The Trail Smoke Eaters played possibly their best hockey of the season on the weekend coming back to beat Prince George 8-7 in overtime on Friday, before humbling league leading Penticton Vees the next night.
The Smokies matched their total wins from last year, 11, Saturday night as they jumped out to an early lead, and shut down the potent Vees offence on their way to a 5-2 victory.
Connor Collett would net what proved to be the winner jumping on a rebound off a Shane Poulsen point shot and slapping it into the yawning cage to make it 3-0 with just over eight minutes gone in the first period.
The Smokies were solid all the way through the lineup, from the goaltending of Adam Todd to a relentless forecheck and stalwart defence. For only icing five d-men, Braeden Jones and Marley Keca out with injury, the Smokies displayed a high degree of accountability in their own end, keeping the shots to the perimeter and limiting quality scoring chances.
The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring on the power play when a Valik Chichkin point blast was deflected by Trail minor hockey product Ryan Edwards past Vees starter Chad Kutanar for his first BCHL goal.
Brent Baltus and Garrett McMullen then teamed up on the next marker. After an intense forecheck McMullen stripped the Vees defenceman of the puck and sent it to Baltus who made no mistake, as he moved into the top four in the league in scoring with 16 goals, and 12 assists for 28 points.
The score could have been much worse, if not for a couple of point-blank saves off Jake Lucchini and Luke Sandler. But Sandler would solve Katunar and send him to the safety of the bench in favour of Nic Renyard, when he buried a nice cross-ice pass from Braden Pears to put Trail up 4-0.
The Vees would break the goose egg on a power play, with three minutes to play in the second frame, when Brad McClure’s point shot would elude a screened Todd to make it 4-1.
The Vees pressured the Smokies in the third and James De Haas would get the Vees within two, scoring on a scramble in front of the net at 4:05. But the Smokies defence held, and Todd’s biggest save came in the final minute when a Smokies turnover gave the Vees a 3-on-1, and former Smoke Eater Sam Mellor made a move on Chickkin to walk in all alone but Todd made a huge blocker save to preserve the two-goal lead.
The Smokies’ Ryan Edwards would ice it, for his second goal of the night into an empty net at 19:08.
Todd stopped 36 of 38 shots and was named the game’s first star while Edwards and McMullen were awarded second and third stars respectively.
On Friday, the game couldn’t have been more different than Saturday’s gem as the Smokies came back twice from two-goal deficits to win in double overtime thanks to a Chichkin tally.
The Smokies defenceman jumped up into the play and skated in on a 2-on-1 with Collett. Collett feathered a nice pass onto the tape of Chichkin who banged it past Kings starter Kirk Thompson for the 8-7 win.
The Prince George Spruce Kings jumped out to a 5-3 lead in the first period, but the Smokies battled back. After a scoreless second period, Austin Adduono scored his first as a Smokie to make it 5-4, and Collett would tie the game at 1:14 of the third.
However, the Kings regained the two-goal cushion on markers from Tyson Witala and Bradley Ryan.
Tyler Berholtz got the Smokies within one and Djordge Leposavic tied the game with just over four minutes remaining in regulation. Leposavic skated in from the point, took a pass from Baltus and backhanded the tying goal past Thompson to send it to OT.
Baltus and McMullen combined for six points in the third period alone, with Baltus ending up with a goal and three assists, and McMullen with two goals and an assist.
Berholtz, and Collett also had three-point nights for the Smokies, and Todd collected the win stopping 23 of 25 shots after replacing starter Lyndon Stanwood to start the second period.
With the wins on the weekend, the Smokies move into fourth spot in the Interior Division, three points up on Vernon and back of West Kelowna. Trail plays the Vees again on Wednesday in Penticton.