The Trail Smoke Eaters struck first and often in the opening period as they built a 3-0 lead then held on for a 5-3 victory over the Merritt Centennial on Saturday at the Cominco Arena.
Smokies forward Kienan Scott scored the winning goal 2:15 into the second period, taking a pass from Max Newton and snapping it through the pads of Merritt goaltender Anthony Pupplo to give Trail a 4-0 lead.
Coming off a disappointing 8-3 loss to West Kelowna Tuesday, the Smokies started strong and despite a lapse in the second period, they would withstand a Centennial comeback and skate to their second victory of the season.
Connor Brown-Maloski wristed a shot through traffic that beat Cents’ starter Colten Lancaster for his first goal of the season just over two minutes into the first period.
Trail went up 2-0 less than two minutes later when Newton flew into the Cents zone split the defence and set up Cooper Leitch who was stopped on the doorstop, but Leitch would eventually corral the puck and bang it by Lancaster.
Kurt Black then backhanded in his third goal of the season on a Harlan Orr setup at 6:54 to give the Smokies a 3-0 lead as the Smokies outshot the Cents 9-5 in the period. Merritt pushed back in the middle frame. After Scott put Trail up 4-0, Colin Grannary would get Merritt on the board at 4:06 taking a behind-the-net pass from Tyrell Buckley and wiring a wrister top corner on Smoke Eater goalie Bailey MacBurnie.
The Cents Nick Fiorrentino cut the lead in half making it 4-2 on a setup from Ryan Forbes and Tyler Ward. Nick Jermain drew the Cents within one on a power play goal, beating the Trail goalie on a centring pass from Mike Faulkner. But Jake Kaupilla replied for the Smokies, restoring the two-goal cushion with 32 seconds remaining in the second period. The 20-year-old Gurnee, Illinois native took a pass from Black, skated down the left side and blasted a shot top corner on Pupplo.
Merritt outshot Trail 33-30 in the game with Kaupilla getting first star honours, MacBurnie second star, and Fiorrentino the game’s third star.
See more on the Smoke Eaters in this week’s Trail Times.