The Trail Smoke Eaters Travis Stephens drove to the net but couldn’t get the puck by Merritt Centennial goalie Devin Kero

Smokies can’t solve Cents at home

Trail Smoke Eaters salvage point against Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

The Trail Smoke Eaters picked up a single point in a two-game home-stand on the weekend, tying the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-3 Friday night, before being outworked and outplayed by the Merritt Centennials in a 6-1 drubbing on Saturday.

The Cents’ Bennett Huber netted what proved to be the winning goal, taking a nice drop pass from Gavin Gould and rifling a shot under the arm of Smokie goalie Dustin Nikkel at 18:26 of the first period for a 2-0 lead.

Merritt opened the scoring at 11:57 when Diego Cuglietta snuck behind the Trail defencemen and broke in all alone on Nikkel beating him with a quick wrist shot to the stick side.

Sebastien Pare would make it 3-0, but the Smokies cut the lead to two on a power play. With Peyton Schafer in the box for goaltender interference, the Smokies’ defenceman Curtis Toneff crept in from the blue line and blasted a Jake Kaupilla pass past Cents’ goalie Devin Kero to make it 3-1 with just 13 seconds to go in the second period. It was Toneff’s third goal of the season, and eighth point in six games.

However, that’s as close as the home team would get as Sam Johnson, Zach Hartley, and Scott Patterson each scored in the third period to put the game out of reach.

The Smoke Eaters managed 17 shots on goal including just five in the third period, when some urgency was required.

In two games at the Cominco Arena this season the Centennials have outscored the Smokies 11-1. The win, coupled with a 4-3 victory over Victoria Grizzlies Friday, propels Merritt from the basement to third spot in the BCHL’s tight Interior division.

Vernon and Salmon Arm each split their two games this weekend and remain tied for fourth spot with 11 points, while West Kelowna’s 4-2 win over Nanaimo and a 6-1 victory over Cowichan Sunday has propped them up on top the Interior division with 17 points, three ahead of the Penticton Vees who lost to Salmon Arm 5-2 Friday, before defeating Alberni, 6-2, Saturday.

October is one of the busiest months for the Smoke Eaters, with 11 games scheduled including four games in the next six days.

In Friday’s match, two overtime periods couldn’t decide a 3-3 draw between the Smoke Eaters and Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

The Smokies stormed back from a first period 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead, but Alberni replied, tying it with just under two minutes to play in the middle frame.   However, Nikkel and Bulldog goalie Tyger Howat shut the door in the third period as well as the 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 overtime periods, as both goalies faced 40 shots on the evening.

After being traded from Vernon earlier in the week, Trail native Craig Martin scored his first goal as a Bulldog to give Alberni a 2-0 lead, but Tyson Witala, Braedon Jones, and Jesse Knowler would put the Smokies up before Darian Henry tied it.

Both teams had chances to win but a great save by Nikkel on a breakaway in the dying seconds of regulation preserved the point for the Smokies, and a Jesse Knowler snapshot off the crossbar in OT almost won it.

The Smoke Eaters next have a home-and-home with Salmon Arm Thursday and Friday, with the SilverBacks coming to Trail Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.

The Smokies host the Powell River Kings on Sunday with a 3 p.m. face offf, then travel to Vernon to play the Vipers Tuesday.

Smoke Signals:

Former Smokie Brandon Egli has committed to play for the NCAA University of Massachusetts. Egli began last year with the Smokies before being traded to the Victoria Grizzlies where he has counted a goal and four assists in nine games this season.

Just Posted

IRM reports small sulphuric acid leak at Waneta reload

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

New farmers in Columbia Basin supported by land matching program

New and young farmers in the Basin are receiving support and services from a dedicated land matcher

Columbia Basin Trust offering business accelerator program

Trust seeking motivated companies for customized support and mentorship program

Trail military exercises provide crucial training

Exercise Sapper Crucible: ‘The nuts and bolts of what a soldier is’

VIDEO: SPCA ushers in new era with Castlegar facility

$2.69-million project had ribbon cutting on Friday

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Whitecaps see playoff dreams fade after 2-1 loss to FC Dallas

Goal in 87th minute seals Vancouver’s fate

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

WHL: Kootenay Ice drop Calgary Hitmen 5-3 in home opener

Youth take centre stage as Kootenay explodes for three second-period goals

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

Most Read