By Jim Bailey | Trail Times
The surging Merritt Centennials defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters on Tuesday in a 5-3 victory at the Cominco Arena.
Merritt has Trail’s number this year. Following a Trail OT win in their opening match of the season, Merritt has won three straight games from the Smoke Eaters in the past month including a 4-0 victory in their last visit on Dec. 2.
For the third straight game, Cents’ goalie Jacob Berger was the biggest roadblock holding the Smoke Eaters scoreless for 111 minutes, and making several big saves through the first two periods on Tuesday to keep the Smokies off the board.
The Cents took a 3-0 lead into the third period with goals from Matthew Kopperud, affiliate player Joel Patsey, and Mathieu Gosselin despite being outshot 25-21 through two periods.
The Smoke Eaters recent acquisition, Mack Byers, scored his first goal for Trail, finally beating Berger with nine minutes left on the clock when he converted a Ryan Murphy shot and favourable bounce off the back board for the Smokies first tally to cut the lead to 3-1.
However, Zach Zorn netted the winner, jumping on another erratic carom and firing the puck into an open cage to make it 4-1 Cents with 2:31 remaining. The Smokies answered, however, just 13 seconds later when Daine Dubois popped in a Blake Sidoni pass to cut the lead to two.
After Trail pulled goalie Adam Marcoux for the extra man, Merritt forward Bradley Coca scored into an empty net with just over a minute left in regulation. But the scoring wasn’t done, as a determined effort by Spencer McLean set up Smoke Eater defenceman Ring for his second tally of the season with 54 seconds remaining.
The win is Merritt’s fifth in six games and puts the Cents at 14-14-2-1 and in sixth place in the Interior Division, while the Smokies, at 20-11-2-0, have just one win in seven and sit in fourth in the Interior.
The Smokies play the Nanaimo Clippers at home Friday at 7 p.m. and the Vipers in Vernon on Saturday.
Smoke Signals: Trail forward Ross Armour scored Canada West’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to the U.S. on Tuesday night, as Canada West finished the round-robin at 0-2. The Rossland native pitched in on two of the three Team Canada West goals, earning an assist in Canada West’s 5-2 loss to the Czech Rep. to open the series.
Team Canada West defeated Team Canada East 4-3 in the quarter final match on Wednesday, with Ross Armour scoring both the equalizer and the overtime winning goal. The U.S. played Switzerland in the other quarter final match up with the winners going on to face the top seeds Russia and the Czech Rep.