February 17, 2020
by Wayne Moore, Castanet
Kent Johnson and his Trail Smoke Eaters teammates were just too much for the West Kelowna Warriors Monday afternoon.
A consensus first round pick in the 2021 NHL draft, Johnson, a Port Moody native, had three assists while linemate Owen Ozar scored twice as the Smokies up-ended the Warriors 5-2 before a sold out Family Day crowd of more than 1,400 at Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna.
The assists put Johnson over the century mark for the season.
He has amassed 41 goals and 60 assists, with 22 of those points coming in six games against the Warriors.
Last year Johnson put up 20G-26A, 46 points in his first full season in the league with the Smokies. He now leads Surrey’s Christophe Tellier, the #2 scoring leader, by 37 points.
The Warriors hung with the visitors for much of the first 50 minutes, but Trail’s top-end talent came through at the end.
“When you have depth like they have with four guys near the top in scoring, it’s hard to compete. You have to play a perfect game in order to compete against them,” said head coach Simon Ferguson.
“I think we had effort, I think we had chances and opportunities to be there in the game. I think our goalie played great, but unfortunately they scored and we didn’t.”
Holden Kodak got the Warriors on the board first, tapping home Tyler Cristall’s backdoor feed.
But, Trail took over later in the period. Matt Osadick tied it when he banged home a rebound after the Warriors were unable to clear the zone.
The Smokies had several chances to take the lead before the period was over, but Derrick made several spectacular stops, the best of which came when he slid across to deny Johnson on a backdoor play.
Ozar put the Smoke Eaters up for good midway through the second, backhanding his own rebound past Derrick. They upped the lead to two later in the period on the power play.
Brendan Pigeon got that one back on a Warriors power play early in the third, but they were unable to get the equalizer.
Ozar restored the two-goal lead with an incredible move in the right circle. He used a toe drag to get clear, then snapped a shot that beat Derrick high to the short side.
“They are built for the playoffs. They went hard at the deadline to make a team that could make a deep run,” added Ferguson of a Trail team that boasts five overage players and a dozen 19-year-olds.
“We made a move and a conscious decision to get ready for next season, and some of the players we got we don’t have right now. That’s part of rebuild for next year.”
The Warriors, who will face Penticton in the opening round of the playoffs, conclude the regular season with back-to-back games against Vernon.
The teams meet Friday in Vernon before shutting the door on the regular season back at Royal LePage Place Saturday.
Trail hosts Salmon Arm Friday and will wrap up in Merritt on Saturday.