Salmon Arm will play in Vernon’s pod at Kal Tire Place where the Silverbacks face off against West Kelowna, as well as continuing their heated rivalry with the Vernon Vipers. These match-ups will be a true show of determination and integrity in dealing with the same two teams over 20 games.
Teams will become familiar with one another’s strategy and will look to exploit each other’s weaknesses when it comes to on-ice action.
This will show a true challenge for Salmon Arm’s newest tandem in the net Owen Say and Liam Vanderkooi. Both of these goalies will have to adjust their game and their mindset in facing off against just two teams.
With this comes recognization of the key opposing players, which way they shoot, their powerplay units, and offensive zone structure. Every tiny detail will play a factor in their success this season and the better prepared they feel against these teams, the more confidence they will have playing them again.
Say is game for the starting Job
Owen Say is a 2001-born netminder from London, Ontario who was acquired by the Silverbacks back on Nov. 11, 2020. He previously played in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League for the Powassan Voodoos, recording a swift 1.90 goals-against-average and .941 save percentage in 36 games during his first season with the team. These numbers landed Say as a finalist candidate for the Canadian Junior Hockey League Goalie of the Year in 2019-20, a remarkable accomplishment for any netminder.
— Jr. Hockey Network (@jrhockeynetwork) April 20, 2020
These are impressive numbers, to say the least, and show strong potential for Say to land the head position between the pipes for the Silverbacks. It appears he is coming in with not only junior A experience but knowledge in maintaining a starting position.
Say is a confident and concise netminder who will be challenged in the BCHL, but should show true to his ability to perform under pressure. I predict Say will headman the goalie tandem for the Silverbacks this year.
Vanderkooi’s breakout season
Liam Vanderkooi makes up the other half of the crease for the Silverbacks. Vanderkooi is a 2003-born rookie netminder, standing tall at 6-foot-7. This is a breakout season for the rookie as he makes the transition from U18 and to junior this season.
Vanderkooi previously played CSSHL U15 and U18 for Yale Hockey Academy. Following his last year with the team, he moved to BC U18 to play for the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in the 2019-20 season.
His on-ice abilities landed him a spot for this season with the Silverbacks as their rookie goalie, who I’m sure they will look to keep for long-term growth.
Unless Vanderkooi proves differently with his performance early on, expect to Say to carry the torch for most of this season. This isn’t a bad position for Vanderkooi however, as he gets to work with a veteran netminder such as Say and get great experience for his first year of junior A with Salmon Arm. Plus, 20 games over five weeks is a lot of hockey, so Say will need a night off here and there.
For many goalies, stepping fresh into junior can be a rocky experience and it takes some experience to gain confidence at the level. The tandem Salmon Arm is currently running builds a great path for Vanderkooi’s transition and future success with the team.
Today on 'Meet the Silverbacks', we get to know towering goaltender @LiamVanderkooi!
— Salmon Arm Silverbacks (@SASilverbacks) March 26, 2021
Salmon Arm’s future expectations
There is no clear news who will take the reigns in net this year with Salmon Arm. Say is an experienced netminder, who is a couple of years older than Vanderkooi and has two more years of junior experience.
With this in mind, a hot start to the season from Say will likely lock down that starting job. I expect Vanderkooi to play about a quarter of the games as he is still adjusting to the level of play, and needs to get some experience in the BCHL before securing a starting position.
Say, however, will not age out after this year and is still eligible to play the 2021-22 season. A strong performance from him this year will surely solidify him in the starting position next year unless he gains an NCAA commitment for this fall.
I suspect Vanderkooi’s expectations with the team are a bit more long-term. He is a goalie with a tall stature who can develop and learn under Say’s wing. This is a perfect opportunity for him to develop and take over when Say moves on to college or beyond.
Strong performances from both Say and Vanderkooi this season will surely confirm their future success with the team and build off the great dynamic they already have.