Home ice seemed to cure what ailed the Penticton Vees, as they marked their return to the SOEC with a 6-1 triumph over the Trail Smoke Eaters, a game after losing in Merritt Wednesday.
Friday was the Vees’ (40-6-1-0) 40th win of the season and moves them within two points of clinching a record-setting fifth consecutive division title. The Vees rode a red-hot power-play, as they torched the Smokies penalty-kill for four goals.
Nic Jones had a pair and the Vees got others from Tyson Jost, Owen Sillinger Luke Voltin and Dante Fabbro. Jones, Jost, Sillinger and Scott Conway each finished with three-point nights. Zach Driscoll turned aside 16 of 17 shots directed his way for his 15th win and fourth in as many starts against the Smokies.
Jake Kauppila broke up the shutout bid late in the second, as the Smoke Eaters (19-27-0-2) lost their ninth consecutive road game and sixth in their last eight games.
It was tight-checking affair through the first 15-minutes but the Vees broke through in the back half of the first period thanks to the duo of Jost and Sillinger. The Captain opened the scoring just past the 15-minute mark after a great setup by his line-mate. Sillinger showed a lot of patience, skating around the fallen goalie at the side of the net, before firing the puck back out front to Jost for the tap-in and his 29th. Not to be rude, Jost returned the favour a few minutes later.
With a head full of steam, the Captain darted back in the Trail zone, before dropping the puck off to Sillinger in the right-circle, who picked the corner on the short-side at 19:02; his 14th coming inside the final minute.
The power-play took over in the second, scoring three times on five chances to blow the game wide open. On a five-on-three, Conway, Jost and Jones connected for a three-way passing play down-low, which saw Jones bury his 13th at the side of the net at 2:39.
On the ensuing five-on-four, Luke Voltin was the beneficiary of a fortuitous bounce off the end boards. Sillinger blasted a shot wide from the slot but it bounced back out front to Voltin at the side of the net for his sixth at 4:04.
Five-minutes later, it was another power-play and another goal, and another one for Jones. Easton Brodzinski was stopped point-blank by the goalie but Jones was lurking in weeds for the rebound at the side of the net; his second of the period coming at 9:32.
Trail stopped the bleeding late, as Kauppila got some puck luck of his own. Kauppila was in a foot race with Vees’ goalie Zach Driscoll for a puck at the top of the circles and the Trail forward got to it first. As Driscoll went for the sliding poke-check, Kauppila managed to manipulate the puck just enough, as it slid under the Vees’ puck-stopper and into an open-net at 15:47.
Penticton got that goal back on another power-play in the third. Dante Fabbro snuck into the slot and he made no mistake, wiring a shot through the goalie for his 11th at 6:38.
Final Score: 6-1 Vees
Shots: 46-17 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 4-10 Trail 0-5
Three Stars: 1) Owen Sillinger 2) Tyson Jost 3) Nic Jones
Attendance: 2, 367
Conway extended his point streak to 12-games with his three assists Friday. With his three-point night, Owen Sillinger now has seven goals and 20 points in 11 games this month. The Vees move their record to 5-0 against Trail this year and have won 10 straight against the Smokies at the SOEC, dating back to March, 2013.
The two teams reconvene at Cominco Arena in the West Kootenays tomorrow night for the back-half of the weekend home-and-home; puck drop is 7:30 pm. Fans can listen to the game on EZ Rock AM 800, or online at www.penticton.myezrock.com