Trail Smoke Eaters forward Cooper Leitch fights for the puck in front of the Nanaimo net on Friday

Smokies win one on three-game road swing

After a promising start with win over Victoria Thursday, the Smokies dropped two straight to the Clippers and Rivermen

After a promising start with a 3-2 win over Victoria Thursday, the Trail Smoke Eaters dropped two straight to the Nanaimo Clippers and Langley Rivermen on Friday and Saturday to close out a three-game road trip to the coast.

The Rivermen were coming off a huge win Friday, when they broke the Penticton Vees 22-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory. Yet, the Smokies came out strong and took a 2-1 lead on Langley on Saturday, but the Rivermen scored three unanswered goals in the third period to skate to a 4-2 victory.

“We came into Langley with a different look, we were moving the puck well and had them on the ropes going into the third period, but we seemed to be on our heels and they put two pucks in the net,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “It was a little bit of a heartbreaker.”

Justin Szeto chipped the puck off the boards past the Smokies’ defenceman, then went in on a 2-on-1, and using Logan Mick as a decoy, the Harvard commit toe dragged around the d-man and roofed the puck on Smoke Eater goalie Bailey MacBurnie for the winner at 6:42 of the third period.

Kienan Scott put Trail up 1-0 at 7:13 of the first period, as the Smokies outshot the Rivermen 15-8. But newly signed defenceman Troy Ring netted his first with the Rivermen, finishing off a pretty three-way passing play with Adam Sinclair and Torrin White.

Scott added his second of the night and fourth of the road trip on a nice feed from Connor Brown-Maloski to put the Smokies up 2-1 at 16:39 of the second period.

“It’s good for him (Scott), he’s found the net a couple times on the power play and scored a nice breakaway goal,” said Deschenes. “We need to find some scoring and if he can get hot right now maybe it can help our group.”

But the lead was erased 88 seconds into the final frame on a goal by Campion, who beat MacBurnie low stick side on another odd-man rush.

Langley outshot Trail 31-30 in the game, with Nick Trencianksy earning his eighth win in net for the Rivermen.

On Friday in Nanaimo, Matt Hoover’s power-play goal late in the first period proved the winner for the Clippers in a 7-2 home win over the Smoke Eaters.

“We knew we were in tough, and again they have players that can really open the game up, and they did that and we couldn’t make plays and execute,” said Deschenes.

After Sheldon Rempal and Corey Renwick tallied 34 seconds apart, Scott potted Trail’s first goal at 16:08 on the power play to draw the Smokies within one. However, Matt Hoover replied two minutes later making it 3-1 as the Clips outshot the Smokies 17-5 in the period.

Spencer Hewson scored shorthanded in the second and Chris Dodero, Rempal, and Matt Creamer added three more in the third, while Kyle Star had the other Trail goal.

The Clippers won all three of their weekend matches including a 5-1 victory over Victoria and a 4-3 OT win over the Cowichan Valley Capitals, with Rempal being named first star in every game. The Nanaimo forward leads the league in goals, 26, and is one point back of Penticton’s Tyson Jost in the BCHL points race with 53.

“It’s definitely fun to be up there and competing with the other guys around the league,” Rempal told the Nanaimo News Bulletin. “Obviously you look at it, but you don’t want to think too much of it and get off your game … It’s about winning games here and doing it as a team.”

Nanaimo outshot Trail 43-27 with Linden Marshall taking the loss in net, while Jakob Walter backstopped the Clips to the win. Nanaimo’s weekend success launched the Clippers into first place in the Island division

In Thursday’s match, Scott scored the winner just over eight minutes into the third period on a great individual effort. In his first game back from injury, the Penticton native picked up the puck just outside the Trail blue line, beat a Grizzly defender and scored on the breakaway to complete the 3-2 comeback win.

The Smoke Eaters fell behind 2-0 to the Grizzlies in the first period, but two second period goals by Kale Howarth and Nick Halloran tied it for the Smoke Eaters to set up Scott’s winner.

Howarth was named the game’s first star, MacBurnie earned second star honours with 35 saves, and Brayden Gelsinger was the third star for Victoria.

“We had a solid comeback effort from being down 2-0 to a 3-2 win,” said Deschenes, who praised his goaltender for a solid effort. “We can’t downplay Bailey MacBurnie’s efforts to keep this game in check.”

The 10-15-0-0 Smoke Eaters are chasing the Vernon Vipers for the fourth playoff spot in the Interior division. The Vipers have a seven point cushion, but Trail has two games in hand.

“It would have been nice to get 2-of-3 because we have some tough opponents coming up here,” added Deschenes.

The Smokies are on the road again this weekend traveling to Wenatchee to play the Wild on Friday and are in Penticton on Saturday.

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