Kiefer Smiley has thoroughly answered any questions regarding his candidacy for the starting netminder role with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
At least when it comes to the Vernon Vipers he has.
In two B.C. Hockey League contests against the Snakes, Smiley has turned aside 90 of 94 shots, collecting first star in both affairs.
Vernon started October with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Smokies at Cominco Arena, and fell by the same score in regulation play Friday night in Trail.
Smiley, a the 20-year old Duncan product playing with his third BCHL team, including three tours with his hometown Cowichan Valley Capitals, recorded 44 stops.
The Vipers (7-5-1-2) trailed the Smokies (9-5-0-1) by two points heading into Saturday night’s rematch at Wesbild Centre.
Smoke Eaters’ bench boss Jim Ingram was reluctant to take too much credit for Friday’s win, saying Vernon, who outshot Trail 46-21, was easily the better of the two teams that night.
“Vernon spread us out throughout the zones and they had support in motion all night. We were reactionary… we were second to a lot of pucks,” said Ingram.
“We’re happy to get the win, but it was a tough game for us. They threw a ton of rubber at us… but Keifer was exceptional.”
“There were some question marks at the beginning of the season whether he could be a No. 1 guy, but I had complete faith in him.”
The Vipers’ Patrick McGillis, with his third goal in two games, opened the scoring on the powerplay, banging home the rebound off Malcolm Lyles’ point shot at 6:37.
The home team stormed back shortly after, taking less than six minutes to complete a three-goal spree.
Beau Blanaru (2nd goal), Sam Mellor, with his league-leading 17th, and Scott Jacklin (6th) all beat second-year Vernon keeper Blake Voth (18 saves), who surrendered all three goals on just eight shots.
Viper head coach Mark Ferner was left feeling like he could have used a little star goaltending of his own Friday night.
“That’s what we’re running into right now. We felt like we outplayed this hockey team. Either we need to score more goals or we need our goalie to be better,” said Ferner.
“He (Voth) was fine, but he needs to be better. Three goals on eight shots, that’s not good enough. We need our goalie to be a star one night.”
The Vipers (7-5-1-2) looked especially dangerous in the second period, racking up 21 shots thanks to an early stint of penalty trouble for Trail, who took three straight minors to start the frame.
“They outshot us about 500-4,” joked Ingram.
“We really got back on our heels and we really had to use our bench to spread out the penalty killing.”
Despite Vernon’s pressure, the second period remained scoreless.
Viper captain David Robinson, who earned second star and got into a first-period scrap with Eric Walker, completed the scoring midway through the final period, winning a puck battle in front of Smiley before netting his fifth of the season.
“His was a hard-working goal, pretty simple. We’re not asking guys to beat five guys to score,” said Ferner, who urged his players to not get flustered whenever they run into a hot goalie.
“We had some good looks, but we need to find a way to muster up some more goals. We can’t get frustrated by it, we can’t start squeezing (sticks).”
The Vipers visit the first-place Penticton Vees (12-4) Friday night at South Okanagan Events Centre, and then return to Wesbild Saturday to entertain the Quesnel Millionaires. They will complete their three-game weekend with a matinee against the Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday.
n The Salmon Arm SilverBacks continue to suffer the consequences of last weekend’s line brawl with the Merritt Centennials.
With star netminder Kris Moore suspended along with a handful of other veterans, the SilverBacks bowed 5-2 to the host Capitals Friday night at The Big Stick.
The 10-4 Gorillas were pummeled 6-0 two nights earlier by the host Nanaimo Clippers.