The Penticton Vees (23-5-0-0) hope a return home returns them to the win column, when they face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (11-17-0-1) at the SOEC. The Vees are coming off a 5-3 loss in Trail on Wednesday night, dropping just their third road game this year, as their five-game win streak came to an end. Salmon Arm is coming off a weekend split, winning in Merritt last Friday (4-3) but lost in Prince George Saturday (6-3).
This is the second meeting between these two Interior Division opponents with the Vees winning the season series opener 4-1 back on November 4th. That win was highlighted by Duncan Campbell scoring two goals in his Vees debut.
The Vees haven’t dropped back-to-back games all year, as they’re 4-0 coming off a loss and they’ve outscored their opponents 15-7 in those four games. In fact, the Vees haven’t dropped back-to-back games in the regular season since February, 2015.
Salmon Arm made a coaching chance not soon after to losing to Penticton a month ago, as they relieved Brandon West of his duties and replaced him with former Assistant Coach Misko Antisin. The switch behind the bench has seen some better results of late, as they’re 3-3-0-1 in their last seven games. A noticeable improvement for Salmon Arm, considering they’ve been below the .500 mark for much of the season.
Some significant off-ice news Friday morning was Vees’ goaltender Mat Robson officially committing to the Minnesota Golden Gophers for next season. Robson leads all qualified goaltenders in the BCHL in wins (18) goals-against average (1.90) and save percentage (.927). Robson is now the 16th player on the Vees’ roster to have an NCAA Division l commitment. He is expected to get the start tonight against the Silverbacks.
The Vees again will be missing defencemen Gabe Bast and Mitch Meek due to injury and forward Jamie Armstrong due to illness. With the absences the Vees have called-up 1999-born forward Cassidy Bowes from the Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA). The Kelowna, BC, product plays for OHA’s Prep Red team and is second in scoring in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League, with 26 points in 13 games. Bowes will wear number 92 in his Vees’ debut.
Tonight’s game will feature seven players with ties to the Okanagan Hockey Academy next door. Alumni include Griffin Mendel, Nolan Hildebrand and Taylor Ward on the Vees, and Nathan Iannone, Riley Hayles on the Silverbacks. AP Cassidy Bowes plays at OHA and so does Silverbacks’ call-up 1999-born Josh Arnold.
Like the Vees, the Silverbacks will be missing a few piece as well, scratched is defenceman Julian Timba and forwards Grayson Constable, Akito Hirose and Haydn Hopkins.
The ‘Backs have made a few changes to their roster recently, as they swapped defencemen with Vernon, sending Cameron Trott to the Vipers, in exchange for Carter Stephenson. They also signed 1998-born goalie Nic Tallarico and released Brandon Kegler. Tallarico was a Silverbacks’ AP last year and was previously with the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Salmon Arm comes into tonight’s game sitting sixth in the Interior Division, 23-points back of the first place Vees. This is the second of six meetings between the two teams, as their next meeting is a weekend home-and-home set before the Christmas break on December 16th and 17th.