In a game that seemed a foregone conclusion, the Trail Smoke Eaters stepped up and iced what was simply their best performance of the season, a 4-3 win over the league-leading Penticton Vees.
The Smoke Eaters happily spoiled the return of former Smokie Travis St. Denis but more than anything they were looking to pay back a 9-1 drubbing they suffered in Penticton three weeks ago.
In the end, the Smokies’ defense shut down the Vees vaunted scoring attack, they got goals when they needed them, saves when they needed them and a solid effort for the full three periods that resulted in the victory.
The Smokies played their best game of the year and in particular their best second period of the season, out shooting the Vees 15-8 and outscoring them 2-1 for a 4-3 lead going into the third.
They then shut down the Vees big line of St. Denis, Mario Lucia, and Connor Reilly. The high-scoring line had their chances in the final stanza, but defense did a good job of clearing rebounds and players from the front of the net and Smokies goalie Reed Vogt made some huge saves in the late going to preserve the lead.
The Vees frustration showed in the final minutes when Curtis Loik took a tripping penalty in the Smokies end. Then with a minute and 12 seconds to go, the Vees called a time out and pulled their goalie sending out the St. Denis line, the face off in Trail’s end.
Luke Bertolucci won the draw and Brent Baltus cleared the zone but Penticton countered and St. Denis sprinted across the blue line with the puck. Smokies defenseman Rajan Sidhu tied up St. Denis and he went down while the referee’s arm shot up.
What looked to be a Smokie penalty turned into offsetting minors, Sidhu for hooking and St. Denis for diving. The Smokies killed the remainder 30 seconds and enjoyed their second win of the season.
Penticton scored two minutes into the game and it looked like it would be another runaway. But Josh Roberts scored his first of the season as he took a feed from Adam Boytinck and Sidhu in a nice tic-tac-toe that tied the game 1-1.
The Smokies then went up on the power play, when Tim Coish blasted a low shot from the point and it deflected off a Vees stick into the top corner. However, Penticton would reply on an ensuing power play as Connor Reilly netted his second goal with 32 seconds left in the period.
With the second period underway and the game tied at two, the Smokies turned it on. Boytinck picked up a loose puck, broke in over the blue line and snapped a shot over the blocker of Chad Katunar, chasing him from the nets. Five minutes later the Smokies would go up by two, when Sidhu slid home the game winner past Vees goalie Mike Garteig with assists coming from Boytinck and Erik Cooper.
St. Denis would put the Vees back within one after scoring late on a power play but the Smokies would hold on and shut the Vees out for the rest of the game.
Inspired play by Boytinck earned him three points on the night with a goal and an assist, and a third star. Sidhu and Cooper also chipped in with a pair of assists but Vogt made the difference as he faced 31 shots, stopping many odd man rushes and breakaways for the win. The Smoke Eaters next game goes Saturday at 7:30 against the Vernon Vipers.