Connor Brown Maloski – 2 goals – winning goal and clinching goal.
The Trail Smoke Eaters skated to a hard fought 3-1 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs at the Cominco Arena on Friday night. Combined with losses by Vernon, Merritt and West Kelowna the Smokies now find themselves in second place, 2 points ahead of the Vipers. Merritt, who visit the Smokies on Saturday are in third place with 26 points and West Kelowna are in fourth place with 25 points. Salmon Arm is bringing up the rear with 21 points. With the exception of West Kelowna all teams have played 27 games. West Kelowna has played 26. The season is shaping up to be a dog fight to the end with only 6 points separating 6th place from 2nd place. The Penticton Vees are solidly in first place with 44 points.
The Smokies have proven they can skate with the best teams in the league and Friday was no exception. The Chiefs are a solid second place in the Mainland division, just 2 points behind the Wenatchee Wild.
The Chiefs opened the scoring in the game as Cole Poliziani scored a power play marker at 11:11. Smokies, Ross Armour replied with a power play goal of their own at 14:23 with assists going Kale Howarth and Mitchell Stapley. There was no scoring in the second period setting up an exciting third period.
The Smokies out-shot the Chiefs in the first two periods 27 – 19 and survived a solid attack by Chilliwack in the third as they fired 18 shots at Smokies’s goaltender Zach Dyment. However, the only two goals scored in the third were by the Smokies. Connor Brown Maloski scored a highlight reel goal on a breakway at 8:21 of the third period. It proved to to be the winning goal. Mitchell Barker and Ross Armour assisted on the marker. At 19:50 Connor sealed the win for the Smokies with an empty net goal, as he banked a shot off the boards from the Smokie end that found the Chiefs net. It was Maloski’s 5th goal of the season and second of the game and earned him first star honors for the night.
Zach Dyment with a solid performance in the Smokie net was named second star making 36 saves on 37 shots. Ross Armour with one goal was named third star. Fortis Energy Player of the Game was Blaine Caton, who, earlier in the game was hit in the face with the puck but returned to finish the game. Kale Howarth collected his 20th assist of the season and Mitchell Stapley his 14th.
Smokies coaching staff commented, “The boys came out and had a good start, something Head Coach/GM, Cam Keith challenged them on prior to the game.” “We never took our foot off the gas, effort wise.” “We thought that it was our most sound game defensively this season.” “We are stressing to the team that they show up in the same form tomorrow night against Merritt.”
Smokies host the Merritt Centennials on Saturday night at the Cominco Arena. Game time is 7:00 PM with doors opening at 6:15.