Braden Pears played overtime hero, firing home a rebound 28 seconds into 3-on-3 extra time to lift the Smokies to a 2-1 win in Vernon Friday.
Pears converted his second goal as a Smoke Eater after Jesse Knowler fired a low shot from the left wing off the pad of Vipers goaltender Austin Smith, giving Trail its fourth win in five games and first triumph at the Wesbild Centre since 2008.
Vernon got things going early, after TJ Dumonceaux snuck down the right wing, then cut across the crease with a backhand effort, beating Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood for his fifth goal of the season.
Both teams traded chances through the first and second periods, with the Smokies holding a slight edge in shots on goal, until early in the third period when Trail struck back.
Garrett McMullen found himself in possession of the puck in the low slot, but rather than shooting, he fired a pass to linemate Brent Baltus who then wristed a shot past a committed Smith for his 14th goal of the season; the goal equalled Baltus' output for the entire 2011-12 season.
Stanwood stopped 24 of 25 shots to collect his 8th win of the season in goal, including a breakaway save off Michael Roberts early in the second period. Vernon's best chance of the latter half of the game came in the late stages of period three, when Adam Tambellini struck iron after dangling around a Smokies defenseman for a chance from the left wing.
It was a solid away win for Trail, who despite falling behind early stuck to a plan of hard work and pressure in the low areas of the offensive zone. The line of McMullen, Baltus and Scott Davidson created chances while a new-look second unit of Tyler Berkholtz, Austin Adduono and Connor Collett also forced the issue in the offensive zone.
Defensively, the Smokies were strong too after an early hiccup which led to Vernon's only goal. Valik Chichkin continues to impress with a good active stick, while Marley Keca put out one of his best efforts of the season, jumping in offensively when needed while also remaining committed defensively.
My Three Stars:
1. Brent Baltus, Trail
2. Braden Pears, Trail
3. TJ Dumonceaux, Vernon
Up Next: The Smokies go for a third straight away win when they visit Merritt Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:30.
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