The Vernon Vipers’ Mike Iovanna (right) clears a loose puck while TJ Dumonceaux attempts to clear the Salmon Arm SilverBacks’ Colton Thibault from netminder Gunnar Neilson’s doorstep in B.C. Hockey League exhibition play Friday night at the Shaw Centre.

The Vernon Vipers’ Mike Iovanna (right) clears a loose puck while TJ Dumonceaux attempts to clear the Salmon Arm SilverBacks’ Colton Thibault from netminder Gunnar Neilson’s doorstep in B.C. Hockey League exhibition play Friday night at the Shaw Centre.

Vernon Vipers bow to Salmon Arm SilverBacks in exhibition opener

Salmon Arm SilverBacks bounce Vernon Vipers 5-1 in B.C. Hockey League exhibition play Friday night at the Shaw Centre.

Evan Anderson pocketed a pair of goals as the host Salmon Arm SilverBacks bounced the Vernon Vipers 5-1 in B.C. Hockey League exhibition play Friday night at the Shaw Centre.

The ‘Backs, who fell 2-1 to the host Merritt Centennials a night earlier, scored in the opening minute. Vernon’s Craig Martin replied for the Snakes shortly after on a one-timer from the slot, assisted by fellow Kootenay product Dallas Calvin.

“Marty (Martin) was terrific,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson, who dressed only a handful of veterans for the game. “He skated well and had several good scoring chances.”

Williamson went with a young goalie tandem, with Gunnar Neilson and Harrison Whitlock sharing crease duties. Incumbents Austin Smith and Danny Todosychuk both sat out with minor injuries, and were also likely to miss Saturday night’s rematch at Kal Tire Place.

Scoring for the SilverBacks were Evan Anderson, with a pair, Thomas Plese, Jeff Kennedy and Josh Bowes.

Aside from some soft goals, Williamson was pleased with Vernon’s defensive game as the Vipers outshot Salmon Arm 28-20.

“There’s some things that we’ll have to shore up, but overall the effort was there,” he said.

Williamson made two more cuts following Friday’s game – forwards Matt Hill and Kai Cathers – leaving him with 17 forwards, nine dee and four goalies.

The Vipers will meet the Prince George Spruce Kings for a Wednesday-nighter in 100 Mile House, and will conclude the preseason with a home-and-home series with the West Kelowna Warriors starting Friday (7 p.m.) in Vernon.

After one full year at the helm of the SilverBacks, head coach/GM Troy Mick has a much better understanding of what his team can do.

“We have a lot better idea of what are roster is and where we’re coming from,” said Mick, who has had two stints as head coach with the Vipers.

“We were always OK with our size, but this year we’re faster and more skilled. Last year, we had to grind out wins.

“The culture has officially changed in Salmon Arm.”

Vernon minor hockey products Harlan Orr, Alex Gillies, Alex Jewell and Colton Thibault are all with the SilverBacks.