The Trail Smoke Eaters couldn’t buy a goal against the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday, but the flood gates opened for Trail on Sunday with an 8-2 trouncing of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the Cominco Arena.
Trail forward Kale Howarth tallied four points in the game and home-grown affiliate player Blake Sidoni netted his first BCHL goal and added an assist to lead Trail to its league-leading 17th victory.
The win comes on the heels of a close 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Spruce Kings, where Trail surrendered a 1-0 third period lead to suffer just their fifth regulation loss in 23 games.
“For whatever reason, I don’t think we had the same kind of energy on Friday, that we did today (Sunday),” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM, Cam Keith, after the game. “Scoring goals kinda gives you that boost that you need, and we’ve been a team that’s responded after losing, especially at home … and the guys wanted to have a good showing to finish the weekend.”
Tyler Ghirardosi notched his fourth of the year to open the scoring just 72 seconds into the first period on a setup from Dane Dubois and Carter Jones, and Howarth made it 2-0 on a power play goal when his shot from the top of the circle went through traffic and found the back of the net at 13:01.
Trail broke the game open in the second period, with Andre Ghantous registering his ninth of the season, before Salmon Arm got on the board midway through the period deflecting a point shot past Smoke Eater goalie Brandon Wells to cut the lead to 3-1.
However, a minute later, Howarth broke down the left side, bobbled a shot, then niftily dropped the puck to Bemidji State commit, Ross Armour, who faked, then feathered a perfect pass to Levi Glasman for the tap-in at the edge of the crease.
Then with just under two minutes remaining, Ryan Moon knocked the Silverbacks defenceman off the puck, skated behind the net, and made a slick back-pass to Sidoni at the side of the net. The 19-year-old forward coolly went forehand, backhand then snuck it between the legs of Salmon Arm goalie Kyle Dumba for a 5-1 Smoke Eater lead.
“It was awesome, a surreal experience,” said Sidoni of his first BCHL goal with the Smoke Eaters. “You couldn’t ask for anything else. It was in the corner, Moon just made an unreal pass to me, and I had all the time in the world to put it in the net.”
Following injuries to Ryan Murphy and Blaine Caton, Sidoni was mobilized for both weekend games as AP from the KIJHL Beaver Valley Nitehawks, along with 18-year-old Kelowna product Hayden Dick from the KI’s Kamloops Storm.
“Blake Sidoni had a great weekend,” said Keith. “He played really solid on Friday and today he cached in on a great play coming out of the corner with Ryan Moon. He’s a kid you can tell has learned a lot from winning championships with Beaver Valley. He plays the game the right way, he’s comfortable playing in the corners and below the dots, and fits right into what we’re doing. It was nice to see him get rewarded today.”
Trail wasn’t finished. Glasman tallied his 12th goal to make it 6-1 with 13 seconds remaining on a redirection off a Howarth shot from the high slot, as Trail outshot the Silverbacks 14-4 in the middle frame.
The Silverbacks made a goaltender change in the third period, but Trail kept coming and Moon, while taking punishment from the ‘Backs defence in front of the net, slipped a Sidoni rebound past Liam McGarva at 10:38 for a 7-1 lead.
Salmon Arm’s Demetri Kambeitz completed the ‘Backs scoring with his second of the year, before Dubois capped off Trail’s scoring on a 2-on-1 pass from Ghirardosi with just over five-minutes remaining for the 8-2 final.
“Everyone was able to contribute offensively, and we only gave up two goals, so Brandon Wells did a good job as well,” said Keith. “A power-play goal early on, some big kills and everything seemed to work tonight, and hopefully it will give us some momentum from having to go into Salmon Arm next weekend.”
The Smoke Eaters’ Howarth (1G, 3A) earned the game’s first star, Levi Glasman (2G) second star, and Ross Armour (3A) third star, while Sidoni (1G, 1A) was named Fortis Energy Player of the Game. The Smoke Eaters went 1-for-2 on the power play and outshot the Silverbacks 37-22.
With the offensive outburst, both Howarth and Armour are now tied for top spot in the BCHL scoring race with 35 points.
“We got pretty frustrated on Friday night,” said Howarth. “We just all went home, regrouped, didn’t let the frustration get to us. We knew it was going to come and everyone came with a good attitude and good work ethic tonight and ‘Dosi (Ghirardosi) getting the first one early, that really helped.”
In front of close to 2,400 fans on Friday, Spruce Kings goaltender Evan DeBrouwer stymied the Smoke Eaters making 29 saves while backstopping Prince George to a 3-1 victory.
Trail’s Andre Ghantous gave the Smokies a 1-0 lead 8:34 into the middle frame, as the Smoke Eaters outchanced the Spruce Kings 13-8 in the period. However, Prince George came out determined in the third. Dustin Manz tied it at 11:36 and Patrick Cozzi scored the winner three minutes later on a setup from Ethan de Jong.
Trail had a prime opportunity to tie it on the power play with seven minutes to play but couldn’t beat DeBrouwer. De Jong added an insurance marker with a top corner snipe at 2:02 to bring an end to the Smokies six-game winning streak.
Trail outshot Prince George 30-24 and went 0-for-6 on the power play. DeBrouwer earned the game’s first star, de Jong second star, and Ghantous third star.
Trail hosts the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena, then travel to Salmon Arm for a return match against the Silverbacks on Saturday.