The Trail Smoke Eaters climbed to a share of top spot in the BCHL with two impressive wins at the BCHL Bauer Showcase in Chilliwack on the weekend.
All 17 BCHL teams played two games each at the Showcase, with almost 200 scouts from the college and NHL ranks in attendance.
The Showcase, which started in 2012, has featured such players as NHLers Troy Stecher, Danton Heinen and Tyson Jost as well as 19 NHL draft picks including Dante Fabbro, Dennis Cholowski, Adam Tambellini, Jack Ramsey, Dane Birks, and Trail’s 2017 fifth-round pick, Kale Howarth.
The Smoke Eaters handed the Powell River Kings their first regulation loss of the early season in a 4-2 victory on Saturday at Prospera Centre, then followed that up Sunday with a 7-2 triumph over the Surrey Eagles.
The Smokies received a complete team effort on Sunday with six different scorers in the 7-2 drubbing. Following a scoreless first period, the Smokies erupted for four goals in the middle frame with Rossland native Ross Armour opening the scoring on a setup from Red Deer duo of Levi Glasman and Kale Howarth three minutes and 37 seconds in. Two minutes later Carter Jones ripped his first goal of the season past Eagles’ netminder Daniel Davidson with assists to Tyler Ghirardosi and Ryan Moon, and Blaine Caton scored what proved to be the winner on a great individual effort just 60 seconds later.
Trail captain Troy Ring also notched his first tally of the season beating Davidson with 26 seconds to play in the period for the 4-0 lead, as Trail outshot the Eagles 15-7.
Surrey struck back early in the third with Mackenzie Merriman scoring his second of the year on Smoke Eater netminder Tanner Marshall and Chase Danol cut the lead to 4-2 at 12:42. However, Howarth netted his fourth of the season 23 seconds later and Minnesota native Ryan Murhphy tallied his first of the campaign with an empty-net goal with 4:16 to play. Howarth completed the scoring at 2:38 with Armour and Glasman assisting.
Surrey outshot Trail 29-26, with both teams going 0-for-4 on the power play. Howarth’s two goals and an assist earned him first-star honours, Ring (1G, 1A) the second star, and Glasman (3A) the match’s third star.
In Saturday’s match against the Kings, Trail’s Andre Ghantous scored the winner breaking a 2-2 tie at 3:53 of the third period on a set up from Caton and Spencer McLean for the big win over the Island Division leader.
Moon opened the scoring at 12:06 with the helper going to Trail d-man Seth Barton, as Trail weathered a flurry of five penalties through the first 20 minutes, and yet outshot the Kings 11-7 to escape with a 1-0 lead. Glasman scored his third goal just 25 seconds into the middle stanza to put Trail up by two, but penalties came back to haunt the Smokies as a pair of power-play goals by Jack Long and Carter Turnbull knotted the match heading into the third.
The Smokies played tough defensive hockey and stayed disciplined through the final frame, and after Ghantous put the Smokies up, Howarth added an empty netter for the 4-2 win.
Trail outshot Powell River 28-24 with Smokie netminder Brandon Wells earning the victory. Trail went 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Kings were 2-for-8.
Barton (2A) was named the game’s first star, Howarth second star, and the Kings’ Turnbull the third star. Armour was named the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.
The wins lift Trail, 4-1-0-1, into a tie for top spot with Vernon in the Interior and a five-way tie overall. The Penticton Vees, however, hold two games in hand and are undefeated in four matches.
A five-point weekend by Armour (5-7-12) launched the skilled forward to the top of the BCHL scoring race, while Howarth sits in fourth place just two points back, and Glasman in sixth with 6-3-9. The trio has been clicking since Game 1 and is reminiscent of last year’s Smoke Eater line of Josh Laframboise, Howarth, and Luke Santerno.
The Smoke Eaters host the 1-3-1-1 Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday at 7 p.m. and travel to Salmon Arm Saturday to face the 2-4-0-0 Silverbacks.