PENTICTON, BC –The Penticton Vees may have gotten an early Christmas present in Grant Cruikshank. The rookie forward scored two more goals Wednesday, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Vees knocked-off the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-3 at the SOEC.
Cruikshank finished with a game-high three points, as he extended his goal streak to four but more importantly extended the Vees’ win streak to four. Captain Nicholas Jones, who drew the penalty in overtime, set up Cruikshank for the one-timer 1:55 into the four-on-four frame.
Cruikshank, Jones and Owen Sillinger scored in regulation as the Vees had to come back from a 2-0 deficit midway through the first period. The power-play was the key to the come-from-behind win, as the Vees scored three times with the man-advantage on just five opportunities.
Braeden Tuck, Troy Ring and Kale Howarth scored for the Smoke Eaters, who dropped their third straight and fifth in their last six games.
It was advantage Trail early, as Tuck opened the scoring at 4:20 after a rebound popped off of Robson’s pad, then off Tuck’s skate, before bouncing back in the net. It got worse from there, as Ring muscled his shot past Mat Robson, from the circle, on a Smokies’ power-play to put the visitors up two 12-minutes in.
Tempers flared not long after, as Greg Brydon dropped the gloves with Tyson Slater, after Slater put his shoulder into Turner Ripplinger. Brydon came to the aide of his teammate and tussled with Slater, after the collision in the Vees’ zone. Ripplinger wasn’t hurt on the play but Brydon picked up seven-minutes in penalties and a game misconduct. However, the scrap seemed to spark the Vees, as they went on to score three unanswered goals.
Sillinger got the comeback started during a four-on-four sequence, as he picked up the puck after a turnover and beat Trail starter Linden Marshall from the bottom of the circle at 15:52; Sillinger’s third in his last two games making it 2-1.
The Vees were a cross-bar away from tying the game early in second period but finally broke through during a power-play late. With just over five-minutes left in the second, Cruikshank, whilst lying on his belly, jammed the puck underneath Marshall from the side of the net at 14:53; Cruikshank knotting the game up at two before the intermission.
Penticton used the power-play again, this time late in the third, to grab their first lead. It was a nice passing play between Cruikshank, Jones and Mitch Meek, with Jones banging in a cross-crease pass from Cruikshank with 5:02 to go.
However, Trail didn’t fold and with the goalie pulled found a way to get back level. With just under two-minutes left in regulation, Kale Howarth put a rebound through Robson’s legs after the initial shot from the right-wing was blocked in front; Trail tying the game at 18:07.
For the second time in three games, the Vees and Smokie Eaters needed OT to decide a winner.
On the opening shift in the extra frame, Jones was taken down in front of the Trail net to draw a crucial power-play. Fittingly, it was Jones setting up the game-winner.
From the bottom of the left-circle, the Vees’ Captain quickly put the puck right in Cruikshank’s wheel-house at the top of the slot for the one-timer, that he ripped over the goalie’s glove; Cruikshank’s team-leading 23rd of the season, the game-winner at 1:55.
Final Score: 4-3 Vees (OT)
Shots: 33-29 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 3-5 Trail 1-2
Three Stars: 1) Grant Cruikshank 2) Nicholas Jones 3) Linden Marshall
Vees Notes: Cruikshank finished with a game-high three points (2-1-3) and extended his point streak to five games (5-5-10) in the win. Cruikshank, Jones and Meek all had multi-point games. That’s now five power-play goals in their last three games for the Vees, and they won for the ninth time in 14 games when surrendering the first goal.
The Vees (27-6-0-1) wrap-up their six-game home stand Friday night when they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the SOEC; puck drop is 7 pm. It’s the third game versus the ‘Backs and first since they beat Penticton 4-3 in double-overtime at the SOEC on December 2nd.