An early second-period goal from Gerry Fitzgerald proved the winner as Prince George won the opener of a two-game weekend set over the Smokies, 4-1 at Cominco Arena.
After forcing a turnover in the Trail zone, Myles Fitzgerald set up his brother in the slot for his ninth goal of the season, a sharp wrister past Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea; the goal broke a 1-1 tie just 47 seconds into the second period.
Prince George withstood some early pressure from the Smokies and opened the scoring six minutes into the first period. A hefty bounce off the end boards landed at Zack Rassell's feet, he outwaited D'Andrea to backhand home his 3rd goal in the BCHL this season.
Trail replied after a Tanner Clarkson wrister snuck through Spruce Kings goaltender Ty Swabb.
Fitzgerald's goal held up until Jujhar Khaira benefitted from another lively bounce midway through the third period. He collected a ricochet from the end glass and snapped home a power-play marker to extend PG's lead. The 17 year-old would add an empty-netter to round out the scoring.
To me, the difference was Trail's inability to penetrate a big, if not overly physical, Prince George blue line. The Spruce Kings kept Trail to the perimeter (much like one game in particular the two sides played earlier this year up north, an 8-0 PG win on October 14th), and while Swabb played well, I wouldn't have considered him overly tested. D'Andrea put out another good performance between the pipes for Trail, and PG benefitted with some unexpected open space on each of the three shots that beat the Smokies netminder.
Khaira and Smokies captain Clayton McEwan had it in for each other all night, including a first-period fight (that I might add was over about as quickly as it started thanks to some speedy linesmen). Watch that battle as the weekend continues.
Up Next: the two sides go at it again Saturday night at Cominco as Trail continues a four-game homestand.
KIJHL Tonight: Two goals from Patrick Martens paced the Nelson Leafs to a 6-2 win in Castlegar to open up a home-and-home series that serves as a preview for round one of the post season. It's the first time in the last five meetings between the two teams that the home side has failed to secure two points.