Jesse Knowler marked his BCHL debut in style with a pair of goals as the Smokies upended the West Kelowna Warriors 3-1 in front of over a thousand fans at Cominco Arena Friday.
In his first game with Trail, the 18 year-old potted the game-winner late in period two, then added an empty-net insurance marker as the Smokies started their home schedule on the right foot against a division rival.
It was West Kelowna who got things going in the first period, though. The Warriors moved the puck around the perimeter while on the man-advantage before Marcus Basara fired a one-timer home just shy of the 8-minute mark to put the visitors ahead 1-0.
Trail would answer back on a power-play of their own in the opening minute of the second, though, as a Shane Poulsen point shot took a deflection, then landed on Brent Baltus' stick. The Nanaimo product tucked his first goal of the season past Warriors goaltender Garrett Rockafellow for Trail's first power-play goal in four games.
After an open second period, Knowler would stake Trail ahead 2 minutes before the intermission. His wrister from the low slot trickled into the back of the net.
The third period saw the Warriors enjoy a decided advantage through the first 13 or 14 minutes, as West Kelowna peppered Smokies goaltender Lyndon Stanwood with 17 shots in all in the final frame. Stanwood, though, was terrific, holding the visitors at bay and earning the number one star with a 35-save performance.
With home fans watching for the first time in this regular season, the Smokies put out their best effort so far of the young campaign. The top line of Baltus, Scott Davidson and Garrett McMullen were dangerous all night, as was a new-look unit of Knowler, Tyler Berkholtz and newcomer Luke Sandler, who was robbed by Rockafellow in the first period on a breakaway. Surely like last Friday's comeback in Prince George, tonight's game will serve as a positive learning experience for Trail's younger players, and a confidence boost for the whole team knowing they'll face the Warriors three more times between now and October 5th.
My 3 Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Marcus Basara, West Kelowna
3. Brent Baltus, Trail
I should point out Knowler's game-winning goal was initially credited to Adam Wheeldon in-rink, but was changed later in the game without me realizing. Safe to say, Knowler deserves at the very least an honourable mention for his effort tonight.
Up Next: The Smokies hit the road tomorrow morning for a visit with Trail's Craig Martin and the Vernon Vipers. Gametime from Wesbild Centre is 7:00 pm.