Zach Urban's power-play point shot held up as the difference as the Victoria Grizzlies won a close one over the Smokies, 4-3 at Bear Mountain Arena Friday.
The Victoria captain fired a hard slapshot into the top corner of the net to break a 3-3 tie with just under 3 minutes remaining in the second period, while Michael Stiliadis made 21 saves to earn the victory.
Trail struck first at the 14:16 mark as Brent Baltus took advantage of an horrendous line change, breaking in alone for his team-leading 7th goal of the year. But Victoria tied the game less than two minutes later as Ontario import David Mazurek banged a rebound past Smokies goaltender Lyndon Stanwood.
Baltus would put the Smokies ahead on a wrister from the left circle with 16 seconds left in the opening frame, after a borderline hit from new Grizzlies defenseman Chris Albertini brought the Trail bench to a boil.
Albertini, a 19 year-old making his BCHL debut, charged in from centre-ice and walloped Trail forward Jesse Knowler inside his defensive zone, then bested defenseman Braeden Jones in a scrap after the 18 year-old came to the defense of his teammate, who was not in possession of the puck when he was hit. Neither Knowler nor Jones returned to the game, and Albertini was assessed two minutes for charging by referee Mike Christians.
The Smokies would relinquish their lead 1:30 into the second period on the first of two Grizzlies power-play goals. Gerry Fitzgerald tapped home from the doorstep after defenseman Nolan DeJong threaded the needle on a gorgeous cross-ice feed shortly after Stiliadis robbed Trail captain Garrett McMullen on a short-handed break. Fitzgerald would add a second after picking off a Stanwood clearing attempt in the offensive zone at 11:33, before the Smokies tied the game at 3-3 on sharp wrister from Luke Sandler 18 seconds later.
Urban put the home side ahead late in the second, with neither team able to break through for any further goals (despite a third-period post from Scott Davidson) the rest of the way.
Much like the games last weekend, Trail deserved more from Friday's game. Continued consistent chance-generation in the offensive zone paid dividends tonight, and will continue to in the future. And despite being down two skaters for most of the game, the Smokies continued to work hard all over the ice. Next Friday's game between these two teams at Cominco Arena is sure to be a barn-burner.
My Three Stars:
1. Gerry Fitzgerald, Victoria
2 . Brent Baltus, Trail
3. Nolan DeJong, Victoria
Up Next: The Smokies will spend the day in Victoria before the short road trip to Duncan for a matchup with the Capitals tomorrow night. Game time is 7 pm.
Techno-Illogical: My apologies for those of you trying to tune in on Ustream tonight. A connectivity issue kept the audio feed from being operational in Victoria tonight but I've tested my equipment here at the hotel and things seem to be ok.