Time away from home was just what the Trail Smoke Eaters needed on a Thanksgiving weekend as the team swept its three-game road trip to move into fourth place in the Interior Division standings.
Trail started its road trip with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over Nanaimo on Friday, then followed that up with a convincing 7-3 win over the Mainland-leading Cowichan Valley Capitals Saturday before a come-from-behind 5-2 victory over the Langley Rivermen.
“Going into the weekend we just wanted to pick up points where we could, and it was one of those situation where we just tried to win the next game,” said Smoke Eater coach Cam Keith. “I guess when it came down to the third night in the third period down 2-1, we thought, ‘We can still do this,’ we have the character in the room and the guys are starting to build up that confidence from the previous two games, and we were able to pull it out.”
The Rivermen shot out to a 2-0 first-period lead in Langley on Sunday, but with two-straight wins under their collective belts the Smoke Eaters were not about to be denied. Trail defenceman Troy Ring got the Smokies on the board with his second of the season to bring Trail within one with just over five minutes to play in the middle frame. The Smokies erupted for four goals in the third with Kale Howarth going five-hole to tie the game at 8:43 and Connor Brown-Maloski netting the winner 82 seconds later on a pretty passing play with Ross Armour and Braeden Tuck.
Montrose product Spencer McLean had a breakout weekend putting Trail ahead 4-2 at 17:07 on a back-door tap in from Blaine Caton, and Luke Santerno netted his sixth goal of the season for the Smokies with 41 seconds to play to make it 5-2. Kale Howarth, with a five-point weekend, assisted on the goal.
Trail goalie Zach Dyment was named the game’s first star with 27 saves, Caton the second star, and Langley’s Nicholas Ponak third star.
The Smoke Eaters jumped out to a commanding 4-0 lead through two periods over Cowichan on Saturday at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan with goals from Santerno, Tyson Slater, Howarth, and Armour. The Capitals rallied scoring three times in the first eight minutes to make it 4-3 but Trail put the game away with goals from McLean, Josh Laframboise, and Caton, for the Smokies’ biggest offensive output since an 8-5 win over West Kelowna in the second game of the season.
“It was a situation we hadn’t been in, on the road up 4-0, we pulled back a bit, and we saw what happened. It was another life lesson for a team in their progression early in the season, and luckily we still got the result we needed.”
Linden Marshall earned the win in net for Trail with 25 saves and third star honours, while Trail captain Brown-Maloski was the game’s first star with two assists, and Howarth took second star with a goal and an assist.
The Smoke Eaters exorcised its demons Friday night scoring the first goal of the game for the first time this year against Nanaimo on their way to an overtime win. Josh Laframboise opened the scoring for Trail at 14:01 of the second period, but the Clippers’ Ben Solin tied it with just 4:44 to play to force the extra frame. In the 4-on-4 overtime period, Laframboise scored his sixth of the season on a great individual effort beating Nanaimo goalie Austin Roden at the 3:11 mark for the win.
“It was probably the hardest game for us,” said Keith “They came out and played a really physical brand of hockey … they have big, strong D, and I think they’re probably the most penalized team in the BCHL, so it was probably the best game to get done first, because it prepared us to play hard each night and set the tone physically.”
The wins give the Smokies a 5-6-0-1 record and lifts them into fourth place in the Interior division, a point behind the 5-4-1-1 Merritt Centennials which lost both ends of a home-and-home to the Penticton Vees 5-1 and 4-3 on the weekend.
“I don’t want us to get too complacent,” said Keith. “I believe its really important right now that we have to prove ourselves in our division and we have to win some games at home. It’s a great step for us, but we kind of got back to even and we can’t really take the time to relish our accomplishments, we have a game on Wednesday so we have to move forward.”
Trail hosts the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Wednesday night at the Cominco Arena with the puck drop at 7 p.m.