The Trail Smoke Eaters ran into another hot goalie on Wednesday, falling to the Vernon Vipers 5-1 at Kal Tire Place in Vernon.
Trail outshot their Interior division rival Vipers 42-34, but goalie Andrew Shortridge was all but unbeatable as the Vipers scored three times in the third period to ice what was a close match through two periods.
“We had two wins last week and it was tough to see that effort tonight,” Smokie alternate captain Kurt Black told the Vernon Morningstar. “We have to get together as a group and bring a consistent effort every game.”
Joe Sacco scored what proved to be the winner, tipping in a Mitchell Oliver point shot with 7:07 left in the middle frame to make it 2-0 Vipers.
Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie was also stellar in the period, making two big stops off Odeen Tufto and one on Zack Andrusiak. However, Shortridge was sensational all night, particularly on a late 5-on-3 power play in the second when he robbed Kurt Black in tight and stoned Max Newton and Connor Brown-Maloski with the glove to maintain the two-goal lead.
“The boys did a great job letting me see shots and push them to the outside and making it a one and done kind of save where all I have to worry about is the shooter and they got everything else so they did a hell of a job taking the other options away,” said Shortridge.
Colton McCarthy gave Vernon a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a shot from 12 feet out that fooled MacBurnie.
The Smokies fired 28 shots at the Viper net through two periods but couldn’t score. It was deja vu all over again. In Sunday’s game against Coquitlam, Trail blasted 50 shots at the Express net but needed overtime to win a 2-1 game.
“I think we were making him (Shortridge) look good,” said Black. “We have to stop on pucks, drive to the net harder and pick up rebounds and get some traffic in front.”
Shortridge reeled off successive stops on John Laurito from close range eight minutes into the third period and then stretched wide to stop a howitzer from Evan Howarth from the left wing with 4:18 remaining.
Trail native Riley Brandt put the game away at 8:41 of the third when he picked up a loose puck near the left hash marks, cruised in alone and went top shelf for his sixth of the year. Liam Finlay scored 14 seconds later to make it 4-0.
The Smokies finally got on the board when Cooper Leitch finished a 2-on-1 pass from Laurito, going top corner on Shortridge to net his third goal of the season.
The Vipers capped off the scoring with two seconds remaining on the clock on a one-timer by Jimmy Lambert.
The loss drops Trail to 4-7 as they get set to face the Mainland division leading, 7-3-0-0, Langley Rivermen on Friday and the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Saturday at the Cominco Arena.
With files from the Vernon Morningstar.