The Trail Smoke Eaters Jason Stefanek scored the game winner and goalie Ryan Parker stopped 30 shots as the home team rolled to a 7-3 victory over the Cowichan Valley Capitals at the Trail Memorial Centre on Saturday.
The victory broke a four-game winless streak, which included a tough 5-3 loss to the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, and brought the Smokies record (8-8-4-0) back to .500 after 20 games.
“It was a good bounce back after the way the last few have gone for us,” said Trail assistant coach Dallas Calvin. “There are still a few things we need to clean up defensively but any time you can score seven it’s a good night for us.”
Seven different players scored for the Smoke Eaters including the game winner from Stefanek. The California native picked up a loose puck in a scramble in front and wired it past a sprawling Capitals goalie Emerik Despatie for a 4-1 lead with 24 seconds remaining in the second period.
“We’ve had trouble scoring over the last few games where we’ve been struggling, so it’s nice to see the puck go in and lots of guys getting on the score sheet,” said Calvin.
Trail opened the scoring 2:49 into the first when Adam Marshall broke in and wired a shot top shelf for a 1-0 lead.
Eight seconds later, Trail dumped the puck into the Capitals end, and Cameron Johnsen picked up his first of the season, poking the puck into the net after miscommunication between the Caps’ goalie and defenceman.
Smokies forward Mathieu Cobetto-Roy made it 3-0 on a setup in the slot from Jack Kennedy and Adam Parsons with 12:11 left in the first, as Trail dominated the opening frame outshooting Cowichan 23-10.
Cowichan’s Darius Bachler put Cowichan on the board scoring on an odd-man rush with Brock Cummings to cut the lead to 3-1 at the 17:11 mark of the second period.
Early in the third period, Caps forward Brock Cummings tallied his fourth of the season on a great individual effort, breaking down the left wing and beating Smokies goalie Ryan Parker with a slick backhand under the bar to make it 4-2.
Chase Stefanek answered tipping in a point shot from Alec Whipple to restore the three-goal lead at 15:27, and then his brother Jason set up Max Potvin who beat Despatie shortside to go up 6-2.
The Stefanek brothers have been strong additions to the Smoke Eaters line up this season. Together they counted four points on the night, and were named first and second stars.
“I think we bought in, played simple and it showed on the score board,” said Chase. “We got the two points, and we’re happy to bring it home for a Saturday night win.”
Jason, a 19-year-old Yorba Linda, Calif. product, came to the Smoke Eaters after playing for the Wenatchee Wild last season. The move to Trail and transition to a small mining town in southern B.C. is a little different than growing up in southern California just outside of Los Angeles, but younger brother Chase, 17, says the transition has been positive.
“It’s definitely different, just a different environment, but I love it and I have my brother on the team, and he’s helped me get in and get used to it,” said Chase. “The workload is more, but my body’s adjusting and I think it’s better for me. I’m getting the development I need here in Trail.”
Matteo Lamoureaux scored for Cowichan at 11:17, but 41 seconds later Lucas Marshall notched his second goal of the season with a harmless shot from the left wall that beat Despatie for the 7-3 final.
Trail outshot the Capitals 54-30, and went 0-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the PK.
“It feels like we have been fighting it a bit and not getting the bounces,” said Calvin. “So it was nice to see some bounces tonight. When you get 55 shots on net, you’re bound to get a couple lucky ones too, so that’s nice to see them go in for us.”
Jason Stefanek earned first star, Chase second star and the Capitals’ Brock Cummings third star.
The Smoke Eaters have been on the road for the month of November until Friday night when they hosted the Clippers. After a lengthy trip to Powell River and the Lower Mainland, the Smoke Eaters traveled to Penticton on Nov. 10 where they lost to the Vees 6-0, and then to Cranbrook Nov. 12 where they fell 2-1 to the Bucks in overtime.
Trail jumped out to a 3-1 lead in Friday’s game with two goals from Cobetto-Roy and one from Adam Parsons. The Smoke Eaters dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Clippers 30-16 through 40 minutes.
But the Clippers battled back tying it in the second and then scoring the game winner midway through the third on a goal from Samuel Boisvert. Nanaimo added an insurance marker with five seconds remaining for the 5-3 final.
“It’s always difficult to come off a long road trip like that and perform,” said Calvin. “We had a really good first 25-30 minutes of that game, where we took it to them. But it was a 3-3 game, and those are the ones where you need to have the lead at that point. Anything can happen in the third period, and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
Trail outshot Nanaimo 36-30, and went 1-for-2 on the power play and penalty kill.
The Smoke Eaters beat the Clippers 8-6 in their last meeting at the Showcase in Seattle on Oct. 25, but have had trouble finding consistency since then. Offensively, the team is third in its conference in goals, 69, however defensively, has allowed 83 goals in 20 games, the most in the BCHL.
“Team defence as a whole, we’ve been working on a lot this season, and it’s something we are trying to improve every day,” said Calvin. “We feel like we’ve cleaned it up quite a bit, but there are still moments when we have some breakdowns and it seems like the breakdowns we’re having end up in the back of our net.”
Trail suffered a big loss in defenceman Patrick Reilly last week against Cranbrook, and is considered day to day. Trail will also be without Ethan Mann and Judah Makway who remain on the injury reserve list. Trail’s Nathan Dominici is also out with injury and is day-to-day.
The Smoke Eaters are back on the road with inter-conference games against Vernon Vipers on Friday, Nov. 24 and the Merritt Centennials Saturday, Nov. 25 with the puck drop at 7 p.m.