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Tovell plays big role in his lone season with the Silverbacks

As a young hockey player, Matthew Tovell of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks was drawn to try his hand at goalie.

“I think the biggest thing for me was the goalie gear,” said the 21-year-old. “I was really drawn to the glove. I thought it was pretty cool. I always wanted to try a game in the gear. When I finally did, I fell in love with it. It’s just fun.

“I think the best part of being a goalie is being the difference maker in a game. It’s a 1-1, 2-1 game and you got to make the save for your team. It’s a good feeling.”

Workhorse in net displays consistency

Tovell first started playing goal around the age of eight. The Silverbacks are certainly pleased that the Belleville, Ont. product’s hockey journey brought him out west. Tovell recently backstopped Salmon Arm to a four-game sweep of the Prince George Spruce Kings in the opening round of the British Columbia Hockey League playoffs.

He earned the win in each of those games. The 6-foot-3, 181 lbs. Tovell posted a 1.53 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage in the series. That came after a strong season in which he won 23 games and had a 2.64 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage. Those numbers ranked him in the top six in the league in each category. He taps his work ethic as the secret to success in his only BCHL season.

“I think it was just putting in the work every day,” Tovell said. “I think I’m a very good practice goalie. I play out the rebounds. As well, having a full-time goalie coach here in Salmon Arm has been pretty big. Having Beef (Angus Redmond) as our goalie coach, he keeps me in check every day, through the good days and the bad days. Just working on the little things has helped me.”

Redmond is a former standout in the Silverbacks crease. He joined the team as a goalie coach this season after a professional minor league career. Redmond’s been most impressed by Tovell’s consistency after appearing in 47 games this season to lead all BCHL netminders.

“To be able to perform night in and night out is really impressive,” said Redmond. “It’s really good on him to keep those numbers – his goals-against and save percentage – where they are playing so many games.”

Tovell brings experience

When discussing Tovell’s strengths, the goalie coach praises his pupil’s compete level and work ethic. Tovell also brought valuable experience to the Backs this season. He played at the Major Junior level with the Windsor Spitfires, and at the junior A level, Tovell helped the Hawkesbury Hawks make it to the Central Canada Hockey League final last season. The Hawks fell in the championship series to the Ottawa Jr. Senators but Tovell took a lot away from the experience of going that deep in the post-season.

“I think mostly it is just knowing the grind of playing every day or back-to-backs and just being able to stay consistent,” he said. “Knowing what you have to do on the off days that you get and trying to maintain yourself so that you can perform every day is probably the biggest part I take from last year.”

Tovell sees some similarities between that successful Hawks team and a Silverbacks squad that finished fourth in the Interior Conference during the regular season with a 27-20-4-3 record.

“Last year with the Hawks and this year with Salmon Arm, we have guys who might not get a lot of minutes but when they are on the ice, they are contributing to the team, so I think that’s the biggest part of the similarity between the two.”

Enjoying himself in the BCHL

In addition to the Hawks and Spitfires, Tovell’s junior hockey journey has included time in the Provincial Junior Hockey League with the Lakeshore Canadiens, who play out of Belle River, Ont., and with the LaSalle Vipers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. He has thoroughly enjoyed his time in the BCHL and with the Silverbacks.

“From the top seed to the bottom seed in the league is all really tight,” explained Tovell. “Obviously in Salmon Arm, (it’s) a smaller community but everybody knows everybody. The crowd in Salmon Arm is one of the best in the league so every home game we get is a lot of fun. The home feel and everyone just supporting the team has been great.”

The next step in Tovell’s hockey career is at York University and a return to his home province. He has committed to play for the Toronto school’s squad at the U SPORTS level.

“It is another move up in level of hockey,” said Tovell “You get to play against some older guys and some players who were playing along the (Canadian Hockey League) and some good leagues. … It’s going to be an exciting time. I’m excited to get there and meet everybody.”

Off the ice, he is planning on an education path that leads him to a future in law starting this September.