Even though the 2020-21 season is an unusual one, we were able to see the Okanagan Cup and pre-season games to fill the void of BCHL regular season hockey.
As we finally edge closer to the December 8 start date, it should be an exciting BCHL season. The Okanagan Cup gave these teams a taste of one another’s play, but that was just a peek at their potential. Many of these teams have undergone roster, coaching, and strategic changes since September.
One of the teams that saw some dynamic changes is the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. With the horizon of the regular season creeping upon us, it’s a good time to dive into their strengths and weaknesses, point leaders, and overall performance.
Overall pre-season performance
Coming off the pre-season, Salmon Arm exits with a 3-9-1 record. It’s not as impressive as they hoped to go into the season, but doesn’t show to be all that detrimental.
Four of the nine losses were to the Pentiction Vees, who finished 13-1 atop the league standings. The only team to beat the Vees in the extended training camp “season” was the Silverbacks back in October, which shows lots of potential for Salmon Arm’s future success.
The Silverbacks posted a 1-3 record against the West Kelowna Warriors in the pre-season, who go into the season 7-5, second in the overall standings. So seven of Salmon Arm’s nine losses in regulation time were against the top two teams in the league. The good news is the Backs captured a win against both the Vees and Warriors, which could say a lot going into the season.
Finally, the Vernon Vipers, as expected, made for some heated matchups. Two of the Silverbacks games against the Snakes went into extra time which saw Salmon Arm win in a shootout and Vernon win in overtime.
This left the Silverbacks pre-season series against their rivals at 2-1-1. It’s definitely a series to keep an eye on this season. As I wrote earlier this fall, it could be a rivalry on its way back up.
What to take from the pre-season results is that even though the Silverbacks 3-9-1 record might not be that impressive, it’s not really telling of their future performance. All of Salmon Arm’s matchups were against the top four pre-season teams and the Backs took a win from each, which says more than their record does.
Let’s talk about the numbers
The pre-season is always an unpredictable time as teams experiment with players moving in and out of their lineups. It takes time to find out which players work best with one another, build chemistry, and work as one unit.
The hopes are to have a well-oiled machine running by the time the puck drops and signals the start of the regular season. To have this, you need to work out the kinks and kick off the rust that comes with pre-season play.
With that being said, here’s what the numbers tell us about the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The Silverbacks scored 24 goals-for in contrast to their 52 goals-against, giving them a minus-24 goal differential. It’s hard to win games when you post roughly two goals-against for every goal-for, however, the future looks hopeful for Salmon Arm.
NEWS: The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have acquired goaltender Owen Say from the @VoodoosNOJHL in exchange for goalie Riley Kohonick.
Details 📎 | https://t.co/GK9daXqmtQ
— Salmon Arm Silverbacks (@SASilverbacks) November 11, 2020
In addition to this transaction, Silverbacks also acquired 2000-born goalie Cole Schwebius on loan from the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. His impressive career will hopefully better the Silverbacks results on the defensive end.
On the offensive side of the puck, the Silverbacks’ top three goal scorers are Simon Tassy, Drew Bennett, and Danny Ciccarello, who collectively posted 16 goals for the team. Backing up these offensive threats, every other Salmon Arm forward gathered a point or more during the pre-season to contribute offensively. As well, five of the six defensemen all posted points, showing potential from the back end to get the offensive momentum started.
It appears the Silverbacks have lots of skill up front and can match the high-tempo offensive play of opposing teams. Where they need work is the defensive side of the puck. They will have to play disciplined in the defensive zone and hold each other accountable to see the team transition to a positive goal differential.
Regular season expectations
The Silverbacks look to carry on last year’s efforts which saw them move to the second round of the playoffs before the halt on the 2019-20 season.
My prediction is the Silverbacks see the post-season this year and could even become a strong underdog in the playoffs, fitting to last year’s efforts.
A lot will depend on Salmon Arm’s regular season performance and how well the players come together as a team. The quicker you can find chemistry within the lineup and have a well-bonded team, the more confidence and success they will find in games.