 in Trail, the second-last game of the regular season.

Tonight’s game has a 7 p.m. puck drop.

3 Storylines

1) Shutting Down League’s Top Scorers

The Silverbacks did it the first time, so they know it’s certainly possible to shut down Kent Johnson and Michael Collella, who currently sit first and second in league scoring, with 38 and 35 points respectively (11 and eight points more than any other player).

The duo combined for just three points in the two head-to-head meetings on Sept. 13 and 14, but they enter the weekend on fire, with 10 points for Johnson in his last four games (5G, 5A) and 10 points for Collella in his last three games (1G, 9A).

Smoke Eaters forward Owen Ozar is also one to watch, with 23 points this season, including 10 goals. Trail can score — they’ve done so in bunches this season — but if the Backs play physical and stick to their systems, they’ll be fine.

2) Goaltending

Both goaltenders are having fantastic seasons so far.

Ethan Langenegger has lost just once the entire season and leads the league with 12 wins. During his current 6-0 streak, he has a .951 SV% and 1.66 G.A.A. Logan Terness has started eight straight games for the Smoke Eaters, going 6-1-1 in those games with a .937 SV% and 1.93 G.A.A.

There’s one clear difference: Langenegger is a 19-year-old veteran while Terness is a 17-year-old rookie. Whether that matters at all remains to be seen.

3) Special Teams

The Silverbacks were shorthanded far too many times last weekend (17 times in two games) and they’ll be playing with fire if they do that again against a Smoke Eaters power play that ranks second in the BCHL.

Trail’s PK is also perfect in their last eight games (39-for-39), but is going up against a Silverbacks power play that is 6-for-17 in its last three games (35.3%). Something’s got to give this weekend.

Players to Watch

SILVERBACKS: AKITO HIROSE

Thanks to a current league-best seven-game point-streak (12 assists during that span), Hirose has now taken over the team lead in points, with 24. He has five more points than any other defenceman in the BCHL.

Just eight of his 24 have come with the man advantage. Those 16 even-strength points are tied for the third-most in the BCHL, regardless of position.

SMOKE EATERS: PHILIPPE LAPOINTE

Johnson and Collella sit first and second in league scoring, but captain Philippe Lapointe is also a player to watch. He returned from injury last week and already has four points in three games.

The son of former NHLer Martin Lapointe had two goals in Wednesday’s win over Wenatchee and wasn’t in the lineup when the Backs took four points from Trail in those early-season meetings.

Upcoming Milestones

Akito Hirose: 4 points from 100 career BCHL points. Also games from 175 career BCHL games.

Daniel Rybarik: 1 point from 125 career CJHL points (including AJHL).

Nick Unruh: 4 assists from 50 career BCHL assists.

Noah Wakeford: 1 goal from 25 career BCHL goals.

Current Point Streaks

Akito Hirose: 7 games (12A)

Daniel Rybarik: 4 games (4G, 2A)

Noah Wakeford: 4 games (2G, 3A)

William Poirier: 3 games (1G, 4A)

Noah Lugli: 3 games (3A)

Tune In

Tonight’s game will be on EZ Rock as usual and will also be streamed live on HockeyTV. In fact, tonight’s game is the free HockeyTV broadcast of the week!