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Weekend Preview: Backs Look to Catch Warriors

Salmon Arm, B.C. — The Salmon Arm Silverbacks (3-6-1) and West Kelowna Warriors (5-4-1) will play two crucial games against one another this weekend, wrapping up their respective round robin schedules in the Okanagan Cup.

The first of a double-header goes this evening at the Shaw Centre at 6:30 p.m., while the rematch is set for tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.

3 Things of Note

1) MOTIVATED TO MOVE UP THE STANDINGS

After dropping four of their first five games in the Okanagan Cup exhibition tournament, the Silverbacks have gone 2-2-1 since and now find themselves sitting at seven points, just four behind the Warriors at 11. This means Salmon Arm can theoretically hop West Kelowna in the standings with two wins, as they would hold the tiebreaker (they split the previous two meetings).

While Salmon Arm would also need Vernon to lose this weekend to Penticton, you’ve got to think this possibility will have the boys motivated and raring to go for puck drop.

2) SHIFTING SPECIAL TEAMS

The last time these two teams met, the Silverbacks were coming off a weekend of poor special teams, but their penalty kill is now 92.9 per cent in the last four games and their power play is operating at a 30 per cent clip in the last four.

The Warriors, meanwhile, have allowed six power play goals in their last four games, with the PK operating at 66.7 per cent (12-for-18) over that span. Both teams have scored three power play goals the last two weekends combined, but the Silverbacks have done so with eight less opportunities (3-for-10 vs. 3-for-18).

3) NEW FACES ON BOTH SIDES

The Silverbacks are expected to debut two new forwards in Zach Dubinsky and Sullivan Mack, plus Salmon Arm native Mitchell Brown on defence.

Dubinsky joins the Silverbacks from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the NCAA, where he recorded 12 points in 22 games as a freshman last season. Mack suited up for Kimball Union Academy in USHS-Prep hockey last season, exploding for 44 goals and 70 points in 34 games. Brown has played the last three seasons for the Tri-City Americans and joins his homemtown team because the Western Hockey League isn’t set to start until Jan. 8 and camps won’t begin until Dec. 20.

The Warriors also announced a new addition on Thursday night: that of Spokane Chiefs forward Jack Finley, who has joined the team on loan from the Spokane Chiefs. Finley was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft after scoring 19 goals and adding 38 assists in 61 games.

Players to Watch

SILVERBACKS: KIERAN RUSCHEINSKI

The 6-foot-6 blueliner has been instrumental to the success of the Backs penalty kill as of late, which has gone 13-for-14 in the last four games (92.9 per cent).

Ruscheinski regularly blocks five-plus shots per game and has been using his long reach to great effect as well.

 

WARRIORS: JACK FINLEY

As mentioned, Finley joins the Warriors on loan from the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. At 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds, the NHL draft pick is an imposing figure on the ice but also put up nearly a point-per-game for the Chiefs last season, with 57 points in 61 games, sixth on the team in scoring.

Tune In

As always, all games will be streamed live on HockeyTV, which is now BCHL TV! Tonight’s game will also be on Shaw Spotlight, which is channel 105 if you have Shaw local cable (BlueCurve TV) and channel 295 if you have Shaw Direct satellite.