Trail Smoke Eater forward Luke Santerno’s epic seven-goal performance last week earned the Smithers native the BCHL Player of the Week honour on Monday.
“It’s a pretty big honour,” said Santerno. “It was a pretty good week, so I’m excited about it. It was definitely one of my most productive.”
Santerno was named the game’s first star, scoring four times and adding an assist, in a 10-3 trouncing of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks last Tuesday and followed that up with another first-star outing and a two-goal night against West Kelowna in a 5-3 victory Thursday. He then tallied the lone goal in a 6-1 loss to the Mainland division leading Wenatchee Wild on Saturday for an eight-point week.
“He was awesome,” said Smoke Eater assistant coach Curtis Toneff. “He goes to the net hard with his stick on the ice, and he’s a big strong guy, and he has two linemates that have been getting him the puck and he’s been capitalizing off the opportunities.”
The Smoke Eaters have won five of their past seven games and own sole possession of second place in the Interior Division standings, and while Santerno’s offensive output was impressive, he says contributions from the whole team is driving the Smokies success.
“We’re gaining confidence as the year goes on and I think we’re playing good hockey lately,” said Santerno. “We just have a close knit group and it’s helped a lot.”
The 20-year-old sniper counted his 17th goal and 35th point in 23 games and moved into third place in league scoring behind the Wild’s Brendan Harris 9-32-41 and Charlie Combs 25-11-36. Santerno has already surpassed his 26-point output in 56 games with Cowichan Valley Capitals last season and is on a 1.52 points-per-game clip.
“He works a lot harder than it looks,” said Toneff. “He has a longer stride, he doesn’t look the fastest but when you’re out there with him all of a sudden he’s going by you – he has pretty deceptive speed, almost in an Eric Lindros kind of way.”
The six-foot-two Santerno came to the Smoke Eaters from the Cowichan in an off-season trade for Max Newton. A skilled playmaker with a deadly accurate shot and ability to find open ice, the potent chemistry created with linemates six-foot-five Kale Howarth, who had an eight-point week, and six-foot-one Josh Laframboise, with five points, has made the towering trio one of the most productive lines in the BCHL.
“For most of the year we’ve been playing together and we’ve been building chemistry throughout the year, so it’s a big help playing with those two guys – they’re good players,” said Santerno.
Howarth is on a league-leading 13-game point streak having been last kept off the scoresheet in an Oct. 5 game against Merritt, while Santerno was held pointless just once over that time.
“They set the tone,” said Toneff. “They’re two 20-year-olds and a 19-year-old, and the 19-year-old just happens to be six-foot-five and can skate like the wind so when those guys are going, I think our team feeds off it and I think teams don’t really know how to handle them and it can make for a long night.”
The triple threat of Santerno, Howarth, and Laframboise has accounted for nearly half, 43, of the Smoke Eaters 87 goals, and helped propel the 12-10-1-0 Smokies to their best start in five years, and now lead the Vernon Vipers by three points in the Interior division.
Trail defenceman Mitch Stapley was also an honourable mention for the PoW with five assists and a third-star selection.
Trail is on the road this weekend with stops in Powell River, Alberni Valley, and Victoria.
See more on the Smoke Eaters in this weeks Trail Times.