Jones Plays Hero As Smoke Eaters Close Regular Season With Victory
The Trail Smoke Eaters capped off their regular season in style as Carter Jones played the hero in a 5-4 overtime victory against the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday night at the Trail Memorial Centre.
The Smoke Eaters opened the period with an impressive jump and were rewarded on the scoreboard with Max Kryski giving the home side a 1-0 lead in a packed Trail Memorial Centre. Luke Gallagher played the puck down to the right goal line where Hayden Rowan snapped a pass to the front of the net as Kryski tapped in his 6th goal of the season and an early lead for the Smoke Eaters.
As the period went along, Trail continued to build momentum and take a 2-0 lead on the power play at the 15:40 mark of the opening period. Diarmad DiMurro played a pass across to the left point where Chase Stevenson sent the puck to the glove side as Owen Ozar deflected in his 14th goal of the season to give the Smoke Eaters a 2-0 lead on the power play.
Plenty of scoring came in bunches in the last ten minutes of the middle stanza and it was Mike Hardman who kicked off the scoring frenzy with his 5th goal of the season against the Smoke Eaters. Hardman took a Trail turnover in the neutral zone and barreled down the right side, stopping up in the right face-off circle and beating Smoke Eaters goaltender Donovan Buskey to the blocker side to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Just 2:05 later, Hayden Rowan pushed the Smoke Eaters lead back to a pair of goals at the 12:08 mark of the middle stanza. Kent Johnson took the puck behind the net and sent a no-look behind the back pass to Rowan on the blocker side as he tallied his 17th goal of the season past Warriors goaltender Brock Baier for a 3-1 advantage.
The Warriors were quick to answer once again with Bennett Norlin finishing off a solid pass from below the goal line to cut the lead to one goal once more. Garrett Worth took a loose puck from behind the net and sent the pass in front for Norlin as he tapped it in through the legs of Buskey to give West Kelowna their second goal of the night and make it a 3-2 score.
Fitting that on a night where the Smoke Eaters honour their 20-year-old players, the most veteran of them all finds the back of the net as Spencer McLean gave Trail a 4-2 lead. Chase Stevenson sent a pass from the right to left as McLean caught the puck in stride and snapped a shot past the glove hand of Baier for his 7th goal of the season and extending the Smoke Eaters lead to two goals.
The Warriors rallied in the final regulation period as Chase Dubois forced the game to a one-goal contest once again at the 10:32 mark of the 3rd frame. Dubois curled the puck in the right face-off circle and wired a wrist shot over the glove side of Buskey to make it a 4-3 Smoke Eaters lead.
Late in the 3rd period, Max Bulawka got the game on even terms with a goal at the 18:13 mark of the frame to force overtime. Bulawka took an Anthony Bishop pass and beat Buskey on the glove side to tie the game at 4-4 into the extra frame.
Carter Jones showed his flair for the dramatic as he tallied his second overtime winning goal in as many weeks as he buried his 17th goal of the season to give Trail a 5-4 victory. Trevor Zins led the rush down the right wing as he passed to the slot for Jones who rifled a snap shot past the glove side to hand the Smoke Eaters their 23rd win of the season.
Donovan Buskey turned aside 34 of the 38 shots he faced in the game in his 5th win of the season while Brock Baier stopped 38 of the 43 shots thrown his way in his 9th loss of the season.
FINAL SCORE: 5-4 Smoke Eaters (OT)
SHOTS ON GOAL: 43-38 Smoke Eaters
SMOKE EATERS PP: 2/3
SMOKE EATERS PK: 2/2
1) Hayden Rowan (1-1-2)
2) Carter Jones (1-0-1)
3) Max Bulawka (1-0-1)
Fortis Energy Player of the Game: Chase Stevenson (0-2-2)
The Smoke Eaters will head to the postseason as the #7 seed in the Interior Division and face off against the #2 seeded Merritt Centennials in the Interior Division Quarter Finals. The playoff schedule has yet to be determined but keep things locked to the Smoke Eaters social media channels as well as the Smoke Eaters website for more information.