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Preview: Silverbacks Host Warriors with Opportunity to Solidify Hold on 3rd

Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks (27-20-5) look to give themselves some breathing room in the race for third place in their division on Wednesday night when they host the West Kelowna Warriors (14-30-9) at the Shaw Centre.

This is the six and final head-to-head meeting of the season. The season series is currently 3-2 for the Backs, who won the first three meetings, but have lost the most recent two. Salmon Arm triumphed 4-1 on opening night, 4-3 in overtime on Sept. 24 and 6-1 on Oct.1, before losing 2-1 on Oct. 18 and 6-2 on Nov. 23. That means the two division rivals haven’t met in nearly three months and both teams have made coaching chances since then.

The Backs are currently tied with Vernon for third in the Interior Division at 59 points, but Salmon Arm has a game in hand. Wenatchee is one point behind both teams, currently in fifth with 58 points, but has also played one more game than the Silverbacks.

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

Last Time Out

The Backs are coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat at the hands of the Penticton Vees last Friday night.

Will Poirier scored yet again in this contest, tying the game 2-2 late in the third with his 20th of the season and ninth goal in his last 10 games. Logan Shaw also buried the biscuit, tallying his ninth of the year and fifth goal in his eight.

Ethan Langenegger was phenomenal on Friday, stopping 33 of 36 shots thrown his way, including some marquee saves to force overtime. He was named an honourable mention for BCHL Player of the Week on Monday after stopping 57 of 60 shots in his two starts lats week.

A Closer Look

The Silverbacks are 4-0-1 in their last five games after going 2-6-2 in their previous 10. In the last five, they have out-scored their opponents 19-10.

Although Salmon Arm’s power play did not strike on Friday, it only had two opportunities and is still 9-for-30 (30%) in the last seven games.

Nick Unruh’s assist on Poirier’s game-tying-goal on Friday gives him a five-game point streak and 14 points in his last 10 (three goals, 11 assists). Luke Mylymok has missed the past two games, but was named the Boston Pizza Silverback Player of the Month for January after recording five goals and four assists for nine points in 10 games.

On home ice this season, Salmon Arm is 17-9. Wednesday’s game will be the Silverbacks’ first home game since Jan. 31 and just the second since Jan. 15.

If the playoffs started today, the third-place Silverbacks would host the Victoria Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, as they are the cross-over team currently with the most points (the last-place teams in the Mainland and Island Divisions cross over to the Interior).

Leading Scorers

Akito Hirose (9-41-50)
Noah Wakeford (17-30-47)
Daniel Rybarik (28-16-44)
William Poirier (20-17-37)
Nick Unruh (11-26-37)

The Opposition

The Warriors are 1-3-1 in their last five, but have gone 7-5-2 since the Jan. 10 trade deadline. Since hiring Simon Ferguson as their new head coach, the club is 7-7-2, after going 7-23-7 under previous head coach Brandon West.

West Kelowna is coming off back-to-back one-goal losses to tough opponents: falling 5-4 to Trail on Feb. 7 and 5-4 in overtime to Penticton on Feb. 9.

Rookie forward John Evans has been a spark-plug for his team since mid-November, recording 35 points (15 goals, 20 assists) in his last 29 games. The 17-year-old leads the team in scoring with 43 points, ranking fourth amongst all rookie skaters in the BCHL.

The Warriors are currently trying to catch the Prince George Spruce Kings in the standings, who they trail by three points (this is because of the cross-over format). If the playoffs started today, West Kelowna would face off against Penticton, while Prince George would draw Trail.

Leading Scorers

John Evans (18-25-43)
Tyler Cristall (16-23-39)
Carter Wilkie (11-20-31)
Nicholas Ardanaz (3-27-30)
Brendan Pigeon (7-17-24)

Notable Versus West Kelowna

As mentioned, these teams haven’t met in nearly three months.

Salmon Arm is 2-0 on home ice versus the Warriors so far this season, out-scoring them 10-2 combined.

Backs captain Akito Hirose leads all skaters in head-to-head scoring this season, with nine points (one goal, eight assists) in the five meetings so far, while Poirier and Noah Wakeford have the most goals of any skater with three each. Brendan Pigeon leads the Warriors in head-to-head scoring against Salmon Arm this season with five points (one goal, four assists).

The Warriors penalty kill has had success against Salmon Arm this season, going 19-for-21 (90.5%) in the five games combined.

Upcoming Milestones

Noah Wakeford: 2 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.