Trail Smoke Eaters forward Owen Ozar scored the game winner and tallied a three-point night in a 4-3 win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday at the Cominco Arena.
Ozar intercepted a backpass in the Capital’s zone and drove hard to the net. His first shot was stopped by Cowichan goalie Zach Borgiel, but the Smokies forward chipped in the rebound at 12:09 of the third period to break the 3-3 tie.
The win against a strong Capitals team is a definite boost for the Smoke Eaters heading into the holidays, and improves their record to 23-13-2-1-1. Trail sits just five points back of Penticton in the Interior Division standings and is comfortably in second place with an eight point cushion on the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
Kent Johnson opened the scoring with another spectacular effort, as he circled behind the net and lifted the puck, a la ‘Michigan,’ over the shoulder of Borgiel from behind the net for a 1-0 Trail lead at 12:28 of the opening frame.
Cowichan answered, however, less than two minutes later, with Matthew Crasa beating Smokies goalie Logan Terness on the power play to tie it.
Tanner Sidaway put Cowichan up 2-1 at 5:53, but Johnson tied it, making a slick move in front and backhanding it top shelf on the Cowichan goalie with 4:16 to go in the first.
Cowichan captain Cruz Cote finished a 2-on-1 at 15:46 of the second period, beating Terness low blocker side to put the Caps up 3-2 for the only goal in the middle frame.
The Smokies came back in the third, with Mike Colella wristing a shot through traffic to tie the game at 14:55.
Ozar’s game winner came less than two minutes later, and the Smoke Eaters held on for the 4-3 victory.
Terness stopped 38 shots, while Borgiel blocked 24 in the Capitals net. Cowichan went 1-for-7 on the power play, and Trail 0-for-3.
Ozar earned first star, Johnson second, and Cote the game’s third star.
The Smoke Eaters return to the Cominco Arena on Jan. 4 in the second half of a home-and-home with the Merritt Centennials.