By Jim Bailey, Trail Times
Trail Smoke Eaters captain Troy Ring scored the winner and Adam Marcoux stopped 30 shots for his first playoff shutout in a 4-0 victory over the West Kelowna Warriors on Monday at LePage Place in West K.
Following a 6-5 overtime win in Game 1 and a 7-2 drubbing in Game 2, Monday’s victory gives the Smokies a three-games-to-none advantage with West Kelowna on the precipice of elimination and Game 4 scheduled for tonight.
“All the players are focused to play our style of game and to play the right way,” said Smoke Eater assistant coach Jessie Leung. “I thought (our play) defensively was our key. We really limited their scoring opportunities and when you’re able to do that to a team, especially in the playoffs, it can be pretty grating on them.”
The Smoke Eaters played “the perfect road game,” said Leung, playing tough on the back end, with a quick transition that resulted in wave after wave of offensive rushes. West Kelowna goalie Nic Amundrud made several good saves early on including a huge glove save off Levi Glasman. But Trail found the back of the net with 4:45 to play, when Ring took a pass from Seth Barton on the right half-wall and fired a shot that somehow eluded Amundrud for a 1-0 first-period lead.
“Between our forecheck and our offensive zone time, and defensively how we played, I think we did an excellent job of not giving them anything to really springboard or get momentum from,” said Leung. “West Kelowna, as we saw throughout the season, was probably the best team of seizing momentum and riding it to success.”
Marcoux stymied the Warriors top shooters at every chance, as the Smokies outshot the home team 11-8 in the first period. The Smoke Eater goalie carried that momentum into the middle frame, and foiled one of the Warriors best chances on the night when Jared Marino burst over the blue line and fired a quick shot at the Trail goal; Marcoux kicked out the pad then got a piece of the rebound as it slipped through his pads and just wide of the net.
“Through the course of the game you want to limit the Grade A chances, or five-alarm saves you ask your goalie to make, but again these are all good teams we have in the playoffs, with very talented players, and they were able to generate a few five-alarm chances and Adam came up big for us.”
As the play transitioned the other way, the Warriors’ Garrett Ewert was called for hooking Andre Ghantous and the Smokies went on the power play. Trail’s Braeden Tuck won the ensuing face off in the West Kelowna zone back to Connor Welsh on the right point and his shot deflected off the thigh of Tyler Ghirardosi and over Amundrud’s glove for a 2-0 lead with 3:36 remaining in the second period.
West Kelowna pushed back and Michael Lombardi had another glorious chance in front, but Marcoux kicked out the left pad and smothered the puck to keep the shutout intact. Trail held a 15-13 edge in shots in the period, and came into the third looking for more.
Spencer McLean scored his second of the playoffs four minutes into the third period, when he walked out of the corner, broke past a wall of defenders and slipped the puck through the pads of the Warrior goalie for a 3-0 lead.
“Overall we’re very happy with the way we played, and with our execution,” said Leung. “If you look at the goals we scored, those are playoff hockey goals, and we’re happy that we stuck to the plan.”
The Warriors pulled their goalie with almost five minutes remaining to try to get back in it, but the Smokies Ross Armour tipped the puck out of the zone to Kale Howarth who delivered the dagger firing the puck into the empty net for the 4-0 win.
Over the three playoff matches, Trail’s top line of Howarth, Armour, and Glasman has led the way with 17 points, but the Smoke Eaters have been productive up and down the line up with all four lines and the defence contributing.
“We’re really happy that everybody is being rewarded for playing the right way,” said Leung. “It’s good to see a team that can get production from four lines, get production from the back end, and defend collectively – it gives us the best opportunity to be successful in the playoffs.”
The Smoke Eaters outshot the Warriors 37-30 with Trail going 1-for-5 on the power play and West K 0-for-3. Discipline has been key for the Smoke Eaters. Since Game 1 when West Kelowna scored four power-play goals on eight chances to send the game to OT, the Warriors have gone 0-for-6 in Games 2 and 3.
“We want to make sure that we give our bumps, that we are physical, and that’s how we play and are successful, but really what we took out was those stick penalties – the slashes, cross-checks, and things like that,” added Leung. “We don’t need that to be successful, that’s not what being physical means, that’s not what being tough in the playoffs means.”
The series resumes tonight in West Kelowna with the puck drop at Royal LePage Place at 7 p.m.