A 31-save shutout by Adam Marcoux and a three-point night from Blaine Caton lifted the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-0 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday at the Cominco Arena.
On a night sponsored by the Trail Historical Society, the Smokies journeyed back in time, wearing the 1932 Smokies vintage jerseys, and thrilling over 2,300 fans in Trail’s 31st win, the most since 2010-11.
“It was a special night, as far as we had the retro-jerseys going, and it was a big crowd, so it was important that we get points at home, being that there’s only one more home game,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Cam Keith. “Especially after two losses in Penticton, it was very important that we get some kind of positive out of it.”
The win comes on the heels of losing both ends of a home-and-home to Penticton, including a 3-0 loss to the Vees in Penticton on Friday. The bounce back against the ‘Backs improves Trail’s season record to 5-0 versus Salmon Arm.
Caton scored his team-leading sixth game-winning goal just 99 seconds into the opening period, when he lifted a set up from linemates Andre Ghantous and Tyler Ghirardosi over the blocker of Salmon Arm goalie Kyle Dumba for the 1-0 lead.
The trio was split up briefly after Trail’s top scoring forward Kale Howarth was handed a three-game suspension in a 5-4 win over Coquitlam last week, but re-established the connection almost immediately on Saturday.
“Ghirardosi and Caton have some pretty good chemistry, and when they are going, they’re a big, powerful line, and even with Andre Ghantous, how hard he works down low, they’re kind of a grind-line that you can match up against the other team’s number-1, and they’ve been contributing offensively as well so it was a huge game for them,” said Keith.
Caton then returned the favour when he and Ghantous set up Ghirardosi for the Montrose native’s 17th of the season for a 2-0 lead with 5:43 to play in the period as Trail outshot the Silverbacks 15-10.
Salmon Arm pushed back in the second period, but Marcoux was unbeatable stopping all 17 shots in the period. Trail, meanwhile, increased the lead to 4-0 on a goal from Connor Welsh, with assists to Ross Armour and Caton, and Daine Dubois tallied his fifth on a setup from Mack Byers and Ryan Murphy just 30 seconds apart and with just under five minutes to play in the middle frame.
Trail dominated the third stanza, shutting down the Silverbacks’ offence and outshooting the Silverbacks 11-4 in the scoreless period, and 36-31 in the game. The shutout was Marcoux’s first of his BCHL career, trimming his goals-against average to 2.57 in 20 games with Trail and a .923 save percentage.
“He made big saves when he needed to,” said Keith. “They took a lot of shots from the outside, but he was huge in calming everything down. He’s definitely a kid who deserves a shutout especially how well he’s played for us since he’s arrived.”
Trail went 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Silverbacks were 0-for-5. Caton earned the game’s first star with Ghirardosi and Ghantous taking second and third stars respectively.
“It was just one of those games where we played every aspect really well,” said Keith. “Especially when you have a lead going into the third, you’re always concerned they are going to take the foot off the gas pedal, and kind of sit back, but they didn’t and continued to play the right way.”
Unfortunately, it was a different story on Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre, where Vees goalie Adam Scheel earned the shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Smoke Eaters.
Scheel stopped 23 shots, while Wyatt Sloboshan scored the winning goal on a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity with just under seven minutes remaining in the opening period.
Cassidy Bowes made it 2-0 less than three minutes later, walking in and beating Marcoux with a wrister for his 12th of the season. Trail rallied in the second period and outshot Penticton 10-8, despite giving up three more power-plays, but the score remained unchanged.
Early in the third, Jonny Tychonick finished a 2-on-1 with Owen Sillinger, sliding a backhand past the Trail goalie for the 3-0 final. The Smoke Eaters managed just one goal in the home-and-home and lost the season series to the high-flying Vees 1-4-0-1.
“It’s a combination of not having Howarth, and we had penalty trouble early in Penticton, but the effort level was there and the compete was there,” said Keith. “But you take four penalties in one period, and a 5-on-3, it’s hard to be successful against that team.”
Penticton outshot Trail 34-23 and went 2-for-7 on the power play, while Trail was 0-for-4.
Trail gets right back into action this week when they travel to Prince George for a Wednesday match against the 29-15-4-4 Spruce Kings, who lead the Mainland division with 66 points. Trail, with 67 points, is in fourth place in the Interior and trails the Wenatchee Wild by six points, while Penticton and Vernon are tied for top spot with 75 points.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the Smokies are healthy and will have Howarth back in the lineup for Wednesday’s game, but will be on the road for five of those matches.
“We have that road-warrior mentality,” said Keith. “We’re preaching right now, playoff hockey, and you just never know what can happen in a game, you got to make sure you’re playing the same way for all 60 minutes.”
Following the match in Prince George, the Smokies travel straight to Wenatchee for back-to-back games against the Wild on Friday and Saturday.
Smoke Signals: The Smokies vintage jerseys honour the 1932 team that captured Trail’s first Mowatt Cup, the junior championship of the day. The Smoke Eaters won it eight of the first nine years it was contested and an incredible 22 times overall between 1932 and 1963.