The Trail Smoke Eaters will enjoy a full week off after a hectic five games in eight days that saw the team go 4-1 with it’s only blemish a tough 4-3 loss to the Island Division’s Nanaimo Clippers on Friday.
After falling behind 3-0, the Trail Smoke Eaters Josh Laframboise and Ross Armour each tallied three points in a valiant comeback to tie the game at 3-3 but could not complete the rally as the boatmen scored with five minutes remaining in regulation for the 4-3 victory.
“We’re disappointed with the way we came out,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith. “I don’t think we were as ready as we should have been. No team wants to be down 3-0 half way through the first period, especially for a guy like (Trail goalie) Zach Dyment who kind of got hung out to dry.”
Nanaimo forward Jake Harris scored the winning goal with 5:02 to play, beating Smokies goalie Linden Marshall on a snipe to the top corner on a cross-ice pass from Lucas Finner to kick off the Clippers road trip to the BCHL’s Interior Division.
“We’re not disappointed that we lost,” said Keith. “It’s just the way we did, by coming out the way we did. We didn’t play our style of game and another lesson learned.”
Sean Buchanan, Will LeNeave and Matt Kowalski put the Clippers up 3-0 on four shots in the first eight minutes of the opening frame. The Smokies coach replaced Dyment, who has been outstanding in net for Trail, in favour of Marshall in an effort to rally his troops.
“The goalie change wasn’t anything against Zach, it was more of a wake up call for our players, and we responded well, just another lesson learned that you can’t relax in this league when you’re at home,” said Keith.
Rossland native Ross Armour got the Smokies on the board with 42 seconds remaining in the period with assists to Laframboise and Luke Santerno.
Laframboise then cut the lead to one when he finished a nice feed from Armour with just over eight minutes to play in the second period. Santerno completed the comeback, batting in a Laframboise rebound 5:42 into the third period. The Smokies continued to press but were foiled at every attempt and after Harris put the Clips up, Trail could not find the equalizer despite pulling their goalie in the final minute.
The loss ends Trail’s four game win streak that began exactly one week previously when the Smoke Eaters beat the Clippers 2-1 in overtime in Nanaimo. The Island Division team finished off their Interior Division road trip with a 3-0 win over Penticton Saturday and a 3-2 OT victory over Merritt on Sunday.
“They’re a very good team,” said Keith “When we played against them in Nanaimo and beat them it wasn’t because we dominated them, they are very skilled and very strong on the back end, and have really good goaltending.”
Trail was without impact forwards Kale Howarth and Blaine Caton who were sidelined due to illness.
The shots were even at 31, with Trail going 1-for-2 on the power play and Nanaimo 1-for-1. Harris received the game’s first star, while Laframboise the second star, and Marshall, who stopped 26 shots, earned the third star.
“Coming off the bench, it’s one of the toughest jobs for a goalie to do when you’re not prepared mentally, and you’re coming off cold, and Linden did a great job,” said Keith.
Trail’s Santerno was named the Fortis Energy Player of the Game for a league-leading third time. His goal and assist also put him in a tie for third place in overall league scoring with nine goals and 20 points, while Armour 5-12-17, Laframboise 9-6-15, and Howarth 7-8-15 are all in the top-20 of BCHL scorers.
The Smoke Eaters play a crucial home-and-home tilt against Vernon this weekend with the home game on Saturday at 7 p.m.