The Trail Smoke Eaters came into Sunday’s BCHL game against the Chilliwack Chiefs missing three of their top four scorers — Kent Johnson, Owen Ozar and Philippe Lapointe — along with rock steady defenceman (and former Chief) Powell Connor.
All are in Dawson Creek playing for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, leaving Trail seriously shorthanded for their matinee matchup at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
Chilliwack had defenceman Xavier Henry at the World Junior A Challenge, and also missed Ethan Bowen (injured) and Clark Nelson (suspended), but they still had more than enough to get by their depleted foes, winning 4-1 at the Chilliwack Coliseum.
Minus their big guns, the Smokies still managed 28 shots on the Chiefs net patrolled by backup goalie Kolby Thornton.
But true blue-chip chances were few and far between, and Thorton turned aside just about everything he saw to earn his sixth win of the season.
Chilliwack won their third straight game, improving to 17-9-4-2, good for second spot in the Mainland division standings.
Trail lost their fourth straight, falling to 19-12-1-1.
The Chiefs scored the only goal in the first period. Kyle Penney went to the net as defenceman Garrett Valk sent a wrister toward the goal from the right point. The puck hit a Smoke Eater defender and caromed to Penney, who had a wide open net to shoot at for his 12th of the season.
Penney doubled the lead 3:32 into period two on another puck luckish tally.
Working in the left faceoff circle, Brett Rylance tried to put a centering pass into the goal mouth, but the puck hit a sprawling Trail defender and found Penney’s stick. The Nova Scotian was either shooting or attempting a centering pass to Brett Willits as he quickly threw the puck into the blue paint.
If it was a shot, it was perfect, catching the far side behind Trail goalie Logan Terness.
A pair of Tommy Lyons goals put this one well out of reach for the Smokies.
The Massachusetts kid scored his first at 11:57 off a nice give-and-go with linemate Peter Reynolds. With both players coming down the left wing, Lyons dished to Reynolds, who gave it right back as Lyons stepped past a Trail defender. Cutting hard to the net, Lyons snapped the puck past Terness for his fifth of the season.
He added his sixth (in seven games as a Chief) at 16:06.
Reynolds hammered a one-timer off the glass behind the Smoke Eater net, and the puck landed back in the goal-mouth, where Lyons was able to punch it in.
The visitors finally got on the scoreboard 5:18 into period three, when defenceman Cody Schiavon beat Thornton with a hard slapper from the right point.
That wrapped up the scoring, but not the action.
For two teams that don’t see each other often, there was lots of venom in this one. Chilliwack’s Davis Murray was given a double minor for spearing in the second period, and the third period included several after-the-whistle scrums that made the last 15 minutes an exercise in tedium.
The three stars were Lyons (first), Penney (second) and Kolby Thornton (third).
The Fortis BC Energy Player of the Game was Hudson Thornton.