One bad period cost the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday as they fell to the West Kelowna Warriors 5-3, after skating to their first home win of the season over the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday.
A second period let down enabled the Warriors to take a 3-2 advantage into the third period, and the Warriors Liam Blackburn would nail down the victory with the winning goal on a mad goal-mouth scramble at 11:59 of the third.
The Smokies got on the board first on the power play when Travis Stephens notched his third goal of the season on a neat deflection off a point shot from Curtis Toneff midway through the opening frame. But the Warriors replied five minutes later on a nice passing play that left Jason Cotton wide open at the side of the net, and the Northeastern University commit made no mistake, rifling it under the arm of Smokies goalie Adam Todd.
Trail outshot the Warriors 10-9 in the first period, but would come out flat in the second as West Kelowna took a 3-1 lead on goals by Jordan Masters who buried a wrist shot top corner on Todd, and Detroit Red Wing draft pick David Pope who banged in a loose puck off a scramble in front.
However, Tyson Witala would count his second assist on the night on a power play when he headmanned the puck to streaking forward Jake Lucchini who made a great move to his backhand and lifted the disk over the glove of Andy Desautels to make it 3-2 at 15:55.
The Warriors outshot the Smokies 14-8 in the middle frame, but Trail pressed in the third and midway through Brendan Lamont broke in on a breakaway, but Desautels surprised everyone with a poke check, and the Warriors would counter, and moments later Blackburn would bang in what turned out to be the winning goal.
Midway through the third, Smokie goalie Todd would go down after reportedly receiving a vicious slash on the ankle, however with the play going the other way, no one saw the incident and Todd would be helped off the ice, as Dustin Nikkel came in to close out the game.
The Smoke Eaters did not quit, however, as Bryce Knapp would cut the lead to one, banging in a Jake Kaupilla centering pass with just over six minutes to play. The home team came close in the final minutes, as Jesse Knowler rang a snap shot off the post, and Stephens created a good scoring opportunity, driving to the net, and just missing the far post as he plowed over the Warrior goaltender.
The Warriors’ Masters would ice it as he added an empty net goal at 18:46. West Kelowna outshot Trail 34-27, with Masters being named the game’s first star, while Lucchini took second star honours for Trail, and Blackburn third star.
On Friday, the Smokies Toneff blasted the winning goal by the Cowichan Valley goaltender Robin Gusse at 10:48 of the third period to give the Smokies a 3-1 lead enroute to the 3-2 victory.
Tyson Wittala was named the game’s first star, by virtue of a goal and an assist on the night, and Nikkel stopped 32 shots for his third victory of the season. Witala has been a pleasant surprise offensively and currently leads the Smokies in points with two goals and six assists.
The Smokies next home game goes Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.