The Silverbacks opened the 2015-16 BC Hockey League season on Sunday August 23rd, as over 50 players from around North America checked in at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.
14 players are back from last season’s team that finished with a record of 28-21-3-6, 65 points in 58 games and finished just one point out of the playoffs. 20-year-old Angus Redmond is back between the pipes for his final season in the league. Zach Dyment has also returned in net. 20-year-old Phillip Middleton, along with Damion Chrcek and Ryley Booth of Vernon are the three veterans on defence. Up front, 20-year-old’s Nick Hutchison and Vernon’s Colton Thibault are back. Along with forwards Carson Bolduc of Salmon Arm, Taro Hirose, Ross Heidt Josh Blanchard, Josh Laframboise, Brandon Wagner and Logan Mick.
Day one of training camp was spent off of the ice, as the players were assigned into three teams and underwent fitness testing just across from the Shaw Centre inside of the Salmon Arm Recreation Centre. Shawn Stead of Crash Conditioning in the Okanagan is back for another season and put the players through various tests, finishing with his popular ‘beep test’. The players run back and forth laps in the gym but must keep them selves in sync with a beep which starts off slow and gradually speeds up.
The first practice began early Monday morning, as team Grey, Black, and White each had a session with Brandon West who is back for his second season as the head coach of the Silverbacks. Misko Antisin is also returning for his second season as the ‘Backs assistant coach and Salmon Arm’s Brooks Christensen was on the ice and will be a first year assistant coach in his hometown. The first ice sessions concluded on Monday night with a split squad 4-on-4, and 5-on-5 scrimmages. 17-year-old Marcus Mitchell of the Okanagan Rockets of the B.C. Major Midget League scored three goals and an assist for team Grey in 4-on-4 action. 19-year-old returnee Josh Blanchard also potted a hat-trick with one assist in team White’s victory over team Black.18-year-old Aaron Aragon of Whittier, California started Tuesday with three goals in team Black’s 4-on-4 split squad scrimmage. 19-year-old Elijiah Barriga of West Covina, California had one goal and an assist in team White’s 4-on-4 game. 16-year-old Akito Hirose, Taro’s younger brother finished the day helping team Grey over team Black with two goals.
The roster sat at just under 40 going into the ‘Backs first pre-season game on Wednesday night at the Shaw Centre. After a morning practise, the Silverbacks lost 5-2 to the Langley Rivermen. The ‘Backs iced a lineup without one returnee. 15-year-old Alec Zawatsky of Winfield and 19-year-old Danny O’Donnell of Ventura, California scored the ‘Backs goals and tied the game in the third.
Just over 30 players remained for practise on Thursday and into Friday’s pre-season game at home to the Vernon Vipers.
Nine returnees dressed for the second exhibition game as the ‘Backs beat the Vipers 6-1 in a penalty filled pre-season meeting. The Silverbacks got goals from six different players. Zach Dyment shared the net with 17-year-old hopeful Daniel Toews of Chase.
The back half of the home and home pre-season set went on Saturday in Vernon and the Silverbacks pulled out a 4-3 overtime win. The ‘Backs took a 2-1 lead into the third period before the Vipers scored twice and lead 3-2. But the Silverbacks responded in the final minutes to tie the game and force overtime. 19-year-old Brett Stewart, 17-year-old Cam Coutre and Nick Hutchison had the goals before Hutchison got back on the board with the winner in 4-on-4 OT. Angus Redmond saw his first pre-season action and stopped 40 of 43 shots.
The Silverbacks got back to practice on Monday with just under 30 players. Also started team building this week lead by assistant coach Misko Antisin. The players have been assigned into billet homes thanks to veteran billet coordinator Evelyn Cook and her gracious billet families.
The ‘Backs begin the regular season on Friday, September 11th at home to the Penticton Vees at 7p.m. at the Shaw Centre. The Silverbacks longest home stand this season is five games within the 58 game schedule and that stretch starts on Friday, October 2nd versus the newest addition to the B.C.H.L. the Wenatchee Wild at 7p.m.