Travis Stephens’ third period power-play goal proved to be the winner as the Trail Smoke Eaters skated to a well deserved 4-1 victory over the Vernon Vipers at the Cominco Arena on Friday and brought to an end their 13 game losing streak.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Stephens capitalized on a high-sticking penalty to Mason Blacklock, taking a pass from Bryan Basilico and wiring it by Snakes goalie Austin Smith at 14:26 of the third.
Smokies goaltender Adam Todd played another great game for the home team stopping 31 shots, including a game saver mid-way through the third when he robbed Colton Sparrow with a phenomenal glove save. Todd was seemingly down-and-out after a flurry in front of the net, and Sparrow jumped on the loose puck sending it toward the open net, but Todd somehow reached out and snatched the puck out of mid-air to preserve the tie, and give the Smoke Eaters new life.
The Vipers’ Demico Hannoun opened the scoring on an innocent shot from inside the blueline that got by a screened Todd at 2:09 of the second period. However, just over a minute later Trail would get it back on the power play when Basilico jumped on a Dylan Bowen rebound and lifted it over a sprawling Smith.
Following Stephens 2-1 marker, Greyson Reitmeieir would force a turnover and send in Riley Brandt who beat Smith with a bullet from the top of the right circle to put Trail up 3-1 with 4:13 to play in the period.
The 3-1 lead was the identical margin the Smoke Eaters led West Kelowna on Monday, before the Warriors made a stunning comeback in the final 90 seconds. However, Stephens would net his 13th of the season and avoid any instance of deja vu with an empty netter at 18:07 to ice it.
Special teams proved key for the Smoke Eaters as the penalty kill went 4-for-4 and the power play 2-for-6 on the night. The Stephens line was particularly effective in shutting down the line of Vernon’s leading scorer Mike McNicholas, Hannoun, and Sparrow. The Smoke Eaters fired 31 shots at the Vipers net.
The Smokies look to gain a measure of revenge as they travel to West Kelowna today to take on the Warriors.