Luke Sandler scored twice, including a highlight-reel short-handed goal, and Adam Todd made 35 saves as the Smokies shut out the Clippers 4-0 in Nanaimo Friday.
Trail put together one of its most complete efforts of the 2012-13 season, and with the victory moved to within a point of the fourth-place Salmon Arm SilverBacks in the Interior division standings.
The Smokies shot out of the gate, opening the scoring before the five-minute mark when Sandler fired a long-range shot, then lifted his own rebound over the pad of Nanaimo starter Jayson Argue for his 17th goal of the season. Trail was outshot 15-14 in the opening frame with Todd forced into a pair of tough saves, including a far-post robbery of Brendan Taylor with his right pad.
The Clippers thought they'd tied the game late in period one when leading scorer Kyle Kramer put a backhand past Todd, but Marley Keca saved the puck from crossing the line, and the play was ruled "no-goal" by referee Adam Griffiths despite the red light flickering on and Griffiths then engaging in a conference with his linesmen and the goal judge at the end of the period.
Trail broke the game open thanks to a 19-second flurry early in the second that netted two goals. First, Braden Pears' centring pass from the left corner was kicked in by Nanaimo defenseman Josh Bryan, then Scott Davidson deflected Braeden Jones' point shot through Argue's legs, chasing the Clippers keeper who was replaced by Derek Dun.
Sandler put a capper on the scoring midway through a third period that tested the patience of the home side. While short-handed, Sandler accepted a pass from Keca at his own blue line, toe-dragged around Bryan at the Clipper line only to stride in, deke, and lift a backhand shot over an outstretched Dun, off the cross-bar, and into the net. The goal moves Sandler into second on Trail's roster in goals this season with 18, three behind leader Brent Baltus, who chipped in with an assist tonight on his return to the Harbour City.
Todd was poised, confident, and let out few rebounds that caused any trouble for himself or his defensemen in collecting his seventh win of the season. Trail also played an extremely responsible defensive game, accented terrifically by an 8-blocked shot performance from 20 year-old Bennett Hambrook. This, combined with the Smoke Eaters' ability to kill penalties, contributed to arguably the tidiest defensive effort from this team this season.
Highlight of the Night: I picked out Sandler's short-handed goal from the FAST Hockey archive, feel free to take a look-see right here.
My Three Stars:
1. Adam Todd, Trail
2. Luke Sandler, Trail
3. Bennett Hambrook, Trail
Up Next: Todd, Keca and Tyler Berkholtz return to face their former club tomorrow as Trail visits the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Saturday's game also marks a return for Baltus to the rink in which he played the bulk of his minor hockey. After a terrific team effort tonight, the Smokies should be full of confidence entering a building that has historically proven tough for visiting teams.