Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kings welcome the Silverbacks tomorrow

Tomorrow night the Salmon Arm Silverbacks pay a visit to the Hap Parker Arena. This will be the Apes' only visit to the Sunshine Coast this regular season. Salmon Arm has the rare distinction as the only BCHL team that has not lost to Powell River this season. The Apes edged the Kings 3-2 on October 23rd at the Sunwave Centre.

Salmon Arm is arguably the best team right now in the BCHL. The Apes are in the midst of a nine game winning streak. Their last loss came on January 22nd in a 3-2 decision to the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Apes are only three points back of Vernon for first place in the Interior Conference with a game in hand.

Let's take a closer look at the Gorillas

RECORD: 37-17-2-0 (2nd)
ROAD: 15-10-1-0 (6th)
LAST 10: 9-1-0-0
STREAK: 9 wins

POWER-PLAY: 28.91 74 PPG (1st)
Road: 25.62 31 PPG (1st)
PENALTY-KILL: 82.33 41 PPGA (3rd)
Road: 87.50 15 PPGA (2nd)
GF: 223 (3rd) GA: 183 (10th)

GOALS: Mike Hammond (38)
ASSISTS: Mike Hammond (48)
POINTS: Mike Hammond (86)
PPG: Mike Hammond / Jarryd Ten Vaanholt (13)
SHG: Mike Hammond (5)
GWG:  Brett Knowles / Bryce Gervais (6)

As you can see by the numbers, Mike Hammond has his finger prints all over the Silverbacks offense. The 20 year-old who came over from Cowichan Valley on the January 10th deadline has lived up to his billing. In 13 games with the Backs, Hammond has nine goals and 20 points. Hammond has only been held without a point in two games since joining Salmon Arm. In the 13 games, number 94 has had point streaks of four and seven games. In the most recent streak, which ended on Saturday, Hammond had five goals and fifteen points.

Tim Kehler pulled the trigger on the trade to get the premier player that would help his team in the goal of dethroning the Vipers as the top dog in the Interior.  Hammond joins an already talented forward group with the likes of Brad Reid (former Express), Brett Knowles and David Killip.  When you factor in Jaaryd Ten Vaanholt, Devin Gannon and slick rookies Bryce Gervais and Morgan Zulinick, the forward personel is one of the deepest in the BCHL.

The Apes have seven forwards with forty or more points on the season. That's almost three full lines with significant firepower. Furthermore, three players have fifty or more points, in Hammond (86), David Killip (55) and Brett Knowles (52). In comparison, the Kings have five players with forty or more points and two with fifty or more (Chad Niddery 78 and Matt Garbowsky 73). The Kings receive plenty of praise about their depth up front, but is Salmon Arm flying under the radar?

In their nine game winning streak the Silverbacks have been shooting the lights out. The Apes have scored 52, yes, 52 goals in the nine game span. That's an average of 5.7 goals per game....whoa. Included in the streak is lopsided wins over Prince George (11-4) and Alberni Valley (9-2). Salmon Arm has scored five or more goals six times in their current winning streak.  However, with all that offense, does defense get lost in the shuffle?


Salmon Arm's goals against average of 3.27 is 7th best in the BCHL. The Apes have conceded 75 more goals than Powell River, with one less game played.  They've surrendered an average of three goals against in their last nine games and opponents during that span have scored three or more goals six times. The question is can the Apes win tight games?

The evidence looks to support them as the Silverbacks are 16-3-2-0 in one goal games or less. For example a score line of 5-4 or 4-3. Furthermore, in low scoring one goal games such as 2-1 or 3-2, the Apes are
6-3-2-0. The numbers show this team can tighten it up when they have to.

The defense can also chip in up front as four defenders have twenty or more points. Clinton Atkinson leads the blue line in points with 46.  He is followed by Josh Manson who has 45, Jayson Reardon with 27 and  Charlie Vasaturo has 21. Much like Powell River, the Apes have multiple weapons from the blue line who aren't afraid to join the rush.

With the numbers on their side, does their style of play affect their goaltending?


Kris Moore, by word of mouth, is considered one of the better goaltenders in the BCHL. I know in September and early October, Moore was putting up impressive numbers before his hand injury. However, as of today he ranks only 9th in both goals against average(2.83) and save percentage (.911). Moore's partner, Kurt Williams, is 14th in goals against average (3.09) and seventh in save percentage (.914).Moore has started 13 more games than Williams and has been getting the majority of starts in last few months.

It's tough to say if those numbers are a victim of the offensive, up tempo game the Silverbacks play. I can't give a proper opinion as I have yet to see either goaltender this season. Neither was playing when the Silverbacks beat the Kings in October. Moore was injured and Williams was backing up then starter Chase Martin. Bottom line is both goaltenders have been backstopping their team to wins. Moore is 6-0-0-0 in his last six starts with a 3.00 GAA and a .912 save percentage.

As the regular season winds down, there are some very heated races for playoff positioning.  Salmon Arm is still gunning for the Number 1 seed in the Interior Conference as they are three points back of Vernon with a game in hand.  Salmon Arm is showing how important this game is to them, as they will be the first team this season to make the trip up the Sunshine Coast via the skies.  The team will be flying up to Powell River from Vancouver for the 20 minute flight as opposed to the 5 hour journey on the bus. 

We will see tomorrow if their strategy pays off.

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