Penticton Vees forward Andre Ghantous came back to haunt his former team scoring the winning goal for the Penticton Vees on Friday in a 7-4 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters at the Cominco Arena, and earning the game’s first-star honour in a 3-2 Vees win on Saturday in Penticton.
Ghantous looked forward to his return to the Silver City, especially since joining the Vees on Sept. 25 and riding a recent wave of success with the Interior Division leaders.
“Obviously, they have a really good legacy in Penticton, great fan-base, great staff, great guys so it’s been fun,” said Ghantous. “It was definitely a little weird (returning to Trail), lots of guys I’ve been friends with for two years, so it was weird coming in and playing against them.”
On Saturday, Trail looked to rebound from the loss at the Cominco Arena Friday, and came out strong in Game 2 of the home-and-home outshooting the Vees 11-7 in the first period.
But the Vees turned the game around in the second, when Ghantous burst down the right side and beat Smokies goalie Adam Marcoux over the glove, just six minutes in for a 1-0 lead.
Ghantous was traded to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the end of last season, after playing two seasons with the Smoke Eaters. He was sent to the Bulldogs as the player to be named later in the deal that brought the Smokies 20-year-old d-man Connor Welsh in January.
“It took me by surprise, and I was pretty emotional about it because Trail was a big part of my life for two years, but it happens in the game of hockey, you just have to move on,” said Ghantous.
Penticton later made a deal for the California native, bringing Ghantous back to the Interior Division. The move helped the Vees turn around a sluggish start and rise to the top of the Interior Division standings with Ghantous contributing six goals and 22 points in 26 games.
“Definitely very different coming in, but all the guys were very welcoming as were all the staff, so it’s been an easy transition.”
Jackson Niedermayer made it 2-0 under two minutes later, firing in a rebound off a James Miller sharp-angle shot. The Vees poured on the pressure, and Eric Linnell scored the eventual game-winner with 44 seconds remaining in the second as the Vees outshot Trail 10-1 in the period.
Trail battled back in the third with Carter Jones wiring home a shot from the high slot at 16:37, and Hayden Rowan scoring with a minute left brought the Smokies to within one.
The Smoke Eaters outshot the Vees 25-21, with Trail going 1-for-5 on the power play, and Penticton 0-for-1. Ghantous earned the game’s first star, Linell second star, and Vees goalie Jack Lafontaine the third star.
On Friday, Ghantous’ game-winning goal with 2:44 to play in the second period gave the Vees a 5-2 lead on their way to a 7-4 drubbing of the Smoke Eaters.
The Penticton Vees jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Linell and Ryan Sandelin. Dave Silye made it 3-0 just 1:47 into the second, before Owen Ozar got Trail on the board at 14:44. The teams traded goals with Mason Snell scoring for the Vees, and Chase Stevenson for the Smoke Eaters to make it 4-2.
Ghantous put the Vees up 5-2 heading into the third period as the Vees held a 23-21 edge in shots.
Mack Byers scored a shorthanded goal early in the third, but goals from Cassidy Bowes and Sandelin put the Vees up 7-3. Smokie veteran Spencer McLean completed the scoring with just over two minutes remaining.
The Smoke Eaters traded goalie Tanner Marshall to the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Brooks Bandits on Saturday, and brought in Major Midget goalie Logan Terness from the Vancouver NE Chiefs. Terness was pressed into action after the Vees scored their seventh on starter Adam Marcoux with just over eight minutes to play in the third period. The Major Midget goalie made the most of his appearance, stopping all 16 shots, including three breakaways, to make a lasting impression.
The Pens power play was firing on all cylinders going 3-for-5 on the night, while Trail went 0-for-4. Penticton outshot Trail 42-28.
The Vees swept the game stars with Sandelin earning first star, Ghantous second star, and James Miller third star.
Trail travels to the Lower Mainland for three games against Langley Rivermen, Coquitlam Express and Chilliwack Chiefs this weekend.