The Trail Smoke Eaters earned three-of-four points from the Silverbacks on the weekend in two thrilling contests in Salmon Arm.
The Smoke Eaters hung on for a 5-4 victory on Friday before succumbing 2-1 in a shootout loss to the ‘Backs, Saturday.
Trail had a great chance, but failed to put the Silverbacks away late in the game carrying a 5-on-3 power play into overtime. Nick Unruh and William Poirier then scored on the ‘Backs first two shots in the shootout, while Owen Ozar and Kent Johnson were stymied by Salmon Arm goalie Ethan Langenegger for the win.
The Backs came out strong, testing goalie Logan Terness from the opening puck drop. Nick Martino put the Silverbacks up 1-0 midway through the opening frame with a quick shot under the arm of the Smokies goalie.
The home team didn’t let up in the second period outshooting Trail 21-7, but Terness weathered the barrage of rubber, and Smokies captain Philippe Lapointe went five-hole on Langenegger, scoring a power-play goal on a breakaway to tie the game at 9:15.
The goal was Lapointe’s fifth in as many games and ninth point since returning to the lineup two weeks ago. Slotting the University of Michigan commit between Tyler Ghirardosi and Owen Ozar paid immediate dividends and his return has spurred a more balanced Smoke Eaters attack.
“We built our team for depth, so now that we’re getting some bodies healthy it starts paying off, when you see on any given night a different line will step up, where multiple guys will step up,” said Trail head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “When you have that, it insulates our top players a lot and gives them a chance to still make an impact, yet, not drive it the whole way every single night.”
The Smokies changed the flow of the game in the third, but Langenegger kept the Smokies off the board the rest of the way.
Salmon Arm outshot the Smoke Eaters 34-28, with Trail going 1-for-6 on the power play, and 6-for-6 on the PK.
Langenegger was named the game’s first star, with Terness taking second star and Unruh third star.
In Friday’s match up, Smokie goalie Terness made a sprawling highlight reel save in the final minute then stopped a penalty shot in the last two seconds of regulation to preserve a 5-4 Smoke Eaters win.
“The kid’s been outstanding,” said Tambellini. “He’s 10-2 and if you ever told me he’d be where he is, I probably wouldn’t believe you. He fights for that net every day, and he’s earned every minute he’s got, and he’s making a big mark in our league right now.”
Trail forward Walker Erickson scored the game winner at 16:39 of the second period, wiring a breakaway shot off the crossbar and in for a 5-3 Trail lead.
The three weekend points put the 13-6-2-1 Smokies four points behind the league-leading Silverbacks and Penticton Vees, who are tied with 33 points.
Salmon Arm opened the scoring on a goal from Domenic Garozzo five minutes into the first, but Trail answered with Lapointe scoring 43 seconds later. Tyler Ghirardosi tallied his sixth of the season at 16:29, and Kent Johnson sniped his 15th to give the Smokies a 3-1 lead with 1:16 to go in the first.
Daniel Rybarik cut the lead to one, but Ghirardosi restored the two goal lead at 13:15. Salmon Arm’s Drew Bennett notched his third, before Erickson’s unassisted effort with just over three minutes to go in the middle frame. Bennett added another with 2:08 to play, but the Smoke Eaters Terness stopped 13 shots in the third period, including the last second penalty shot for the victory.
The ‘Backs outshot Trail 44-18, and were 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Smokies went 2-for-2. Ghirardosi earned first star honours, with Unruh second star, and Owen Ozar third star.
Trail’s special teams continue to roll, particularly the penalty kill that was a perfect 15-for-15 in the past three games, moving the Smokies into third in the league overall with 90 per cent kill rate.
“Our PK has really been driving us for the last stretch,” added Tambellini. “(Connor) Sweeney, (Max) Kryski, and (Walker) Erickson on the PK, plus our seven ‘D’ are doing an outstanding job.”
Trail plays its third Wednesday game in as many weeks with a tilt in Penticton against the Vees this week, before hosting a two-game series versus the Vernon Vipers at the Cominco Arena on Friday and Saturday.