The Trail Smoke Eaters rewarded new head coach and GM Nick Deschenes with his first victory Saturday with a huge 5-1 win over Interior-division leaders, West Kelowna Warriors.
The win came hot on the heels of another good effort, a 4-4 tie with the Victoria Grizzlies Friday night, as the Smokies had their best offensive output in a month scoring nine goals in two games, good for 3-of-4 points in BCHL action.
Smokie netminder Riley Corbin stopped 47 shots and was named the game’s first star and Jesse Knowler scored twice and added an assist as the Smoke Eaters potted five unanswered goals on their way to the 5-1 road win.
With new head coach Deschenes at the controls, Warriors head man Rylan Ferster said Trail simply wanted the two points more than his team.
“I don’t know if we played terrible but they played harder than we did and I think they wanted to win the game more than we did,” Ferster told the Kelowna Capital News.
Castlegar native Knowler netted what proved to be the winner at 15:11 of the second period taking a perfect pass from Brendan Lamont and beating Warrior goalie Cody Porter with a low shot to put the Smokies up 2-1.
The win ends the Smokies 12 game winless drought, and restores a measure of confidence to a team riddled with doubt of late.
Reid Simmonds got the Warriors on the board first after wiring a shot top shelf at the 13 minute mark of the first period.
However, Trail would respond in the second when Nathan Browne would get his first of the season in just his second game back after sitting out 16 games with an injury.
Knowler would count the winner and then come back and score a shorthanded marker two-and-a-half minutes later to give the Smokies a two goal cushion.
Bryce Knapp blasted home the Smokies fourth goal on a power play with just 28 seconds to go in the period, to make it 4-1 heading into the final frame.
The Warriors applied relentless pressure but Corbin stood tall, stopping 18 shots in the third period alone. Riley Brandt would round out the scoring, when he jumped on a loose puck and lifted it over Porter at 6:31 to ice it.
The Smokies special teams were outstanding on the night going 2-for-3 on the power play and holding the Warriors scoreless on seven odd-man opportunities.
On Friday at the Cominco Arena, a see-saw battle ended in a 4-4 draw, as the Victoria Grizzlies’ Myles Fitzgerald scored with nine minutes remaining in regulation to tie it.
Affiliate player and Grand Fork Border Bruins, Jackson Purvis, scored his first as a Smoke Eater to put the home team up 1-0 at 11:34 of the first period. However, Storm Wahlrub replied tying it with just 27 seconds left in the opening frame.
Trail took a two goal lead on a good individual effort by Travis Stephens, and Bryan Basilico’s blast at 7:33 of the second. But the Grizz would claw back, getting goals from Cole Pickup and Dante Hahn to tie it before the period was out.
Jake Kauppila would give the Smokies a brief 4-3 lead on a power play marker, but Fitzgerald would tie it less that three minutes later.
Overtime solved nothing as the Smokies Dustin Nikkel stopped 34 of 38 shots including eight in overtime, and the Grizzlies’ Alec Dillon turned aside 28 of 32.
Knowler and Stephens each had two point nights for the Smoke Eaters.