The Trail Smoke Eaters came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period to tie it, but the Vernon Vipers would not be denied as they netted the winning goal late in the third period to skate to a 6-4 victory on Saturday in Vernon.
With 3:02 to play in regulation, Thomas Aldworth netted the winning goal, wiring a shot over the shoulder of Smokie goalie Brett Clark from the top of the circle to give the Vipers a 5-4 lead. An Aldworth empty net goal would ice it for the Snakes in a game that saw the Vipers fire 55 shots at Clark, including taking a 40-12 edge on shots into the third period but hold a slim 3-1 lead.
The Vipers jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals from Liam Coughlin and Ken Citron, outshooting Trail 21-7, and would make it 3-0 at 12:54 of the middle frame when Anthony Latina fired a rebound off the face of Trail defenceman Stephen Penner and beat Clark glove side.
However, after Max Newton won the face off, Conner Browne-Maloski would fire his eighth of the season past Jared Schamerhorn to get Trail on the board. But Trail native and former Smoke Eater Riley Brandt would put the Vipers up 4-1, 1:56 into the final frame.
Despite Vernon’s dominance on the shot clock, Trail hung in and would mount an unlikely comeback in the third. Two minutes later, Scott Davidson would finish a nice setup from Harlan Orr and Penner to make it 4-2. Newton would then net one of his own, taking a pass down low from Nitehawks AP Ross Armour and beating Schamerhorn glove side to make it a one-goal game at 11:12. Then just 40 seconds later, Brian Basilico tied it as a quick shot from the left side beat Schamerhorn to make it 4-4 on just the Smokies 18th shot of the game.
The Vipers had a great opportunity to take the lead when Finlay was awarded a penalty shot after Bryan Gerstenfeld’s slash foiled a breakaway opportunity. But Finlay would ring his penalty shot off the crossbar and keep the game tied until Aldworth’s scored two minutes later.
The final shots on goal was 55-19 in favour of the Vipers, with the Smoke Eaters going 0-for-2 on the power play, while Vernon was 1-for-4.
Trail’s next travel to Salmon Arm to take on the Silverbacks on Wednesday, before returning to the Cominco Arena to play Alberni Valley on Friday.