Two second-period goals proved the difference as Merritt collected its 8th straight win over the Smokies, 3-1 at Cominco Arena Sunday.
For the second time in as many games, the Smoke Eaters outshot their opponents only to come away empty-handed, as Tyler Steel stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced to help the Cents on to victory.
Merritt opened the scoring 12 minutes in, as Scott Patterson found himself alone in the slot to bang home a rebound off a Jeff Wight rush down the left wing. Wight's initial shot bounced off Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood's toe into the slot, and the Smokie netminder was unable to get his glove on the rebound effort while moving laterally across his crease.
Merritt would add to their lead in quick succession during the middle stages of period two. Kevin Lohan's heavy slapper from the point sailed through traffic into the top corner, then minutes later Sean Maktaak converted a lovely Regan Soquila feed at the side of the goal to give the Centennials a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.
Trail's only goal came late in the third period, as Connor Collett picked the top corner from the right circle to score the Smokies' first and only goal of the weekend.
Stanwood made 24 saves for Trail but was tagged with the loss.
Despite the dearth of goals, Trail were at least on par, if not ahead of the Cents in terms of quality scoring chances. For whatever reason though, puck after puck sailed wide of the goal. Both Scott Davidson and Garrett McMullen had golden opportunities from close range in the first period alone as the Smokies did a terrific job all night of forcing Merritt defensemen into turnovers. Steel's best save came in the opening stages of period two, robbing Tyler Berkholtz on a one-timer after a lightning-quick feed across the offensive zone from linemate Luke Sandler. I get the sense that if this team continues to generate the kind of offensive pressure it did tonight, and to a lesser extent on Friday against Coquitlam, the goals will start to come in bunches.
My Three Stars:
1. Tyler Steel, Merritt
2. Regan Soquila, Merritt
3. Connor Collett, Trail
Up Next: The Smokies will be hungry for points as they embark on a three-game Island and Coastal swing, beginning Friday night in Victoria. Gametime from the Bear Mountain Arena is 7:15 PM.
Parents Weekend: On behalf of the team, thanks to all the parents who visited Trail over the weekend. The Smokies held a post-game social Friday night as well as a breakfast Saturday (thanks too to the fine volunteer chefs at the Spud Shack for sacrificing their morning for a great event). This team wouldn't be on the ice without the dedication of family and friends, and it was great to meet some of the people who help the 2012-13 Smokies become the fine young men they are on, and off the ice.