Richard Sabourin's seeing-eye slapper broke a 3-3 tie nine minutes into the third period as Merritt doubled a short-handed Trail squad Saturday in the Nicola Valley.
Missing five regulars, including leading scorer Brent Baltus and captain Garrett McMullen, the Smokies were unable to match the Centennials' energy level late, falling by a 6-3 score for the second consecutive night.
The Centennials opened the scoring just past the 3 minute mark, when Sam Johnson tapped in a ricochet off the end boards that surprised Smokies starter Lyndon Stanwood.
But Trail responded with two goals of their own, one on a Scott Davidson deflection, the second off a long rebound by Merritt netminder Tyler Steel that fell to the stick of Tyler Berkholtz, who slotted his 7th of the season.
As quickly as Trail gained the lead, it was lost in the late stages of period one, on goals from Derek Huisman and Jeff Wight that gave Merritt a 3-2 edge after 20 minutes.
An energetic second period would see Trail equalize late, as on a power-play Braden Pears cut toward the net from the left point, only to have the puck bounce to Luke Sandler at the side of the goal. Sandler enjoyed a three-point night.
The Cents simply found an extra gear in period three, outshooting Trail 10-5 and finding the go-ahead goal when Sabourin's point blast floated through heavy traffic in front of Stanwood.
Sebastien Pare and Huisman would round out the scoring, as Merritt won for the fifth time this season against the Smokies. The loss, combined with out-of-town results, means Trail now sits four points shy of the final Interior playoff berth.
My Three Stars:
1. Derek Huisman, Merritt
2. Richard Sabourin, Merritt
3. Scott Davidson, Trail
Up Next: the Smokies visit Vernon Wednesday at 7pm. Needless to say, they're all must-win games from here on in.
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