It was a wild Wednesday night for the Trail Smoke Eaters as they erupted for nine goals in a victory over their potential first round playoff opponent.
Trail rocked the Prince George Spruce Kings 9-2 with Kent Johnson and Jaden Senkoe scoring two goals apiece and Braden Costello tallying four assists on the night.
“It was a big game for us because right now that’s the team we’re going to face in the first round,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “We only get one chance having them come to our building and you never want them to feel good about their game coming in here and comfortable in our rink.”
Johnson made a slick move in the high slot, eluded two defenders then spun and wired a shot past P.G. goalie Jett Alexander for the game winning goal and a 3-0 Trail lead with 80 seconds left in the first period.
The victory is Trail’s 31st with eight games to play in the regular season. If the season ended today, second place Trail would play Prince George (the seventh seed with the cross over) in the first round of the BCHL playoffs. Despite the long journey to Prince George, Tambellini is taking the positives from the first-round opponent.
“We like it,” said Tambellini. “If we’re going to see a team that hasn’t seen us all year we’re totally fine with that. If we’re playing the lowest seed, whether it’s in our division the Island, the Mainland, we’re not going to complain about the travel, we’re going to play whoever we’re given and make sure we’re prepared for them.”
Smoke Eaters forward Owen Ozar opened the scoring four minutes and 30 seconds into the first period on a pretty no-look pass from Matt Osadick.
Trail defenceman Cody Schiavon made it 2-0 wiring a shot through traffic at 11:46 of the first for his ninth goal of the campaign with the assist to Carson Briere.
Despite the 3-0 lead, Prince George had it’s share of chances outshooting Trail 13-11 in the period, but Trail goalie Logan Terness continued his strong play and stymied the Spruce Kings snipers.
Spruce Kings forward Corey Cunningham finally got to Terness, scoring his 19th of the season 40 seconds into the second period to cut the lead to 3-1.
At 3:22 of the second, Jaden Senkoe took a quick pass from Walker Erickson and fired it past Alexander, and, 47 seconds after that, Schiavon made a perfect cross-ice pass to Max Kryski, who fired it into the open side for a 5-1 lead.
Just over a minute later, Michael Colella did the heavy lifting behind the Prince George net, stripping the puck from the Spruce Kings d-man and slipping it to Johnson at the far post for a tap in.
After Cunningham notched his 20th for the Kings, Trail forward Senkoe fought off a P.G. defender and wired a shot top shelf over the glove of the Spruce Kings goalie for a 7-2 lead.
The trio of Senkoe, Kryski and Costello had a huge night, accounting for three goals and eight points.
“The Senkoe, Kryski, Costello line was fantastic,” said Tambellini. “Every time we come back to that line, it almost brings the best out of those three guys. They read off each other well, they make great plays up the ice or the d-zone, and for Costello to have four assists, Senkoe two goals, and Kryski’s in on a couple, they were the difference tonight.”
Smoke Eaters defencenam Kyle Budvardson wired a slapshot from the high slot past Alexander, and Walker Erickson finished the scoring redirecting a pretty cross-ice pass from Trevor Isaksson for the 9-2 final.
The Smokies defence played another solid match up, also contributing offensively with two goals and three assists between the top six. They also kept their cool in the late going when Spruce Kings player Mason Reeves went after Trail d-man Powell Connor.
“We love what we’ve built on the backend,” said Tambellini. “We have seven 19-20 year old guys, and one ‘02. It’s a defence that can play a lot of different ways. We can play a puck-moving game, we have three guys with over 20 points, and it’s a really dynamic group.”
The Smoke Eaters outshot the Spruce Kings 40-35 with Terness earning his 23rd win. Trail went 0-for-3 on the power play, and 1-for-1 on the PK.
Costello earned first star honours, Johnson second star, and Senkoe third star, while Schiavon was named Fortis Energy Player f the Game.
Trail hosts the Wenatchee Wild tonight at the Cominco Arena with the puck drop at 7 p.m.