Weekend sweep fires up Smoke Eaters

The Trail Smoke Eaters finally showed flashes of the form that made them a division leader early in the season.

The Trail Smoke Eaters finally showed flashes of the form that made them a division leader early in the season.

Sunday afternoon goaltender Kiefer Smiley turned aside all 30 shots he faced as the Smokies blanked the Coquitlam Express 5-0.

Saturday night, Joey Baker’s goal with less than five minutes to play made the difference as Trail edged the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-2.

The back-to-back wins marked the first time the Smokies have won consecutive games on home ice since early November.

And the manner in which they accomplished the task – with stingy defence and timely offence – was reminiscent of the team’s early season success.

“Things are starting to come back together for us,” agreed Trail captain Paul Mailey.

“There’s tons of confidence and things are just rolling.”

Smiley, who recorded his first shutout of the season, said there is definitely a change in atmosphere behind the scenes.

“We’re getting the smiles back in the room,” he said.

“We’re buying into our system right now and everybody is on board.”

Smiley did his part coming up with some big saves Sunday and keeping Salmon Arm at bay on Saturday.

He said he’s another member of the club getting his game back on track after recent struggles.

“I’ve been a little on and off lately,” he admitted. “There’s been a couple of games where I’ve been fighting the puck. But Saturday I felt I played solid enough for the win and carried it through to today.”

Smiley added picking up those two wins is a sign the entire team is getting over its recent rough spell.

“You wouldn’t be a team if you didn’t go through some tough times.

“It builds character and right now we’re getting back on track.”

The Smokies did it at an opportune time on Sunday in front of over 1,000 fans at the Cominco Arena.

First period goals by Erik Cooper and Mellor, both coming off point shots, spotted Trail the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Another point shot, from Ben Matthews, made it 3-0 after two periods before Mailey and Cooper added third period markers.

Getting the shots on goal proved to be the catalyst for the team’s weekend wins. Saturday they outshot Salmon Arm 31-21 and Sunday the shot total was 46-30 in Trail’s favour.

“The last probably seven or eight games we’ve been working on out-shooting teams and we have,” said Mailey. “It’s been a huge part of our success.”

Mellor, whose quick release makes him a threat from any angle, made his impact felt when he returned to the lineup Saturday night.

Mellor set up Trail’s first two goals, by Nic DeSousa in the first and by Jake Baker in the second, on his way to first-star honours.

DeSousa’s goal knotted the first period at 1-1 and Jake Baker’s marker put Trail up 2-1 with 20 minutes to play. Meanwhile the Smokies limited to Silverbacks to just 10 shots on goal in 40 minutes.

However, Salmon Arm tied the game in the third after Jake Baker was sent off for checking from behind, which also brought a game misconduct.

It stayed that way until the final minutes when Cullen Bradshaw and Dylan Tappe drew assists on Joey Baker’s second game winner of the season.

Defence played just as big a role as the offence as Trail netminder Kiefer Smiley faced only 21 shots in the game to record his 20th win of the season.

The Smokies head to Merritt on Wednesday before returning to the Cominco Arena next weekend for games against Quesnel on Friday and Vernon on Saturday.