West Kelowna, BC - Grayson Downing scored a third period hat trick to lead the Westside Warriors to a 4-2 come from behind victory over Trail in game 2 of their first round series. The best of seven is now tied at one.
The Smoke Eaters had a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes thanks to some early goals and strong goaltending. Kiefer Smiley was the biggest reason for the lead as he stopped all 30 shots he faced in the first two periods. In the end Smiley made 40 saves in a second star performance.
Sam Mellor opened the scoring for the Smokies on a blazing wrist shot from the slot set up by Nick Sandor. Trail's top line struck again later in the frame when Scott Jacklin fired a puck that appeared to change direction past Jebson.
The Smoke Eaters hung on to their early lead despite appearing quite fatigued in the second. Westside was able to roll all four of their lines partially thanks to a second straight strong performance from the unit of Morrisson, Sissons and French. However, the Smoke Eaters were really only able to muster 3 lines.
Recent injuries to Wade Bennett, Justin Brown and Steve Oursov have kept them all out of game action while Darnell Dyck saw very limited duty after leaving game 1 in the third period. Their status for game 3 is unclear.
Westside got on the board early in the third period on a nice play by Tyler Krause down low to escape a check and feed the puck out front to Downing. Smiley got a piece of it and the puck went off the post and in to cut Trail's lead to 1.
The Warriors evened the score a few minutes later when Max French tipped in a Matthew Mather shot.
The tie seemed to put a little extra spring in Trail's steps. The tired club took some energy from seeing their lead slip away and created some very good opportunities including a 2 on 0 for Mellor and Sandor that Kevin Jebson was able to turn aside in spectacular fashion. He stopped 26 of 28 Smokies shots in the victory.
Westside got a late winner from Downing as he wrapped around from behind the net and banged in the puck after a couple of whacks at it. The 17 year old then iced the game with an empty netter.
The series turns to Trail on Monday and Tuesday with the Smoke Eaters now holding home ice advantage because of the split on the weekend. The start time for those games has been changed to 7pm.
ON THE TRAIL: Both teams were unable to score on the man advantage. Trail was 0 for 4 while Westside was 0 for 3. The Warriors are a combined 0 for 6 in the series and have only scored once on the power play against Trail in the last 5 games between the two clubs ... The game was quite similar to the second game of last year's first round series in that Trail got the early lead and held on for much of the contest thanks to strong goaltending. The Warriors won that game in overtime on a Jordan Gagne goal. The difference is that this season Trail was able to put forth a much stronger effort in game 1 and claim a split on the road ... The goaltender last year for Trail was Paul Barclay who took Beaver Valley to a game seven against Nelson in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs. The Leafs won the deciding game 3-2 tonight in what was an absolute classic battle. Congrats to both teams on their effort and to the Nitehawks on a fine season for a very young club. Perhaps Trail could get a boost from a couple of Nitehawk APs on Monday ... The Smoke Eaters are hosting a viewing party for the gold medal men's hockey game later today (Sunday) at the Cominco Arena. It'll be free to get in with the game on the big screen and the concessions open. Puck drop is 12pm.
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