Though small in stature, Trail Smoke Eater goalie Lyndon Stanwood came up big, time and time again, as the Smokies skated to a 3-1 victory over the Westside Warriors.
Over 1,100 vocal fans took advantage of $5 game tickets and 50-cent hotdogs at the Cominco Arena Saturday to commemorate the BCHL 50th year and the Smokies and their new five-foot six-inch puck stopper didn’t disappoint.
It was a goaltenders duel during the first two periods, as key saves by the recently signed Stanwood kept the Smokies in the game but Warrior goalie Dwayne Rodrigue replied with a few gems of his own, robbing Eric Cooper point blank in the early going.
“I had good support in front of me,” said Stanwood. “It feels good, being my second game in the league, with losing a tough one yesterday, today winning is just so good.”
The Smokies dropped their first game of the home-and-home to Westside 4-1 Friday night in what was the 18-year-old’s first start at the Junior A level. Stanwood made adjustments for game two.
“It was a big difference yesterday I found, but coming in today I felt better – I was a little more used to it. I realize the guys are a little more quicker, harder shots, so that one game helped me adapt.”
Stanwood stopped 26 shots in the first two periods to preserve a 1-0 lead, highlighted by a sprawling cross-crease save off of star forward Richard Vanderhoek late in the second.
The Smokies first goal came on a power play, when defenceman Tanner Hicks took a pass from Clayton Chessa and blasted a shot over the blocker of Rodrigue with six minutes left in the middle frame.
The team kept battling in the third, limiting the Warriors to only eight shots, as the line of Clayton Chessa, Connor Tiechko and Garrett McMullen took advantage of penalties and potted two more power-play goals to make it 3-0.
“We’ve played really well lately,” said Chessa, the Smokies leading scorer. “We got thrown in together against Pen (Penticton) in the third period and we got two goals and we got three tonight, so it’s a good combination that’s been working real well.”
The line accounted for six points with Tiechko leading the way with two goals and an assist, Chessa with two assists, McMullen with one and D-man Hicks finishing with a goal and an assist.
The Warriors broke Stanwood’s shutout bid with just over two minutes remaining. However, the diminutive goaltender has created a positive early impression on the team.
“He’s been standing on his head, he’s great. I mean he’s fast, he sees the puck well when the shot’s from the outside and he’s been what we need,” said Chessa.
In addition to going 3 for 8 on the power play the Smokies’ penalty killing was outstanding, as the Smokies stifled nine power-play attempts by the Warriors.