It was a night of diligent defense, crazy bounces and scintillating saves.
The Smoke Eaters scored three unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 win over the Centennials, avenging last Saturday’s 5-1 loss in Merritt.
Rookie Chase Stefanek brought the 1,782 Cominco Arena fans to their feet, snapping home a low shot from the left-wing circle under the pads of Merritt goalie Karlis Mezsargs to cap a dominant opening 11 minutes for the home side.
But the Centennials would strike back about a minute and a half later when Jaxson Murray finished a three-way passing play on an odd-man rush. That goal came moments after Christian Kim was foiled on a great opportunity at the side of a briefly wide open Centennials net.
The visitors would take the lead late in the opening frame when a CT Larochelle shot from the right wing that was going wide went in off the stick of a Smoke Eater covering the slot.
The Centennials seized the momentum with some quality looks early in the second period but were turned back by Trail goalie Ryan Parker. His best save was an across-the-net scramble to rob Ray Hamlin who was set up point-blank at the far side of the net, preventing Merritt from opening a two-goal lead.
Shortly after that, Matheiu Cobetto-Roy took advantage of a mistake by Meszargs to tie the game.
The Latvian goalie fanned on his attempt to clear the puck from behind the net, and Cobetto-Roy banked his 21st goal of the season off the netminder who was scrambling to get back into position.
That momentum changing moment led to the go-ahead goal about eight-and-a-half minutes later when a swarming Adam Parsons slid home a low five-hole backhander ending a pressure packed shift.
The Smoke Eaters completed a key penalty kill early in the third period and posted a power play goal just past the 14 minute mark.
Max Potvin drilled a screen-shot slapper from the point into the top of the net. Potvin’s eighth goal of the season stood up as the winner, but not before the Centennials made things interesting.
Michael Felsing fired a sharp-angle shot in off the far post with Mezsargs on the bench for a sixth-attacker with 1:12 to go in regulation, just after the Smokies missed on a couple of chances at the open net.
But Adam Marshall, who jammed a shot off the outside of the post on one of those attempts, didn’t miss a second time. He slid in a pass from Jason Stefanek who hustled the length of the ice to steal the puck from the prone set of Centennials who were denied the tying goal with 19 seconds remaining.
Trail was 1-2 on the power play and killed off Merritt’s lone advantage. The first power-play of the game came late in the second period after three consecutive offsetting penalties created four-on-four situations.
Trail outshot the visitors 33-28.
The Smokies host West Kelowna Sat night, with the Warriors coming off a 2-1 overtime loss Fri night in Cranbrook.
Cranbrook’s Jacob Fletcher scored the winning goal with 16-seconds left in the extra-period, making a winner out of goalie Carter Capton who stopped 39 shots.
The Smokies are looking for their first win of the season over the Warriors who have won both games in the Okanagan and skated away with a 5-4 overtime win in Trail on the second night of the regular season.
The Warriors trail first-place Penticton by three points, while the Smokies are three points back of the fourth-place Vernon Vipers in the Interior Conference.
Opening face-off is set for 7 o’clock and tickets are still available at Tickets.TrailSmokeEaters.com.