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Preview: Backs Look For Third Straight ‘W’ in Rematch with Cents

Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks (25-20-4) wrap up their home-and-home with the Merritt Centennials (10-35-4) on Saturday night at Nicola Valley Memorial Arena.

This is the fourth of six head-to-head meetings this season. The Backs are 2-1 so far against Merritt, winning 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 8 and 6-2 last night, but they fell 6-5 in Merritt on Nov. 9.

The Backs enter action one point back of the Vernon Vipers for third place in the Interior Division and four points ahead of Wenatchee for fourth.

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

Last Time Out

The Backs got six goals from six different players last night in their 6-2 win over Merritt.

Although the Backs went down 1-0 early on a shorthanded goal from Payton Matsui, they tied it later in the period thanks to Will Poirier’s 16th of the season, before exploding for three tallies in the first six minutes of the second period.

Drew Bennett, Lucas Breault and Daniel Rybarik all scored in quick succession to make it a 4-2 game at the 6:07 mark of the middle frame, before Luke Mylymok notched a power play goal to increase the Backs lead to three.

Logan Shaw added a goal late in the game to make it a 6-2 final. Grant Adams made 27 saves for his third win in six starts (3-2-1).

A Closer Look

The Silverbacks have now scored 20 goals in their last five games. Their power play is 5-for-15 in the last four (33.3%), while the PK was perfect on Friday for just the second time in the last eight games.

Captain Akito Hirose recorded his 100th career BCHL assist on Friday in his 200th career regular season game. He is just the second player in franchise history to suit up in 200 games (Bobby Lipsett ranks first with 208 career games). Hirose is one point behind older brother Taro for eighth on the Silverbacks all-time franchise scoring list.

The Backs are 8-11-4 on the road this season, but 2-6-2 in their last 10 away from home.

Leading Scorers

Akito Hirose (9-39-48)
Noah Wakeford (17-29-46)
Daniel Rybarik (27-15-42)
William Poirier (16-17-33)
Nick Unruh (11-22-33)

The Opposition

The Centennials have now lost 13 straight games. Their last win came on Dec. 20 in West Kelowna against the Warriors by a 6-2 score. Former Silverback Wyatt Marlow had the game-winning-goal.

Merritt has allowed 75 goals in their last 13 games (5.77 per game). In those 13 games, they’ve allowed less than five goals just once.

The Centennials are 6-16-1 on home ice this season.

Leading Scorers

Payton Matsui (13-20-33)
Christian Buono (9-23-32)
Daniel Tkac (8-17-25)
Thomas Manty (9-15-24)
Rylan Van Unen (11-9-20)

Notable Versus Merritt

The last (and only) time the Silverbacks visited Merritt, they lost 6-5, despite out-shooting the Cents 53-32.

Nick Unruh, Drew Bennett and Antonio Andreozzi each have five points in the three head-to-head games, leading all active skaters. Payton Matsui has four goals in the three games, leading the Cents.

Ethan Langenegger stopped 37 of 40 in his only start against Merritt — a 4-3 win — and is the expected starter Saturday.

Upcoming Milestones

Noah Wakeford: 3 assists from 75 career BCHL assists.

Nick Unruh: 4 goals from 50 career BCHL goals.

Tune In

Pre-game coverage on EZ Rock starts at 6:30 p.m. with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will also be streamed live on HockeyTV.