After falling to the West Kelowna Warriors in a close 2-1 loss at home on Friday, the Trail Smoke Eaters salvaged a single point on Saturday in an overtime loss to the Vees in Penticton.
The Vees Jonny Tychonick scored the overtime winner on the power play, taking a pass in the slot from Owen Sillinger and one-timing a shot off the cross bar and in to give the Vees a 3-2 win in front of 4,300 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“We played a really good game,” said Smoke Eaters assistant coach, Jessie Leung. “It’s always tough in Penticton, it’s one of those spots where there’s a bit of a tilt towards the home ice, but I thought our special teams performed well … I feel like we maybe deserved a better fate, but with two of the top teams in our league, it was a tight game again.”
The win comes a week after the two teams played to a 2-2 overtime tie, with the Vees improving to 7-0-0-1 in January, while the Smokies have one win in their past four games, but are 4-1-1-2 this month.
Penticton opened the scoring in the first period when Cassidy Bowes jumped on the rebound of a Jackson Keane shot at the 8:20 mark for a 1-0 lead.
The Vees’ Massimo Rizzo broke in on a 2-on-1 rush and tried to send the puck across to Bowes, but it deflected off the leg of the Trail defenceman, who then accidentally swatted the puck into his own net for a 2-0 Vees lead at 7:42.
The Vees outshot the Smokies 13-7 in the first period, and held a 2-0 advantage without capitalizing on four power play chances.
Trail then cut the lead to one scoring the first power-play goal of the game late in the second period. Ross Armour found Jeremy Lucchini in the slot and he fired a wrist shot under the glove of Adam Scheel to make it 2-1 with under a minute remaining in the second.
“You can’t control call selection,” said Leung. “What’s important to us is how we respond, and our special teams and penalty kill was fantastic all game and our power play came through for us when we needed it to get us a spark, and then get us on the board in the second period.”
After a close-checking middle frame, the play opened up in the third, and Trail found the equalizer with less than four minutes to play. Armour redirected a point shot past Pen goalie Scheel to tie the game with just 3:19 left in regulation, setting the stage for overtime between the two teams for the second straight match up.
Just 25 seconds into the extra frame, Lucchini was called for interference, and 40 seconds later Tychonick netted the Vees first power-play goal in seven chances for the OT winner.
The Vees surged to the top of the Interior Division after earning six points this week that included a pair of 4-1 wins over Prince George and Merritt on Thursday and Friday. The Vees are tied with Vernon with 63 points for the Interior lead, and also have three games in hand. Meanwhile, the Smoke Eaters’ losses put them five points behind third-place Wenatchee, and six back of Pen and Vernon. Despite the uphill climb, with just 13 games remaining in the regular season, Leung is focusing on the positives.
“We’re really proud of our group and how we stuck to it, the way we battled back after being two down early in a pretty hostile barn. Good for our team to step up and push back and find a way to have some success, and get back to who we are as a team.”
The Vees outshot the Smoke Eaters 31-19 going 1-for-7 on the power play, while Trail was 1-for-2.
On Friday, the Smoke Eaters fell behind 2-0 through two periods, but couldn’t find the equalizer in the third in a 2-1 setback to the West Kelowna Warriors.
“I don’t think we played our game early on,” said Leung. “That was one where we were just a bit off.”
The Smoke Eaters came out flat in the first period as West K took a 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Parm Dhaliwal and outshot Trail 14-7.
Dhaliwal then netted his eighth of the season with just over seven minutes to play in the middle frame as the Warriors shut down the Smokies offence through two periods.
However, midway through the final stanza, Andre Ghantous beat West Kelowna goalie Nic Amundrud to draw the Smokies within one. Trail was frustrated in the late going and pulled goalie Adam Marcoux for an extra attacker in the final two minutes but couldn’t find the equalizer.
The shots on goal were 30-30 with Trail going 1-for-3 on the power play, and the Warriors 1-for-2. Dhaliwal and Amundrud earned first and second star honours, while Marcoux was the game’s third star.
“The positive out of that (game) is even though we’re not playing our best, we found ways to compete and get it close.”
Trail returns to action on Friday, hosting the Surrey Eagles at 7 p.m., then play the Vernon Vipers on Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.