After annihilating the Surrey Eagles 19-3 last week, the Trail Smoke Eaters lost 7-3 to the same Eagles just five days later in Surrey, and dropped a 6-3 match to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday, before salvaging two points from the Coquitlam Express with a character comeback win on Saturday.
The Smokies found themselves behind 3-1 to the Express in the second period of Saturday’s match and facing a three-game sweep to Mainland Division teams, but Trail scored five unanswered goals for the comeback victory.
“It was one of those games where they got a couple lucky bounces, and true to the character of our team we never give up, even against Chilliwack we mounted a comeback,” said Smoke Eaters coach and GM Cam Keith. “We’re banged up with injuries right now, but we still have a good group of kids who continue to work.”
Smokies forward Kale Howarth notched his 26th goal to even the score against the Express 1-1 in the first, but two straight Coquitlam goals made it 3-1 midway through the middle frame. Ryan Moon and Josh Laframboise countered for the Smokies before the period was out to tie it at 3-3 heading into the third.
Trail defenceman Ethan Martini notched his first goal of the season and what proved to be the winner, 2:41 into the third period for a 4-3 Smokies lead. Troy Ring added some insurance when he gathered a pass from Jeremy Lucchini, burst in and beat Express goalie Lawson Fenton to make it 5-3. Korbin Chabot netted his third on a setup from Mitchell Barker with under four minutes remaining to ice it for the Smokies.
Trail outshot Coquitlam 42-25 and went 1-for-3 on the power play. Barker had three assists on the night for Trail while Carter Cochrane had a pair of helpers. Barker, meanwhile, has been a bright spot for Trail, scoring eight points in the past four games.
“Mitch Barker has probably been our best forward the last five or six games,” said Keith. “And that’s playing on the fourth line. He’s a kid who can play up and down the lineup, but he’s vitally important for us in those situational, when you need a big kill, when you need a guy to depend on late in games, he’s just a great veteran leader on the ice.”
In Friday’s match at Prospera Centre, Trail took an early lead against the free-wheeling Chilliwack Chiefs on a goal from Barker with 46 seconds to go in the first period. But four straight second-period goals from the Chiefs made it 4-1 heading to the third. After Jake Smith made it 5-1, goals from Carter Cochrane, his first as a Smokie, and Spencer McLean cut the lead to 5-3, but Cole Poliziani iced it with just over two minutes remaining.
In Surrey on Thursday, three second-period goals by the Eagles broke open a 2-2 game and exacted a measure of revenge on the Smoke Eaters for the previous match. Laframboise, Ring, and Luke Santerno scored for Trail, while Desi Burgart tallied a hat trick for the Eagles.
“We needed to have a better compete from the start,” said Keith. “They (Surrey) had that mindset that it was a ‘revenge’ game and I think it caught our guys off guard how hard they competed.”
The Smokies travel to Merritt on Wednesday to face a Cents’ team that Trail has yet to beat in four attempts this season. See more on the Merritt matchup in Wednesday’s Trail Times.