Sunday, January 27, 2013

Smoke Eaters 4 Rivermen 3

Braden Pears nicked a late third-period power-play winner, and Lyndon Stanwood made 45 saves as the Smokies rallied in the third period to nip the Langley Rivermen 4-3 Sunday.

Trail overcame three one-goal deficits, and Stanwood stopped BCHL scoring leader Mario Puskarich on a third-period penalty shot to help the Smokies finish 2-1 on their three game Coastal swing and climb to within two points of fourth-place Salmon Arm.

Langley opened the scoring just past the two-minute mark when forward Matt Ustaski banked in a shot from behind the goalline that careened off Stanwood's skate. But the Langley lead was short-lived, as on a power-play two minutes later Jesse Knowler banged home a rebound for his second goal in as many games to level the score.

It remained 1-1 until early in the second, when the Rivermen again found the lead through Mark Whiteley, whose point shot deflected off a Smoke Eaters defender past Stanwood. But again, the Smoke Eaters answered quickly courtesy of Scott Davidson, who converted from the low slot after a nifty, cross-ice give-and-go with captain Garrett McMullen. The 17 year-old Davidson scored in each of this weekend's three games to up his season total to 9, while McMullen came ever so close to giving Trail a 3-2 lead before the break on a breakaway, but was denied by the left goalpost.

Langley again found an early goal in the third period, and it was their prettiest of the night. Forward Evan Anderson picked off a clearing attempt, then cut to the low circle, roofing a power-play back-hander.

The Rivermen would hold the advantage until immediately after the mid-period break. Tyler Berkholtz tried a direct shot on goal off the face-off, and on a second rebound Adam Wheeldon found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.

Langley found a golden opportunity to re-capture the lead at the 12-minute mark of the third when Puskarich was hauled down by Trail's Marley Keca on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty shot. Puskarich, who has scored 30 goals this season, tried to outwait Stanwood from the slot with some nifty stick-handling, but the Trail goaltender stuck out his left foot and denied the Florida native.

The save would prove even bigger when the Smokies were given a late power-play thanks to a too many men call on Langley. Knowler fed Brent Baltus behind the net, who then found a pinching Pears down the right wing. Pears one-timed the puck past Langley netminder Darren Hogg for his second game-winning goal in as many games against the Rivermen this season. The Rivermen earned a late power-play of their own, but were unable to solve Stanwood despite having Hogg pulled for a sixth skater.

Trail's power-play finally clicked, and the fact that it happened so early in the game seemed to spur on the Smoke Eaters. After a night in Alberni Valley were things did not go well on the man-advantage, it was crucial the Smokies find success when given power-play opportunities, and they did, going 2-5 on the afternoon.

Likewise, Stanwood needed to have a solid outing in goal. He was strong, yet relatively untested in relief Saturday, and after an early hiccup was sensational, making several flashy glove saves and showing the type of reaction speed that can be a difference-maker in games for all the right reasons.

My Three Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Evan Anderson, Langley
3. Jesse Knowler, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies don't play again until Tuesday, February 5th, but it's a biggie with the SilverBacks paying one last visit to Cominco Arena. Needless to say the club would love nothing more than a large crowd.

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