Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks took care of business in their home opener this past Sunday, thanks to a 4-1 victory over the West Kelowna Warriors. Now it’s time to hit the road for the first time this season.
The club will head to Trail to take on the Smoke Eaters, who began their season with a double-header at home that didn’t go so well. They fell 4-1 and then 7-1 to the Penticton Vees, and they’ll look to change their fortunes with yet another two-game homestand, this time against the Backs.
1) Special Teams
By far the biggest storyline from Sunday’s season-opening win was the Silverback’s penalty kill that went a perfect 8-for-8. This wasn’t a case of luck: the PK really was that good.
In the Smoke Eaters’ opening two games, their power play came up empty on all six attempts, so it will be interesting to see if these trends continue.
Salmon Arm’s power play, meanwhile, looked just okay last weekend, converting on a first period goal but after that it failed to generate many chances. The Vees were able to pick apart the Smoke Eater’s PK on Saturday, going 3-for-7 with the man advantage in their lopsided win. Can the Silverbacks find their mojo with the man advantage and do the same? We’ll have to wait and see.
Ethan Langenegger looked like his usual self to kick off the regular season for the Backs, while Smoke Eaters starter Donovan Buskey had a weekend he’d probably rather forget, after getting pulled twice.
Langenegger played a lot in his first season in the BCHL and got better as the year went on. He secured an NCAA Div. I scholarship to Lake Superior State University right before the season began and will be counted on to provide stability all season long.
Buskey was very strong in last spring’s first-round playoff series when the Smokies took down the second-seeded Merritt Centennials, but he has also never been a starting goaltender at the junior level. The 19-year-old was a backup in the Western Hockey League with both the Spokane Chiefs and more recently the Prince Albert Raiders (the most games he has played in a single junior season is 22). How he deals with a larger workload this season will be interesting to monitor.
Sixteen-year-old Logan Terness is a rookie backup for the Smoke Eaters after the team traded 20-year-old Gabriel Waked, and could see action this weekend.
3) Which Team Can Gel Quicker?
While the Silverback’s roster has a ton of new faces (only six returners), so too with Trail. Head coach and general manager (and former NHLer) Jeff Tambellini was heavily involved in recruiting this off-season, convincing 13 new players to commit to his program.
With the season still in its infancy, what results we get from this weekend may depend on which lines and defence pairings develop chemistry first. Systems haven’t yet been ingrained in everyone’s minds, so developing some sort of comfort level with your linemates will go a long way.
Players to Watch
SILVERBACKS: DANIEL RYBARIK
His first career BCHL goal was an empty-netter on Sunday, but that’s certainly not how most of Rybarik’s goals this season will be scored. The speedy winger knows how to bury the biscuit at 5-on-5 (it’s why he was brought in), as he tallied 50 even-strength goals over the past two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Each and every game Rybarik is a danger to the other team, particularly on odd-man rushes.
SMOKE EATERS: TYLER GHIRADOSI
The veteran of over 120 career BCHL games was a ‘Silverback killer’ in the back half of the 2018-19 season, scoring five goals and adding an assist in his final three head-to-head games against Salmon Arm, including a hat-trick on Feb. 9 in Trail. The 19-year-old Quinnipiac University commit may have been held off the scoresheet in his club’s opening two games but is certainly one to watch this weekend.
Both games this weekend will be aired on 91.5 EZ Rock, starting 30 minutes before 7 p.m. puck drop. It will also be streamed live on HockeyTV. Be sure to check out our YouTube page on Sunday for all your Silverbacks highlights.