The Trail Smoke Eaters put in a great effort through two periods of play but a concerted Penticton Vees team came back in the third to take a 5-3 decision in Penticton on Wednesday.
Trail led Penticton 2-1 heading into the third period, but the Vees shortened their bench and their top players answered as Tyson Jost tied it and Scott Conway scored twice in a two-minute span. The league’s third top scorer netted the winner on a high-light reel goal as he split the defence and wired a howitzer high glove side with 4:35 left to play to give the Vees a 4-2 lead.
“We competed hard for the whole game and put us in a position to win in Penticton,” said Trail coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “It just seems like they have players that are game changers, and I think we might have given them a little too much room there near the end of the third to allow the game to open up.”
After holding the BCHL’s top team to just five shots on goal in the first period, Smokies veteran Harlan Orr got Trail on the board 3:47 into the second period, taking a drop pass from Nick Halloran and snapping it by Vee goalie Anthony Brodeur.
The Vees tied it when Jason Lavallee’s shot from the left circle beat Bailey Macburnie at 15:25 of the middle frame. Trail looked in trouble when John Laurito took a roughing penalty late in the period, but a Vees turnover opened up ice for Smokies’ Kienan Scott who took a perfect pass from Orr and fired it blockerside for a shorthanded marker and a 2-1 lead with 3:15 to play in the period.
The Smokies defence stifled a potent Vees attack, limiting them to just 11 shots on goal through two periods, while firing 15 at Brodeur.
“I’ve scouted Trail a couple times this year, and that was probably their best game of the year, and I’m sure they are going home disappointed,” Vees assistant coach Steve Collie said after the game. “We had problems getting pucks out of our zone at times, and it allowed Trail to probably have more zone possession and offensive zone possession than any team has had against us this year . . . I think we got away with one tonight.”
The Vees tallied a shorthanded goal of their own four minutes into the final frame. Tyson Jost won the race for the puck behind the Smokies net, spun and curled to the front, lasering a shot off the crossbar to tie the game at 2-2.
Minutes later, after Smokies forward Cooper Leitch was robbed on the door-step by Brodeur, the Vees went the other way and Conway shoveled in a rebound on a Demico Hannoun shot to give the Vees the lead.
Following Conway’s second goal, the Smokies swarmed the Vees net but Brodeur would not buckle. Penticton then took a penalty with 2:04 remaining, and the Smokies turned it into a 6-on-4 when they pulled their goalie.
However, with the faceoff in the Vees end, Trail centreman Max Newton won it cleanly but backhanded the puck between his two defenceman all the way down the ice and into the net to make it 5-2 Vees. Despite the setback, the Smokies continued to press and Ross Armour notched his second of the season on a scramble in front of the net with just 21 seconds remaining.
The Smokies deserved better outshooting the 8-1-0 Vees 27-22, including 12-11 in the final frame.
“It’s really no secret, the team is starting to realize the harder we play defensively, the more opportunities we have offensively,” said Deschenes. “We just have to start to execute more on the offensive side where I think we’re not creating as much as we should be.”
The Smoke Eaters host the 1-6-0-1 Prince George Spruce Kings tonight at 7:30 p.m. and the 5-4-1-0 Coquitlam Express on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
“I think every game is a winnable game, but for us the focus will be playing our game for 60 minutes, and so far this group has been very inconsistent group and we want to make sure that part of our identity is that we play consistently and have a consistent effort throughout the games coming up.”