Trail Smoke Eaters battle back in pair of weekend wins

The Trail Smoke Eaters stay atop BCHL standings with come back wins over ‘Backs and Bulldogs

Following a 6-4 come-from-behind win over Alberni Valley on Friday, two goals in the final two minutes lifted the Trail Smoke Eaters to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Saturday.

Six seconds after Andre Ghantous tied the game, Smoke Eaters forward Tyler Ghirardosi scored the winner when he broke in and beat Salmon Arm goalie Kyle Dumba with just 90 seconds remaining in regulation.

Following a Trail time out, Smokies forward Blake Sidoni pushed the puck ahead off the center-ice face off, and a misplay by the ‘Backs d-man allowed Ghirardosi to fly by him and completely undress the Salmon Arm goalie for the game winner. The goal was the Montrose native’s third in three games and sixth of the season.

“It was like a triple-deke, a highlight reel goal, and our bench exploded,” said Cam Keith, Smoke Eater coach and GM. “The kids went nuts. Because it was just one of those games where everyone was beat up, everyone was tired, and we were rolling three lines with an AP, and it was a playoff atmosphere. Their team was competing really hard … and then you mix in the travel with going to Salmon Arm, it was a really gutsy win.”

A banged-up Trail Smoke Eaters squad took to the ice against a Salmon Arm without forwards Blaine Caton, Levi Glasman, Ryan Murphy, and Braeden Tuck. Trail iced affiliate players Dawson Penner of the Valley West Hawks and Thompson Blazers’ Trent Thompson from the BC Major Midget League.

“We’re really low body count right now so we needed to kill more penalties and score on the power plays because we weren’t really generating a ton 5-on-5,” said Keith.

Smoke Eater forward Blake Sidoni opened the scoring on the power play at 12:10 of the first period. The 19-year-old Trail native finished a setup from Ross Armour for the only goal of the period, as Trail outshot the Silverbacks 14-5. Sidoni’s goal gives him four points in four games with the Smokies, but his AP status no longer applies as the former Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward is now a full-time Smoke Eater.

“The kid’s a BCHL hockey player, there’s no doubt about it,” said Keith. “Blake Sidoni’s not going anywhere. He deserves to be here and it could be partially my fault for not seeing the potential in him last year, but then again it’s one of those situations where maybe it was good for him to play for the Nitehawks and win a championship.”

With Trail finding themselves in penalty trouble, Salmon Arm picked up the pace in the second period. Trey Thomas beat Marshall at 16:28 and Trevor Adams made it 2-1 midway through the middle frame.

After ‘Backs d-man Max Wurtze was sent off for hooking, Armour tied it on the power play, tallying his 14th of the season on a Kale Howarth pass with 1:09 to play. The ‘Backs outshot Trail 18-5 in the period, but Marshall was on his game, making several big saves for the Smoke Eaters to keep the game deadlocked at 2-2.

Salmon Arm reclaimed the lead on a Rhett Kingston tally with 7:35 to play in the third, but the home team couldn’t hold on as Ghantous tied it and Ghirardosi spoiled the celebration with back-to-back goals in the final two minutes.

Trail outshot Salmon Arm 31-29 and went 2-for-2 on the power play, the ‘Backs were 0-for-5. Howarth (2A) earned the game’s first star, Salmon Arm’s Adams was second star, and Marshall was third star.

The Silverbacks underwent a makeover the previous week, dealing veteran defencemen Spencer Hora, who played 78 games for the ‘Backs since the 2015-16 season, to West Kelowna for future considerations and former Smoke Eater captain Mitch Stapley to the Calgary Canucks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The 20-year-old Stapley tallied 2 goals and 10 points for the ‘Backs in 21 games. Stapley played two seasons for Trail, and was moved to Salmon Arm at the end of last year as part of the futures package in the January deadline deal for Carter Cochrane. The Silverbacks also added Coquitlam Express goaltender Reid Cooper to the roster.

In a wild match on Friday, Trail fought back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Bulldogs 6-4 at the Cominco Arena.

After a scoreless first period, Alberni’s Cole Poliziani, Tyler Vanuden and Christian Simeone struck for a 3-0 lead midway through the second period to chase Trail starter Brandon Wells from the net. However, goals from Howarth, Braeden Tuck, and Ghantous in a three-minute span tied the game heading into the third.

“We haven’t had a ton of experience with coming back especially from a 3-0 deficit at home,” said Keith. “So that was pretty big for our guys to dig in, and Tanner Marshall did a really good job of coming in off the bench, and our power play just seemed to heat up at the right time.”

Jackson Doucet put the Bulldogs up again 7:14 into the third, but Trail forward Levi Glasman tied it with his 13th of the season just 42 seconds later.

Spencer McLean netted the winner with under nine minutes remaining, and Ghirardosi added an insurance marker into an empty net with 58 seconds on the clock as six different scorers pitched in for the Trail win.

Trail held a 34-28 edge in shots, and went 3-for-6 on the power play. Trail’s Jeremy Lucchini, with three assists, earned the game’s first star, with Bulldogs’ Poliziani and Simeone taking second and third star honours respectively.

The weekend wins keep Trail atop the BCHL standings with 19-5-1-0 record and 39 points, one point ahead of the Vernon Vipers.

Trail next hosts the Penticton Vees on Wednesday at the Cominco Arena with the puck drop at 7 p.m.

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