The Trail Smoke Eaters ended their six game losing streak with an impressive 6-4 win over the Chilliwack Chiefs on Thursday, but dropped a crucial 3-2 game in double overtime to the Vernon Vipers on Saturday at Cominco Arena.
Trail jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period, but the Vipers battled back and with 2:57 of the second overtime period, Odeen Tufto slipped a wrister past Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie for the 3-2 victory. As the Smokies tried to break out, Liam Finlay forced a turnover to the right of MacBurnie, and fed Tufto who wristed it in from the left hash mark.
With over 1,200 fans in the stands celebrating Hockey Day in Trail, a Smokies win would have tied the Vipers for the final playoff spot in the Interior division. The two teams fired more than 100 shots at the two goalies, with Trail having the edge 54-52, but it was the Vipers that earned the extra point and stretched its lead to three points over Trail for the final playoff spot.
The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring with 4:10 to play in the opening frame, when Kyle Howarth stripped the puck from the Viper defenceman and turned it into a 3-on-1. Howarth dropped it back to a trailing Nick Halloran who then feathered a pass to Newton on the right side who slid it in the open net for a 1-0 lead.
Howarth made it 2-0 when he jumped on a loose puck in the Vipers slot and beat Shortridge low stick side midway through the second. But Vernon replied on the power play, when Tufto’s point shot ricocheted off the backboard to Finlay at the side of the net for his 14th goal of the season, 13:58 into the period.
Less than 90 seconds later, Riley Brandt surprised the Trail goaltender, snapping a shot from a face off won by Colton McCarthy in the Trail end to tie it at two.
Eighteen penalties through the first two periods marred the flow of a spirited match, that saw both goalies come up big time and again, with the shots 30-28 in favour of Vernon.
Trail pressed in the third period firing 21 shots at Shortridge but could not solve the Vipers goalie. The teams exchanged great scoring chances early in the 3-on-3, but MacBurnie stoned the Vipers forward with a great left pad save, and Snakes goalie Andrew Shortridge did the same to Max Newton.Trail had the best chances in the first overtime firing four shots on the Vernon goalie, but were stymied again, while MacBurnie came up big in the opening minutes of the second OT until Tufto ended it.
Trail went 0-for-7 on the power play while Vernon was 1-for-8. MacBurnie was named the game’s first star, with Tufto and Shortridge the game’s second and third stars respectively.
In Thursday’ match, Evan MacEachern scored two goals and added an assistant in a 6-4 victory over the Chiefs. Newton also scored twice, while affiliate player Brett Witala netted the winner for Trail 3:52 into the third period to make it 5-3. Harlan Orr tallied the other goal for Trail as Bailey MacBurnie stopped 38 shots, and Matteo Esposito 25 for the Chiefs.
Trail’s next game is on the road on Tuesday in West Kelowna against the Warriors.