Mack Byers chases a loose puck during Friday’s game against West Kelowna at the Cominco Arena. Byers score once in Satuday’s 6-4 win in West Kelowna while Hayden Rowan (in background) had goals in each game and a total of five points.

Trail Smoke Eaters pick up three points in BCHL’s opening weekend

Trail Smoke Eaters’ power play makes the difference in 6-4 win over West Kelowna Warriors Saturday

The Trail Smoke Eaters rebounded from an tough opening night overtime loss to gain a split and three points in the first weekend of the 2018-19 BCHL season.

Despite the coaching turmoil that engulfed the West Kelowna Warriors last week, the team came into Trail on Friday and pulled out a 4-3 overtime win in front of 2,195 fans at the Cominco Arena

Saturday night, the teams went at it again in West Kelowna. This time the Smokies, propelled by four power play goals, bounced back with a 6-4 victory in front of a sparse crowd of 615 at Royal LePage Place.

Newcomers Hayden Rowan had a four-point night for Trail on Saturday while Michael Hodge chipped in a goal and two assists.

Trevor Zins had his second strong game on the blueline adding a goal and an assist. Mack Byers, Kent Johnson and Jeremy Smith had the other Smokie tallies.

The back-and-forth game saw 18 penalties called and each team grab temporary one-goal leads until Kent Johnson put Trail ahead to stay with his first BCHL marker.

Chase Dubois had tied the game for West Kelowna at the one minute and 59 second mark of the third period.

But eight seconds later, Johnson put Trail ahead to stay and Smith tallied Trail’s fifth goal, and eventual winner, two minutes later on the power play.

West Kelowna added a goal at the midway mark but Rowan capped off his great night with an insurance marked at 11:02 to regain Trail’s two-goal edge.

Adam Marcoux stopped 26 shots as Trail chalked up its first win of the season.

It was a different tale on Friday night as the Smokies fell in overtime despite another strong game from Marcoux.

Trail squandered a 3-1 second-period lead and West Kelowna’s Wyatt Head scored unassisted in overtime to give the visiting Warriors a 4-3 OT win.

Trail captain Braeden Tuck scored twice and Rowan notched his first BCHL goal for the Smokies.

Marcoux made 31 saves, including many key ones, to keep Trail in the game and earn a single point.

However, it would be a second-period miscue between Marcoux and defenceman Smith that gave the Warriors the opening they needed to get back in the game.

The Smokies appeared in total control five minutes into the second period thanks to back-to-back goals by Tuck and Rowan that spotted Trail a 3-1 lead while holding a 20-9 shots on goal advantage.

But that error, where Marcoux and Smith struggled to control the puck behind Trail’s goal midway through the second, ended up in the back of the Trail net off the stick of West Kelowna’s Mike Hardman, cut the deficit to 3-2 with one period to play.

It took just 63 seconds into the third period before Cody Paivarinta snapped a shot from the slot and suddenly West Kelowna was back on even terms at 3-3.

The teams went to a 3-on-3 overtime and midway through the extra frame, Head used his speed to break in alone on Marcoux and pick the top corner for the game winner.

The game opened with the usual festivities for the season opener. The lights were dimmed and player introduction were made. A banner honouring and supporting the Humboldt Broncos was displayed at one end of the rink.

Trail’s next home game is Sept. 14 when they host Salmon Arm.

Saturday’s game capped off a tumultuous week in West Kelowna, which included the firing and re-hiring of their head coach Glen Grimwood and a players’ protest.

West Kelowna Warriors owner and president Kim Dobranski said he made a mistake.

Dobranski, reading a prepared statement outside the team’s home rink Thursday morning, said he failed to consider what was best for the players in firing Grimwood after just 17 days on the job.

“I failed as a partner in (the B.C. Hockey League) and as a leader of this organization, to consider the emotional turmoil this could cause for these young men,” he said.

The players protested the firing Tuesday by leaving practice early and refused show up for practice on Wednesday. Then they launched a social media protest titled #Grimmergate.

Dobranski, who with a number of silent partners bought the team from former owner Mark Cheyne earlier this year, read his statement and refused to take questions, including any about whether the league had ordered him to reinstate Grimwood.

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