Kent Johnson scored a typical, if not spectacular, goal to lift the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-1 win over the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday in the Snake Pit.
The 17-year-old scoring phenom tallied the game winner 97 seconds into the second period to give the Smokies a 2-1 lead. Johnson weaved through the Vipers defence and beat Vernon goalie James Porter with a move to the backhand for his league-leading 25th goal of the campaign.
The Smoke Eaters victory is a strong bounce-back effort after falling to Salmon Arm on Sunday, 7-4. The Smoke Eaters suffered a bigger loss in that game, losing forward Tyler Ghirardosi who is out indefinitely with a lower body injury.
Vernon opened the scoring at 13:09 of the first period on Cameron McDonald’s 10th of the season. Trail dominated the Vipers on the shot clock with a 12-6 advantage, but Porter made several big saves to keep the Smokies off the scoreboard.
It took just 57 seconds into the middle frame for Trail forward Braden Senkoe to tie it. Max Kryski won the faceoff in the Vernon zone, and Senkoe wired a shot past Porter for his second tally of the season.
After Johnson notched his BCHL best 67th point, Braden Costello banged in a rebound off a Walker Erickson shot at 13:27 for a 3-1 lead.
Logan Terness did the rest, stopping 12 shots in the final frame for his 16th win, and Philippe Lapointe added some extra insurance into an empty net for the 4-1 final.
Trail outshot the Vipers 34-25, going 1-for-4 on the power play and 5-for-6 on the penalty kill.
Johnson earned the first star nod, with the Vipers McDonald named second star, and Senkoe the game’s third star.
The Smoke Eaters next face the Cowichan Valley Capitals Friday in their final home game of 2019.
The Capitals sport a 22-11-3-1 record and sit just one point back of the first place Nanaimo Clippers in the Island Division. Coach Mike Vandekamp has turned the struggling franchise around after finishing last in their division in 2018-19 with a 17-35-5-1 record.
The Caps are led by the BCHL’s fifth leading scorer in Luc Wilson with 13 goals and 40 points. Wilson was one of five BCHL forwards selected to play in the 15th annual CJHL Prospects Game.
Cowichan has been good in December going 4-0-1-0 in its last five games, while Trail is 3-4 in December. Trail beat Cowichan 6-5 in a shootout back on Oct. 11 on the Island, and will look for another win to kick off a festive holiday season.
Trail owns three of the top four scorers in the BCHL. Kent Johnson leads the way with 67 points followed by Penticton Vees forward Jay O’Brien, 15 goals and 47 points, the Smokies forwards Mike Colella 15-29-44 and Owen Ozar 14-27-41. Incredibly, Lapointe, with 14 goals and 35 points, has moved up to 17th in league scoring despite playing in only 18 games.
The puck drop for the Smokies-Capitals game goes at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
The Smoke Eaters are off until the New Year with a home-and-home tilt against the Merritt Centennials Jan. 3-4.