Backed by a dynamite 34-save performance by goalie Zach Dyment and two-goals from Luke Santerno, the Trail Smoke Eaters rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Wednesday night at the Cominco Arena to move within a point of second-place Vernon and Merritt in the Interior Division standings.
“I thought we played really well,” said coach and GM Cam Keith. “We set the tone early, played our style of game that down low, work them, try to create from below the dots. We had a couple lapses and got into some penalty problems but we have a good group of guys, a good character group, and we kind of stuck together, came out with some lucky bounces on the power play tonight.”
Despite having the goal awarded to linemate Ross Armour, it was Santerno who netted the winner and put Trail up 2-0 on a power play at the 7:30 mark of the second period. The power-play struggled in the opening period, but the Smokies bore down in the second, and after the ‘Backs Nathan Iannone received the extra two for slashing Ethan Martini, the Smokies threw everything they had at Salmon Arm goalie Trevin Kozlowski.
Early in the power play, both Armour and Kale Howarth were stoned on the doorstep by the gorilla goalie, but the Smokies amped up the pressure and Mitch Stapley picked up his own blocked shot and fed Armour in the slot who delivered a back-door set up to Santerno for his seventh goal of the season.
“We made a few adjustments, we tried to simplify things, move the puck quicker and try to get pucks to the net seemed to create a few more opportunities, and we got their PK scrambling a bit,” said Keith.
Victoria native Ryan Warner opened the scoring for Trail two minutes into the first period. Spencer McLean did the dirty work behind the net, came away with the puck, and fed Warner at the right face off dot, who fired a shot over Kozlowski’s glove.
After Trail went up 2-0, Salmon Arm pushed back. With the extra-man advantage, Riley Hayles’ point shot found its way through a crowd and beat Dyment to pull the ‘Backs within one 14:33 into the middle frame. Salmon Arm continued to press, but Dyment stood tall, making a huge glove save off a Connor Sundquist breakaway in the dying minutes to preserve the 2-1 lead, as Salmon Arm outshot Trail 17-14 in the period.
“On the breakaway, I just tried to stay as patient as I could, and he shot it in my glove,” said Dyment. “Thankfully, I stopped it.”
With Trail holding onto a tenuous one goal lead, Dyment again came up big again in the third, thwarting an early Salmon Arm attack that included an exceptional blocker save off Josh Blanshard all alone in front.
“That’s been key to our success of late, Zach Dyment has been just great,” said Keith. “He controls rebounds and makes those big saves at key times.”
A hooking penalty to the ‘Backs’ Ryley Booth changed the momentum and put Trail on the power play. The Smokies worked the puck down low. Armour fed Howarth from behind the net, and the Red Deer native made a slick toe drag around the defender and fed Santerno in front to put the Smokies up 3-1 five minutes into the final frame.
The Smoke Eaters iced it with just over five minutes to play when Ryan Murphy headmanned the puck to Armour who counted his third assist on the night with a perfect pass to a trailing Josh Laframboise. The former Silverback made no mistake, beating Kozlowski under the glove for his eighth goal of the season and a 4-1 Smoke Eater lead.
The Smokies defence shut down the Silverbacks the rest of the way allowing just six shots in the period, and a total of 35 by each team. Trail went 2-for-5 on the power play, Salmon Arm 1-for-6. Dyment received first star selection, Kozlowski second, and McLean was named the game’s third star.
It was the fourth straight victory for the Smoke Eaters, and Dyment’s third straight match as a game star. He received consideration for the BCHL’s Player of the Week honours along with Smoke Eater captain Connor Brown-Maloski, who was out of the lineup on Wednesday. Dyment allowed just four goals on 99 shots in those three games, improving his goals-against average to 3.05 and his save percentage to .916.
“When you’re playing so much it’s pretty easy to get in a rhythm, practising is one thing but a game is completely different,” said Dyment. “Right now the guys are playing really good in front of me. I feel like we’re keeping everything to the outside. A couple times Salmon Arm did a good job of getting bodies in front but we cleared pucks and it was a good night for us.”
The drive for five in a row goes tonight when the 6-6-1-0 Smoke Eaters face off at 7:30 p.m. against the 5-5-1-0 Nanaimo Clippers at the Cominco Arena.