A character win, and surely a huge confidence boost for the Smokies tonight in Merritt.
Trail rode five unanswered goals to defeat the Centennials in their home opener 5-3, and opened up this weekend's two-game mini-swing on a positive note.
The Cents jumped out in front just 15 seconds into the second period on an unassisted tally from Brandon Bruce, and Silvan Harper would add another, his second in two games against the Smokies, before the minute was up. Merritt went up 3-0 after Bill Marshall scored on a power-play.
But the Smokies fought back, and used special teams to their advantage.
Adam Boytinck and Brent Baltus would each put home power-play goals before the period was up, and Nick Wong would even the score on another power-play 53 seconds into period three.
That set the stage for Clayton Chessa, who scored 6:10 into the final frame to put Trail ahead. The 20 year-old added an empty-netter, his third goal in two games and fourth of the season, to seal the deal on the Smokies' first victory of the season.
Matt Larose collected the win between the pipes, while Lino Chimienti suffered the loss for Merritt.
In the short term, hard to argue tonight's win is a giant confidence boost for the Smoke Eaters. The veterans led by example scoring four of the five goals, while Larose's first win of the season after a tough opening weekend for the whole club is nothing to sniff at.
Looking at a longer-term view, the Smokies can put together a three-game unbeaten streak with a positive result in Penticton tomorrow. The South Okanagan Events Centre is a tough place to visit at the best of times, but Trail put themselves in the best possible position heading into tomorrow night's game with a great finish tonight.
Up Next: As mentioned, the Smokies visit Penticton tomorrow for their first taste of the Vees (7:00, South Okanagan Events Centre). I personally can't wait to hop in the car tomorrow morning to make the trip to the Okanagan, especially in light of what went down this evening in the Nicola Valley.
Out Of Town: Speaking of those Vees, former Smokie Travis St. Denis scored twice and added an assist in Penticton's 9-2 rout of Prince George tonight. It was the Vees' home opener.
KIJHL Tonight: Connor Beauchamp collected his first KIJHL shutout as Castlegar blanked Kimberley 1-0 at the Complex. Stuart Walton scored the only goal 6 minutes into the first period. Beaver Valley continued their torrid start, blasting Osoyoos 6-2 in Fruitvale. Chris Derochie and Justin Niminiken scored twice while Dallas Calvin added an assist. Nelson defeated Grand Forks 11-1.