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Salmon Arm Silverbacks clinch playoff berth, injured player cleared from hospital

Ryan Gillespie taken to hospital after injury on ice in Cranbrook
Silverback Maddux Martin looks to intercept a shot on the Salmon Arm net during away action versus the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. (Martin Ross/Cranbrook Bucks Facebook photo)

Despite losing a player mid-frame to injury, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks came out on the winning end of a 4-2 tally versus hosts the Cranbrook Bucks over the weekend.

On Friday, Feb. 24, more than 1,300 people in the stands at Shaw Centre were treated to a 5-1 drubbing of the Merritt Centennials, courtesy of the Silverbacks.

The first frame saw plenty of back-and-forth action and plenty of shots on the Merritt net. Both teams’ netminders, the Cents’ Connor Sullivan and Salmon Arm’s Matthew Tovell, held strong throughout.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net until, with 26 seconds left on the clock, the ‘Backs’ Brandon Santa Juana capitalized on a rebound during a power play and lit up the board for Salmon Arm. Assists came from Owen Beckner and Ethan Ullrick.

The second period saw both teams score power-play markers, the first around the halfway mark by Ullrick, off of Santa Juana and Tristan Allen. Minutes later, Diego Johnson potted one off Jackson Krill for the Cents.

Third period brought excitement to the stands with an early goal by Salmon Arm’s Casy Laylin, off Hadyen Stavroff. At 6:40, teammate Nathan Mackie added another goal for the Silverbacks, assisted by Santa Juana and Beckner. Seconds later, a goal by Stavroff, off William Lavigne and Reid Varkonyi, brought the score to 5-1, where it stayed for the remainder of the game.

The win clinched Salmon Arm a playoff berth.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the Silverbacks travelled to Cranbrook to take on the Bucks.

In the first frame, Salmon Arm’s game picked up momentum just after the halfway mark when Stavroff scored the first goal of the evening, assisted by Beckner and Liam Steele. Seconds later, Mackie added another marker for Salmon Arm, off Ryan Gillespie and Santa Juana. Seconds before the buzzer, teammate Isaac Lambert potted a goal off Stavroff.

The second frame got off to a concerning start, when Gillespie was hit in the upper body by a puck and required medical attention. The team kept fans updated on Gillespie’s condition via Twitter, first thanking both teams’ trainers, the Bucks’ doctor and all first responders who came to Gillespie’s aid. Later, the team announced Gillespie had been cleared from hospital and would be on the Silverbacks’ bus bound for home. The team again thanked all medical staff who helped.

Back on the ice, for the remainder of second period neither team was able to score, though the ‘Backs found themselves in some penalty trouble, including an intense period where both Varkonyi and Mackie were in the box.

In the third frame, the Bucks returned to the ice looking to get on the board. They succeeded early on with goals by Noah Quinn and Donovan Frias. Tovell, who stopped 29 of 31 shots on net in the game, denied the Bucks for the rest of the evening. An unassisted goal by Stavroff brought the contest to a close with a 4-2 win for Salmon Arm.

Read more: Salmon Arm Silverbacks wallop West Kelowna Warriors

Read more: Salmon Arm Silverbacks blank Vernon Vipers
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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