An early 2-0 deficit to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks provided fuel for the Trail Smoke Eaters fire, as the home team stormed back to take the Game 5 Interior Division playoff in a 7-4 victory on Friday night at the Cominco Arena.
A raucous crowd of over 2,200 fans cheered on the Smokies and captain Connor Brown-Maloski scored twice including the game winner to eliminate the Silverbacks from the BCHL playoffs, and pit the Smoke Eaters against the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Division semifinal.
Elijiah Barriga scored 66 seconds into the match to give the ‘Backs a 1-0 lead, and Jared Turcotte knocked in a bouncing puck past Smokies goalie Linden Marshall two minutes later to go up 2-0.
But the Smokies’ battled back. Ross Armour deflected a point shot from Carter Cochrane to cut the lead in half midway through the period, and Braeden Tuck walked out from behind the net, tried to jam the puck by Nic Tallarico but the ‘Backs goalie made a pad save, only for Tuck to jump on the rebound and put it in to tie the game.
With less than five minutes to play, Josh Laframboise set up a screen, and Luke Santerno blasted the puck by Tallarico to give the Smokies a 3-2 lead, as Trail outshot the ‘Backs 22-7 in the period.
CBM gave the Smokies a two- goal lead when he roofed a shot past Tallarico to go up 4-2 at 12:39 of the middle frame. But the Silverbacks refused to yield, as Austin Chorney walked in over the Trail blue line, went wide and fired a quick shot top corner on Marshall at 16:18.
Trail held a 32-16 edge in shots over two periods, but held on to a tenuous 4-3 lead.
The Smokies came out fast and dominant, and the captain scored what proved to be the winning goal when Santerno sent a cross-ice pass to Brown-Maloski and the Kamloops native fired it into a gaping net to put Trail up 5-3.
Barriga brought the Smokies within one again, banging in a power play goal past Marshall at 8:13 of the third period. However, Trail found a way to win, as Blaine Caton put the Smokies up 6-4 and Mitch Barker iced it into an empty net with 16:42 left in regulation.
Trail outshot Salmon Arm 42-28 and went 2-for-3 on the power play, while Salmon Arm was 1-for-1.
Trail wins the series 4-1 and will face the Vernon Vipers at Kal Tire Place in Vernon on Friday for the best-of-seven Interior Division semifinal series.