Salmon Arm Silverbacks win back-to-back over Trail Smoke Eaters

With 14 games still to play, Birks is confident a playoff berth is attainable.

Over 1,000 fans and minor hockey players celebrated Minor Hockey Week by cheering on the Trail Smoke Eaters Saturday. Unfortunately, Salmon Arm did its best to dampen their enthusiasm.

Following a 3-1 loss to the SilverBacks Friday in Salmon Arm, the Smokies dropped their second game of the home-and-home in a devastating 4-3 overtime loss at the Cominco Arena on Saturday.

Ceding  four points to the Backs while picking up just a single point is indeed a setback says Smokies coach Bill Birks, but the team is not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

“I was disappointed on the outcomes of both game, but you know even Friday in Salmon Arm it was a good hockey game both ways,” said Birks. “They scored, we didn’t – it wasn’t like we didn’t show up or didn’t play well, we just couldn’t score goals when we needed to.”

The Backs have four games in hand on the Smokies as they battle for the final playoff spot in the Interior division, while West Kelowna has risen into a tie with Merrit for second/third spot thanks to only one loss in January, a 4-3 OT loss to Vernon.

But with 14 games still to play, Birks is confident a playoff berth is attainable.

“100 percent – you have to have a never quit attitude. It’s an uphill battle but ‘is it doable?’ –  for sure,” said Birks.

In Saturday’s match, Alex Gillies finished a 2-on-1 with Shane Hanna at 2:24 of the first overtime period, taking a cross-ice pass and lifting it over the shoulder of Smokies goalie Adam Todd, to complete the victory.

The Smoke Eaters’ Adam Wheeldon put the Smokies up 1-0 five minutes into the first period, but the Gorillas tied it in the second on a redirection off the stick of Ryan Schwalb, then took a 2-1 lead at 17:59, when a Schalbe shot was kicked out by Todd but Jordan Levesque banged in the rebound.

The Smokies came out strong in the third period, and evened the score when Garrett McMullen wristed one that deflected past rookie goalie Angus Redmond at 5:12 into the third. Trail’s Scott Davidson put the Smokies up 3-2 burying a pass from Brent Baltus at 10:40, but Salmon Arm’s Alex Gillies would tie it with less than four minutes to go in regulation when a shot caromed off the back boards right to Gillies at the side of the open net.

Todd played well for the Smoke Eaters especially in the final minutes when he made a couple of great glove saves to keep the Smokies in it.

But the SilverBacks would not be denied as they moved three points ahead of Trail in the Interior division standings.

Trail next hits the road for a three game stint against Nanaimo Friday, Alberni Saturday, and Langley Sunday, and have just six games scheduled in the month of February, five of which are at home.

“Every guy playing right now is all bruised up , it’s that time of year and some time off is definitely going to help these guys.”