What a game last night for the Smokies! It was a gutsy effort through 40 minutes to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. A lot of fans in the building last night talked about the impact the penalty calls had on the third... and of course any 5 on 3 or 5 minute major call is going to have some impact on a game. However, the Smokies without question earned their first playoff win under Coach Ingram. Now they at least guarantee themselves a split with a chance to go up 2-0 before even heading back to Trail.
West Kelowna, BC - Matt Wilkins opened and closed the scoring as Trail beat Westside 6-3 in the first game of their first round series. It was the first BCHL playoff game for Wilkins and his best outing as a Smoke Eater.
The Kimberley native opened the scoring after Sean Nugent won a puck battle along the wall and got it to him in the neutral zone. Wilkins wired a shot over the glove hand of Kevin Jebson to start the back and fourth scoring.
Alex Grieve answered for Westside by banking a reboud from the side of the goal off a sprawled out Kiefer Smiley. It was one of only 3 goals Smiley would allow on 36 shots in another terrific performance from the Smokies netminder.
Nick Sandor put Trail back ahead early in the second period after a Graeme Strukoff shot block turned into an odd man rush for the Smokies. Sam Mellor made a move towards the net and then put a perfect pass on Sandor's stick for the tap in.
The Warriors tied the game again at the end of a power play when Colton Sissons one-timed a nice pass from Dru Morrison. Their line along with Max French was perhaps Westside's most effective as they were dangerous every time they hit the ice.
Trail got a bounce to go their way when Paul Mailey's stick shattered on an attempted shot and he ended up putting the puck right on Travis St. Denis' stick for a power play goal. St. Denis had strong game that included hitting the post and getting robbed by Jebson on a partial break.
Mike Betz knocked his own rebound in mid-way through the third period to give Trail another power play goal and a 4-2 lead. Immediately after the goal Joel Woznikoski was called for high sticking a Smoke Eater as they tried to return to their bench. When he returned to the ice Woznikoski was immediately called for an elbow on Nick Sandor.
The major penalty gave Trail a 5 on 3 that they took advantage of with some nice passing by Steve Koshey and Scott Jacklin to set Mellor up. Woznikoski was also kicked out of the game for the elbow.
Westside gave Trail fans some anxious moments after Tyler Krause put a puck off of Koshey and in to cut the Smoke Eater lead to two. However, Wilkins was able to ice the game with an empty net goal after some good shot blocking by Trail in their own end.
The win was the first playoff victory for Trail under Coach Jim Ingram and their first at Royal Lepage Place since November 9th, 2007. Game 2 goes Saturday night in West Kelowna. The series then shifts to Trail for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday night at 7pm.
ON THE TRAIL: Trail's forward group has been bit hard by the injury bug. They came into tonight's game with only 10 healthy forwards after injuries to Wade Bennett, Justin Brown, Steve Oursov and Thomas Abenante. Darnell Dyck also left the game and his status is questionable for Game 2 ... Trail out shot the Warriors 39-36 after putting 20 shots on net in the third period ... Sean Nugent had 2 assists and now has 11 points in his last 21 games. That compares to only 6 in the last 40 games. The veteran tough guy is thriving with added responsibility offensively ... Trail went 3 for 9 on the power play while Westside went 0 for 3 ... The Smoke Eaters are hosting an Olympic hockey gold medal game viewing party on Sunday at the Cominco Arena. It's free to get in.
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