Backed by great goaltending and moments of offensive wizardry, the Trail Smoke Eaters picked up four crucial points in BCHL action on the weekend with victories over the Nanaimo Clippers and Merritt Centennials.
Trail blasted the Clippers out of the water on Friday night at the Cominco Arena, skating to a 6-1 win on the strength of a two-goal performance from Rossland native Ross Armour and 48 saves from Bailey MacBurnie in the Smokie net. Trail then beat the Cents 3-2 on Saturday on a third-period winning goal from Nick Halloran.
“We didn’t do anything different other than capitalize on our chances,” Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes said on the Smoke Eater website. “I would have liked to see us manage the game better in the second half, but this was a much needed offensive outburst.”
Armour took a slick pass from Bennett Morrison and drove to the net lifting the puck over the glove of Nanaimo goalie Jonathon Reinhart to put the Smokies up 2-0 with 4:30 left in the first period. The goal would hold up as the winner, as the Smokies forwards put on an offensive clinic on their way to their seventh win of the season.
The Clippers began their three-game road trip in Trail Friday with an 11-7 record, good for second place in the BCHL’s Island division, but faced a Trail team hungry for a win after dropping two matches against Penticton and Vernon last weekend.
Jake Kauppila started the scoring for the Smokies, tallying his seventh of the season. The Illinois native banged in a rebound off a Jeremy Lucchini point shot to put Trail up 1-0 just over six minutes into the first period.
With a 2-0 lead to start the second, Smokies defenceman Nii Noi Tetteh scored his first goal of the campaign 2:43 in to make it 3-0, with Sam Swanson assisting and earning his first point as a Smoke Eater affiliate player. Tetteh would chase Reinhart from the net in favour of Jakob Walter, and earn two-thirds of the Gordie Howe hat trick when he dropped the gloves with Corey Renwick midway through the second to highlight a physical and sometimes chippy match up.
Armour netted his second of the night on a pretty set up from Halloran. The team’s leading scorer stick handled around the Clips’ defence then found Armour alone in front, who buried a quick wrister past Walter.
Halloran then scored one of his own on the power play, taking a pass from Mitch Stapley at the blue line, speeding by the defence and beating the Clippers goalie with a quick move to the backhand to make it 5-0.
Harlan Orr then added insult to injury when his centering pass was courteously deposited in the back of the net by a Clipper defenceman.
The Clippers would finally get on the board with a power play goal, when Devin Brosseau roofed a snap shot by MacBurnie to make it 6-1 with just over six minutes remaining in the second.
The Clippers outshot the Smokies 48-35, but a standout performance by MacBurnie was the difference. The Massachusetts native made several big stops and was named second star, while Armour was awarded first star, and Halloran third star on the evening.
“Goaltending was a key factor over the weekend. Bailey MacBurnie allowed only three goals on 86 shots,” said Deschenes.
On Saturday, Nick Halloran’s ninth goal of the season at 2:34 of the third period gave the Smokies a 3-2 victory over Merritt. The Air Force commit finished a pretty set up from Connor Brown-Maloski and Armour on what would hold up as the winning goal. MacBurnie stopped 36 shots on the night and was named the games first star in a match that vaulted the Smokies over the Cents in the Interior division standings. With 16 points, Trail is one point ahead of Merritt with three games in hand, but trail the Vernon Vipers by five points for the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Smokies jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Harlan Orr and Spencer McLean, but the Cents evened it in the second period on two straight from Tyler Ward. Halloran’s 20th point of the season gave the Smokies their eighth win, and the team will look to make it nine when they face off against the Penticton Vees tonight.