Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Trail Smoke Eaters will face off against one another in the Interior Division semifinals, which kick off this Friday in Trail.
Here is an in-depth preview to get you all set for the highly anticipated series.
Playoff Schedule – Round 2
Game 1: Friday, March 13 – 7 p.m. at Cominco Arena, Trail.
Game 2: Saturday, March 14 – 7 p.m. at Cominco Arena, Trail.
Game 3: Tuesday, March 17 – 7 p.m. at the Shaw Centre, Salmon Arm.
Game 4: Wednesday, March 18 – 7 p.m. at the Shaw Centre, Salmon Arm.
*Game 5: Friday, March 20 – 7 p.m. at Cominco Arena, Trail.
*Game 6: Sunday, March 22 – 5 p.m. at the Shaw Centre, Salmon Arm.
*Game 7: Tuesday, March 24 – 7 p.m. at Cominco Arena, Trail.
Opening Round Series
Each team swept their first round series, with the Backs taking down the Victoria Grizzlies in four straight and the Smoke Eaters doing the same against the Prince George Spruce Kings.
While each team made quick work of their opponents in that opening round, both series were tighter upon closer inspection. Salmon out-scored Victoria 12-5, but three games were one-goal victories. The Backs won their home games by scores of 2-1 and 4-0, and then snuck out consecutive 3-2 victories to close out the series.
Similarly, Trail pulled out back-to-back one-goal victories against the Spruce Kings to open the series (including one in overtime), before closing things out on the road with wins of 4-0 and 3-1.
Luke Mylymok and Jeremy Gervais co-led the Backs in points in the opening round with five each, while the Smoke Eaters were led by Kent Johnson, who also had five points.
SA Leading Scorers (playoffs):
Luke Mylymok (4-1-5)
Jeremy Gervais (1-4-5)
Drew Bennett (2-2-4)
TRA Leading Scorers (playoffs):
Kent Johnson (1-6-7)
Philippe Lapointe (3-2-5)
Owen Ozar (2-2-4)
Reg. Season Series
The two division rivals faced off six times this season, with the Silverbacks winning the season series 4-2.
Salmon Arm took the first two games in Trail on Sept. 13 and 14, by scores of 4-2 and 3-2 (overtime). Daniel Rybarik had the game-winning-goal in the first of those games, while defenceman Akito Hirose won the second game in overtime with under seven seconds left.
On Nov. 1 and 2, the teams split a double-header at the Shaw Centre, with the Smoke Eaters winning 5-4 on Friday and the Backs responding with a 2-1 shootout win on Saturday. Drew Bennett had two goals in Friday’s narrow loss, while William Poirier and Nick Unruh each scored in the shootout on Saturday.
On Dec. 15, the Silverbacks took down the Smoke Eaters by a 7-4 score on home ice, with Logan Shaw scoring twice, including the game-winner. The game also featured two fights and 52 total minutes in penalties.
The final head-to-head meeting took place in Trail on Feb. 21, with the Smoke Eaters coming away with a 5-1 victory.
Leading Scorers (head-to-head):
Philippe Lapointe – TRA – (3-6-9)
Daniel Rybarik – SA – (4-3-7)
Akito Hirose – SA – (3-4-7)
Kent Johnson – TRA – (3-4-7)
Noah Wakeford – SA – (2-5-7)
SA Leading Scorers (reg. season):
Akito Hirose (9-42-51)
Noah Wakeford (18-32-50)
Daniel Rybarik (31-18-49)
William Poirier (23-18-41)
Nick Unruh (12-27-39)
TRA Leading Scorers (reg. season):
Kent Johnson (41-60-101)
Michael Colella (27-41-68)
Owen Ozar (26-40-66)
Philippe Lapointe (20-35-55)
Diarmad DiMurro (6-32-38)
The most obvious trend when looking at the two forwards groups is how much offence comes from Trail’s top four players. Johnson, Lapointe, Ozar and Colella combined for 114 of the team’s 219 goals this season, or 52.1%. All four were well over a point-per-game this season, each finishing in the top-20 in league scoring.
While the Silverbacks got 31 goals from Rybarik this season — the second-most to Johnson’s 40 — it’s clear Salmon Arm doesn’t have quite as much fire power at the top of their lineup. What they do have is depth, with 10 forwards scoring nine or more times this season. Trail, by comparison, had seven forwards with nine or more goals. Each team has seven forwards that recorded 20 or more points.
A closer look at the numbers also reveals that Trail as a team got much of their production against weaker opponents. The Smoke Eaters went 18-3-1 against teams that finished the season below .500, with a +55 goal differential against those teams. In 15 of those 22 games, they scored five or more goals. Johnson, for example, had 59 points in just 20 games against clubs that finished below .500 (2.95 points-per-game), meaning he recorded 42 points in 32 games against teams above .500 (1.31 points-per-game).
Versus teams that finished the season above .500, Trail went 18-14-4 and actually had a negative goal differential, at -4. The Silverbacks had a similar record against competition above .500, going 17-16-5.
Silverbacks captain Akito Hirose leads the charge when it comes to the blue line on both sides, as he was named the BCHL’s top defenceman of the 2019-20 season, an award voted on by the 17 coaches in the BCHL. He finished his final year of junior hockey with 51 points (9G, 42A), 32 even-strength points, three game-winning-goals (all in overtime) and had the second-longest point streak of any skater this season at 14 games. The Calgary native racked up three assists in the first round against Victoria.
Hunter Sansbury provided secondary offence from the blue line this season for the Backs with 24 points, as did trade deadline acquisition Gervais, who had 17 points in 17 games after Jan. 10 and currently co-leads the club in points in the playoffs with five.
On the Smoke Eaters side, former Surrey Eagles captain Cody Schiavon put up 20 points in 30 games after the trade to Trail, while DuMurro led all d-men on the team in scoring with 38 points in the regular season, 22 of which came on the power play.
In goal, Ethan Langenegger and Logan Terness posted the top-2 numbers in the BCHL in round one.
After finishing the regular season with a 23-15-3 record, playing the third-most minutes of any goaltender and being named team MVP, Langenegger allowed just five goals the entire series against the Grizzlies, stopping 110 of 115 shots faced for a .957 save percentage.
Terness allowed only three goals in Trail’s first round series, stopping 97 of 100 shots faced for a .970 save percentage. Terness was named the BCHL’s Rookie of the Year, after posting a 27-10-4 record, .932 SV % and 2.36 G.A.A. in the regular season.
Langenegger faced an average of 28.8 shots in the first round, while Terness faced an average of 25.
Heading into the post-season, Salmon Arm’s special teams were an area of focus, with the power play going 3-for-22 in their final six games (13.6 %, but just over three opportunities per game) and the penalty kill going 19-for-29 (65.6 %).
But in the first round against Victoria, the penalty kill was superb, going 14-for-15 (93.3 %).
Trail’s special teams in round one saw their penalty kill struggle, converting at 76.9 % (10-for-13). Prince George got all three of their goals in the series on the man advantage. Their power play went 4-for-19, or 21.1 %, pretty much in line with the regular season.
Players to Watch
SILVERBACKS: LUKE MYLYMOK
Luke Mylymok is the only player in the BCHL currently with a four-game goal-streak, after he scored in each and every game against Victoria. He finished the regular season with 11 goals in 26 games, tied for fifth on the Silverbacks despite joining the team halfway through the year.
Nick Martino and Drew Bennett meshed well with Mylymok since being put together to kick off the playoffs. When he wants to, Mylymok can take over a game and there’s no doubt he’ll be a difference maker in this series.
SMOKE EATERS: PHILIPPE LAPOINTE
Lapointe had a whopping nine points in just four games against the Backs this year and carried the BCHL’s second-best points-per-game at 1.53, trailing only teammate Johnson.
He had three goals in the first round against Prince George, including the game-winner in game one.
Pre-game coverage for each and every playoff game kicks off a half hour before puck drop, so the broadcast will begin on EZ Rock at 6:30 p.m. for all games except game six, which has puck drop scheduled for 5 p.m. Games will also be streamed live on HockeyTV.