Merritt, BC - Nick Sandor's back to back goals late in the third period put Trail ahead for good in a 6-3 win over Merritt. The goals gave Sandor 30 on the season and set up the Smokies for a first round series with Westside.
Trail got up 2-0 in the first on goals by Ben Matthews and Scott Jacklin. Alex Valenti responded and cut Trail's lead in half.
Neither team was able to find the net in the second period despite both Curtis Tonello and Nick Sandor hitting the post.
The Smokies extended their lead early in the third period on the Sean Nugent power play goal. He banged in the rebound of a Matthews shot for the only PP marker in the game. Trail went 1 for 5 on the man advantage and killed off all 7 Centennial opportunities.
Matt Wilkins hit another post for Trail before Merritt quickly answered with goals by Soquilla and MacMillan to tie the game at 3 with half a period to play.
Both teams had their opportunities to take a late lead before Sandor's goal gave Trail a 4-3 lead. He followed it up with an empty net marker for his 30th of the year. Jacklin also scored his second of the game into an empty net.
Kiefer Smiley stopped 44 of the 47 shots he faced for the win while Hamilton made 35 saves for Merritt. Matthews added 2 assists to his goal while Paul Mailey chipped in 3 helpers.
The Trail win combined with Quesnel's victory over Williams Lake settled the playoff picture in the Interior. The Millionaires will take on Salmon Arm, Trail plays Westside and Merritt matches up with Penticton.
ON THE TRAIL: Justin Borwn, Steve Oursov, Thomas Abenante and Mitch Kaufmann all missed the game due to injury. Oursov is out for the rest of the season. Tommy Rizzardo played his second straight game as a forward ... Mellor, Strukoff and Tonello also had assists for the Smokies ... The win was Trail's second straight against Merritt after losing the first 5 games in the season series ... The next action for Trail is Sunday night in Penticton. The game won't have any impact on the standings but it is important for Smokies forward Wade Bennett's brother Beau. The Vees sniper is 4 points behind Salmon Arm forward Mark Zengerle for top spot in the BCHL scoring race ... In the KIJHL playoffs on Saturday night the Beaver Valley Nitehawls got 29 saves from former Smoke Eater Paul Barclay in a 3-1 win over Nelson. Castlegar beat Spokane 8-4. The Rebels lead that series 2-0 while the Nitehawks and Leafs are tied at 1 game each.
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