An up and down week ended on a high note for the Trail Smoke Eaters as they wound up a four-games-in-five-days stretch with a 5-1 victory over the second-place Island Division Powell River Kings on Sunday afternoon.
It follows a season-high triumph on Wednesday when Trail defeated the league-leading Penticton Vees 5-3 at home, only to drop the next two games to two teams in the cellar of their respective divisions, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, 4-1, on Friday, and Salmon Arm, 7-2, on Saturday.
“As coaches we’d thought that they’d continue at that effort, but it just wasn’t happening,” said Smokies assistant coach Barry Zanier. “It was just one of those games that wasn’t due to lack of effort. The passes were off and we were missing shots; it was a combination of many things, but it was so good to get another win tonight after those losses.”
A much-needed victory on Sunday brings 16-15-1-0 Trail back into a tie for second place with the 15-12-3-0 Vernon Vipers each with 33 points in the Interior Division, although Vernon now has two games in hand.
“I thought they were able to get themselves up just before the game, a little more emotion than the last two games,” said Zanier. “And it just carried on through that first period and we were able to carry that on through the whole game.”
Josh Laframboise scored twice and Blaine Caton netted the winning goal in a match the Smoke Eaters owned from the opening faceoff. Trail outshot the Kings 19-6 in the first period but didn’t beat Kings goalie Brian Wilson until midway through the second period when Beaver Valley Nitehawks AP Tyler Ghiradhosi fed Laframboise at the left faceoff dot and he fired it high short-side for the go-ahead goal.
“Obviously that win last week was really good for us and showed what our team is about,” said Laframboise. “Friday, Saturday obviously two losses, we didn’t get any bounces Friday, and Saturday we just didn’t play a full 60, so we paid for our mistakes, but it’s huge to comeback from that short rest today, come home and get a big win in front of the home crowd, and take that momentum into Friday.”
With 3:08 to play in the middle frame, Caton delivered the winning tally, taking a pass from Andre Ghantous and breaking down the right wing. Using Spencer McLean as a decoy, Caton’s backhand snuck between the goalie’s arm for a 2-0 Smokies lead.
The Kings netted their only goal of the night on the power play with two minutes in the second period, when Ben Berard beat Linden Marshall down low.
Connor Brown-Maloski restored the two-goal lead before the period was out when Mitch Stapley forced a turnover at centre ice, sending Ryan Murphy and Brown-Maloski in on a 2-on-0. Murphy made no mistake, faking then sending a perfect pass to CBM who put it in the open net.
Trail snuffed out any hope of a Powell River comeback on a puck-control clinic in the Kings end from the line of Caton, Spencer McLean, and Andre Ghantous. The trio worked the puck around then passed to defenceman Kyle Chernenkoff who wired a point shot past Wilson for a 4-1 Smokies lead with 9:22 remaining.
Laframboise capped off the scoring with a shorthanded goal, breaking in on a 2-on-1 with Santerno. The Kings defenceman took away the pass and Laframboise deked to the backhand for his 14th goal and 31st point of the season. The Thunder Bay native is in his fourth game since returning from an injury suffered in Alberni Valley last month, and, while still sore, the injury hasn’t slowed him down netting two goals and three assists over the four games.
“The last two games have been a little down games for me, but we obviously have a good team here, so every time someone doesn’t play well we have other guys stepping up into big roles, and today the puck just found the back of the net for me, and got those bounces,” said Laframboise. “It just feels really good, especially in that scoring slump for a little bit, it feels good getting those two off my chest.”
Seventeen-year-old AP’s Ghiradosi of Trail and Kimberley Dynamiter Korbyn Chabot played well filling in for the missing Ross Armour and Kale Howarth, who left Sunday for the Canada West World Junior A Challenge selection camp. Ghiradosi assisted on Laframboise’s opening goal, and both APs teamed up with fellow 17-year-old Ryan Moon on a last-minute rush that almost made it 6-2.
“Right at the last minute there those three young 17-year-olds, rushing up the ice on a 3-on-2, there’s the future right there,” said Zanier. “It was great to see . . . They’re right there and they’re ready to play at our level.”
Laframboise earned first star, with Wilson from Powell River getting second star in a 33 save performance, while Chernenkoff was the game’s third star with a goal and an assist.
Trail outshot the Kings 38-34 and went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Kings were 1-for-3.
Trail’s next game goes on Friday when they host Cowichan Valley at 7:30 p.m.