Alex Gillies scored the equalizer and overtime winner to lift the Salmon Arm SilverBacks to a 4-3 extra-time win over the Smokies at Cominco Arena Saturday.
In a game that saw several lead changes, it was the visitors who earned the extra point and moved three points ahead of Trail for the final Interior playoff berth.
Salmon Arm just about took the lead in the opening minute when Josh Bowes was robbed by Adam Todd from point-blank range, and the Smokies took full advantage of the momentum generated by the save, going ahead 5:01 into the first period when Adam Wheeldon retrieved his own dump-in and snapped a wrist shot over the pad of SilverBacks netminder Angus Redmond.
Trail outshot the SilverBacks 15-7 in the opening frame, and enjoyed a lengthy 5-on-3 early in period two but could not extend the one-goal lead.
It was then Salmon Arm's turn to take full advantage with two goals in a 29-second span late in period two; the first off a Ryan Schwalbe re-direct, the second on a rebound put-away by fellow rookie Jordan Levesque to give the visitors a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
The Smokies have won 7 times this season when trailing after fourty minutes, and seemed poised to find an eighth come-from-behind win when Garrett McMullen tied the game early in the third on a long-range wrist shot that may have taken a deflection off a SilverBacks defenseman.
Several minutes later, Trail found the lead again when Scott Davidson fired home his sixth goal of the year through traffic.
But this time, the Smoke Eaters couldn't hold the lead. Salmon Arm sophomore Gillies converted into an open net after Brayden Sherbinin's point blast caromed to him off the end glass. Gillies would score the game-winner 2:24 into overtime after being sprung in alone on Todd by defenseman Shane Hanna, who returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension.
Needless to say, the result is a bitter blow to the Smoke Eaters, who like last night played well enough to earn more than one point. And after a weekend that sees a gap between fourth and fifth grow to three points, the task of earning a post-season berth just got a lot tougher for this club, with only twelve games remaining in the regular season.
My Three Stars:
1. Alex Gillies, Salmon Arm
2. Scott Davidson, Trail
3. Ryan Schwalbe, Salmon Arm
Up Next: The Smokies hit the road for three games next weekend, beginning Friday night in Nanaimo. From there, Trail travels to Alberni Valley and Langley before playing seven of their final nine games on home ice.