Trail, BC - The Merritt monkey is off the Smoke Eaters' back after a 5-2 win over the Centennials. Trail beat Merritt for the first time this season and got their first victory over Cents goaltender Keith Hamilton.
The Kelowna product had four wins over the Smokies and picked up right where he left off with 16 first period saves. His play helped Merritt get out to early 1-0 and 2-1 leads on goals by AP Scott Morisseau of the local Beaver Valley Nitehawks. However, Smokies Captain Paul Mailey turned the momentum back in Trail's favour with his goal mid-way through the second period.
The line of Mailey, Justin Brown and Steve Oursov had a hand in 3 of Trail's 5 goals. Mailey and Brown each had a goal and an assist while Oursov scored the winner on a Dustin Johnson turnover early in the third period.
Matt Wilkins and Scott Jacklin also scored for the Smokies.
Kiefer Smiley was terrific in the Trail goal as his turned away 32 Merritt shots for his second straight victory. The Smokies got to Hamilton with 3 third period goals, but the 17 year old still made 35 saves.
The game also had a physical and emotional feel to it that boiled over in the third period. Trail's entire top line got involved in the rough stuff after Jacklin got run into the Merritt net. The aftermath amounted to 42 minutes in penalties. Smokies forward Travis St. Denis also played with enough of an edge to lead both teams in PIMs with 11.
The win broke Trail's seven game losing streak against Merritt dating back to next season. The Smokies are now 5 points ahead of Prince George for the final playoff spot and a single point behind Quesnel and Merritt for fifth. Trail will host Williams Lake next Saturday.
ON THE TRAIL: Defenceman Taylor Swaffield made his debut with the Smokies tonight. He provided a solid physical game despite having not played in three weeks. Graeme Strukoff and Thomas Abenante are still both out injured. Mitch Kaufhmann and Mike Betz were out of the line-up ... Former Smoke Eater Andrew Pickering sat the game out healthy despite being one of Merritt's top scorers. Merritt Coach Luke Pierce told the "Making Cents" blog it was a precautionary measure ahead of tomorrow's trade deadline ... Trail now has points in their last four games and in six of their last seven ... The two teams will face off again in Merritt on February 20th. It'll be Trail's second last game of the season.
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