The Salmon Arm Silverbacks broke out of their nine-game losing slump in a big way, beating the Trail Smoke Eaters 7-4 on Sunday.
Silverbacks forward Logan Shaw scored the game winner 6:18 into the third period, beating Smokies goalie Matteo Paler-Chow with a backhand to give the Silverbacks their 20th win of the season and their first since Nov. 17. The Silverbacks improve to 20-14-1-1 and trail the Smoke Eaters by just four points with two games in hand in the Interior Division standings. The Backs also holds a winning record over the Smoke Eaters with four wins and only one loss.
“That’s one thing we don’t focus a lot on in this league is the record,” Smoke Eaters coach and GM Jeff Tambellini said in an interview prior to the game. “Teams get so much better throughout the year that you just have to prepare for every group on that day, and looking back to what happened in September, October, November it’s so irrelevant in our league because the turnover in the rosters, and most teams usually get better as the season goes on.
“This is a physical group, a good team at home, and they haven’t had the success they want in the last bit so that only means we got a way more desperate team.”
The Smoke Eaters were coming off a 4-3 victory over West Kelowna on Friday night, and jumped out to a good start against the Silverbacks when Powell Connor walked in from the blue line and wired a shot top shelf on Ethan Langenegger at 7:33 of the first period.
Kent Johnson then tallied his second assist on the night, setting up Philippe Lapointe for a power-play goal at 15:08 for a 2-0 lead. However, it did come at a cost, as Smoke Eaters forward Tyler Ghirardosi suffered an injury on the play and left the game.
Daniel Rybarik brought the ‘Backs to within one, shovelling in a rebound at 4:05. The shots were even at 17 heading into period two in a fast and physical match up.
The Smoke Eaters got into penalty trouble in the second, taking four straight infractions, and playing shorthanded for the first half of the period. Shaw scored on a delayed penalty call at 3:16 to tie it, and Salmon Arm captain Akito Hirose scored on the power play on a top-shelf snipe from the left wall to give the ‘Backs a 3-2 lead at 10:17.
Smokies forward Owen Ozar evened the game at three as he broke in and fired a shot top corner for his 14th of the season, with just 19 seconds left on the clock.
Salmon Arm outshot the Smoke Eaters 14-4 in the period. In addition to losing d-man Cody Schiavon for fighting in the first, the Smoke Eaters also lost another defenceman when Kyle Pow was given a double-minor and a game misconduct at 12:11 of the middle frame.
Hirose broke the 3-3 tie, scoring a power-play goal at 5:06 of the third period, on a point-shot through traffic that sailed by a screened Paler-Chow.
After Shaw put the ‘Backs up 5-3, Johnson notched his 24th of the season on the power play, taking a feed from Connor and beating Langenegger over the glove with 7:31 to play.
Smokies forward Jaden Senkoe and the Silverbacks Nick Martino went toe-to-toe in the final five minutes in a heated exchange that ended with Senkoe coming away on top, and Trail winning the battle, but losing the war.
Rybarik tallied his 18th of the season, an insurance marker with 2:50 left in the game, and Luke Mylymok hit the empty net in the final two seconds for the 7-4 victory.
Salmon Arm outshot the Smoke Eaters 41-30 and went 1-for-6 on the power play, while Trail went 3-for-5.
Johnson had a three-point night and five in the two games since returning from the World Jr. A Challenge. The 17-year-old Port Moody native has 64 points and has contributed either a goal or an assist on half of Trail’s tallies this season.
On Friday, the Smoke Eaters forward Ghirardosi scored twice including the game winner in a 4-3 victory over the West Kelowna Warriors. The Smokies welcomed the return of Johnson, Ozar, Lapointe and Connor from Team Canada West against the Warriors, and each player had at least a point on the night. Team Canada West failed to make it out of the WJAC round robin on Thursday falling to the Czech Republic 4-3.
“They are impact guys, and make a big difference to our group,” added Tambellini. “And the character for all four of those guys to come back exhausted and to play … and find a way to gut out a game and get one done, I thought it was fantastic.”
Trail plays the Vernon Vipers in the Snake Pit on Wednesday and returns home for a match against the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday, before starting the holiday break.
The Vipers have been on a hot streak of late, winning five of six including a split with the Interior Division leading Penticton Vees on the weekend.