Scott Davidson's deflected wrist shot early in the third period stood up as the game-winner, and Adam Todd made 27 saves as the Smokies moved back into a tie for the fourth Interior playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over Merritt Wednesday.
It was a goaltenders' duel, with Todd and Centennials netminder Russell Sanderson shutting down shooters all night in a game that easily could have seen either side score a mitt-full of goals.
Merritt shot out of the gate, outshooting Trail 10-3 through the first half and almost capitalizing twice thanks to a pair of grade "A" opportunities from Payton Schaefer, but it was the Smokies who found the opening goal 4:27 from the end of the first period thanks to Mitch Foyle's seventh goal of the season. Foyle accepted a crisp, cross-ice pass from Marley Keca and snapped a shot over Sanderson's shoulder from the right circle.
The goal gave Trail life, and they could well have been ahead by more than one goal were it not for a post from captain Garrett McMullen and a Sanderson rob-job on Riley McDougall from in close. The Smokies took the 1-0 lead to the break despite being outshot 11-10.
McMullen almost scored again early in a scoreless second on a breakaway, and Sanderson made the save of the night later in the frame after Jesse Knowler was sprung in alone, sliding left to right across his crease and kicking out at the Smokies forward's backhander. Trail outshot the Centennials 14-7.
Davidson's goal came 3:42 into the third period, after he received a healthy carom off the side boards. The 17 year-old fanned on his first effort, but then fired a shot toward the goal that went off Merritt defenseman Richard Sabourin and in.
The Smokies just about made it 3-0 on an Austin Adduono breakaway that was parried away by Sanderson, and moments later the Centennials found the board on a deflection by Silvan Harper. The 20 year-old crashed the net and re-directed Brent Fletcher's right-wing shot past Todd with just over 6 minutes remaining.
But despite a third-period penalty-kill, and strong pressure from Merritt in the dying minutes, Trail held strong, collecting their second successive victory over the Centennials on home ice, and their 23rd win overall. Trail now sits level with Salmon Arm with 48 points in the Interior standings, though the SilverBacks do have two games in hand.
The Smokies showed considerable nerves in the opening half of period one, but the Foyle goal seemed to really settle the club down. Both goaltenders were absolutely terrific and were forced to make numerous top-notch saves, with (from my vantage point at least) the Smokies enjoying a few slightly better chances thanks in large part to the number of breakaways they were able to find. Both teams were disciplined again as well, with only 2 power-plays issued in the entire game.
My Three Stars:
1. Adam Todd, Trail
2. Russell Sanderson, Merritt
3. Mitch Foyle, Trail
Up Next: each of Trail's final four regular-season games are against the Penticton Vees, the first of which comes Saturday night at Cominco Arena. Game time is 7:30.