BCHL: Smokies drop pair to division leaders

The Trail Smoke Eaters host the Vernon Vipers Wednesday, last home game on Friday.

The Trail Smoke Eaters lost road games to the top two Interior division teams this weekend dropping a 4-2 decision to Penticton Vees on Friday before falling to the West Kelowna Warriors.

In Saturday’s game West Kelowna grabbed a share of top spot in the BCHL Interior division with a 5-2 win over the Smoke Eaters. The win combined with Penticton’s 4-3 loss to the Vernon Vipers give the Warriors and Vees 74 points, however, Penticton has one more win, 36. With just two games remaining for both the Vees and Warriors, the team with most wins would take the title.

David Pope scored twice to pace the Warriors attack, while Carl Hesler, Adam Osczevski and Reid Simmonds also scored for W.K.

Former Smoke Eater Braden Pears, playing with a cage to protect a broken nose, chipped in with a pair of assists, and has counted five points since suffering the injury in a game against Vernon last week.

“Just the way things are going, we’ve had a lot of injuries on the back end and I’ve had to tough through the broken nose,” Pears said on the Warriors website. “But there’s lots of ice time and I have to seize the opportunity. I’ve been playing good and getting lots of ice.”

The broken beak has made breathing difficult, but Pears recognizes a lot of teammates are banged-up this time of year, and that the team’s main goal was to secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs.

“We wanted home-ice advantage obviously to get the fans here in the home arena. That’s awesome – that’s what we were looking for.”

Hesler netted what proved to be the winner as he beat Nikkel at 3:48 of the second period, to give the Warriors its second win on the weekend.

A pair of first period power play goals by Pope, and another by Trail’s Scotty Davidson kept the score close, 2-1 after one, despite the Warriors 21-11 advantage in shots. But three second-period goals by the Warriors put the game well out of reach for the Smokies.

Basilico would get the other Trail goal at 14:50 of the third period to net him a four-point weekend along with Davidson who also assisted on the marker.

Nikkel faced 42 Warrior shots while Andy Desautels blocked 25 for West Kelowna.

Against Penticton Friday, the Smoke Eaters were up 2-0 heading into the final frame, but the Vees scored four unanswered third-period goals to roll to the victory.

Davidson netted his 13th goal of the season on the power play taking a pass from Bryan Basilico and ripping it by Hunter Miska at 10:52 of the second. Two minutes later Davidson would set up Jesse Knowler to put the Smokies up by two.

However goals by Brett Beauvais and Erik Benoit 20 seconds apart would tie it 2-2 at 3:36 of the third. Beauvais would also get the winner after Trail defenceman Nathan Browne was sent off for kneeing, The Bemiji State commit wired a Benoit pass by Trail starter Dustin Nikkel at 5:14 to make it 3-2. Beauvais leads all defencemen in league scoring and is second behind only Brad McLure on the Vees with 13-44-57.

Cody DePourcq netted the insurance marker on another power play midway through the final period.

Nikkel played well again on the night stopping 35 shots, including 20 in the final frame, while Miska stopped 25 Trail drives.

Trail has three games remaining on the season, and will host the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. and play the Warriors in a home-and-home starting on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.