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Jim Bailey – Trail Times

Trail Smoke Eaters forward Braeden Tuck scored the winner and a pair of goals from Kale Howarth lifted the Smoke Eaters to a 5-4 victory over the Merritt Centennials on Saturday night at the Cominco Arena.

The Smokies battled back from a Centennials 3-2 first period lead to earn their 26th win of the season and keep pace with Penticton and Wenatchee in the Interior Division race.
Tuck’s goal with 11:48 to play in the third period proved to be the winner. The Calgary native took a pass from Tyler Ghirardosi down low and beat Cents goalie Jacob Berger between the pads for a 5-3 Smokies lead.

The win keeps the Smokies tied with Wenatchee for third place in the division, a point behind the Vees, who Trail tied 2-2 on Friday, and five points behind league-leading Vernon Vipers with 61 points.

The Centennials were coming off a big 5-0 shut out victory over the Vipers on Friday and struck early against the Smoke Eaters. Just three minutes into the first, the Cents’ Frazer Dodd won the face off in the Smoke Eater zone, pushing the puck to winger Mathew Kopperud, who jumped on it and fired high on Trail goalie Tanner Marshall for a 1-0 Merritt lead.

Carter Jones tied it 92 seconds later when he took a pass in the slot from Dane Dubois and wristed it by Berger. However, Kopperud put the Cents up 2-1 when he burst into the Smokies zone, walked around the defenceman and beat Marshall glove side at 13:32.

Howarth scored his first of the night to tie it at two, banging in a rebound on a Levi Glasman shot with just under four minutes remaining. But Merritt’s Zach Court restored the lead with 1:07 to play in the opening period breaking in a 2-on-1 and keeping for his eighth of the season.

Trail came out with Adam Marcoux between the pipes in the second period, and dominated the Centennials. Howarth netted his 22nd of the season on the power play, going five-hole on Berger to tie it at three midway through the middle frame, with the assist to Ross Armour.

Trail outshot Merritt 13-6 in the period but the game remained deadlocked until the third. Troy Ring scored a short-handed goal at 7:31 to give Trail its first lead of the game, and just over a minute later Tuck made it 5-3.

Merritt’s Nicholas Wicks finally beat Marcoux with 1:33 left on the clock, scoring a power play goal for the 5-4 final.

Trail outshot Merritt 31-27 and both teams went 1-for-3 on the power play. Trail’s Howarth was the game’s first star, Armour (3A) second star, and Jones (1G,1A) third star.

On Friday, overtime solved nothing as the Smoke Eaters skated to a 2-2 tie with the Penticton Vees at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Smokies goalie Adam Marcoux was stellar again in net stopping 41 shots and earning first-star honours in the tight match. Blaine Caton gave Trail a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 13:04 of the first, and the score remained that way until Penticton’s Dakota Boutin tied it seven minutes into the third.

Carter Jones restored the Trail lead at 11:02 but Michael Campoli tied it with 4:38 to play. The Vees outshot Trail 4-1 in two five-minute overtime periods, and 43-21 overall. The Smoke Eaters were 2-for-3 on the power play and a perfect 0-for-4 on the penalty kill.

Trail’s next game goes on Friday when they host the West Kelowna Warriors at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.