The Trail Smoke Eaters dropped their opening pre-season matches to the Cranbrook Bucks on the weekend.
With almost 400 vaccinated fans in the stands of the Cominco Arena on Friday, Trail fell 5-3 to the Bucks, and then ran into a hot goalie on Saturday in a 3-1 loss in Cranbrook.
Cranbrook goalie Nathan Airey stymied Smoke Eaters shooters stopping 40 shots on Saturday night, including a frantic first period when Trail outshot the Bucks 20-9.
The Smokies Zach Michaelis put Trail up 1-0 finishing a nice setup from Brady Hunter and Connor Michaud early in the second period.
But the Bucks scored three unanswered, the first from Tyson Dyck who scored on a scramble in front of the Trail net.
Two minutes later, Cranbrook’s Natahn Fox scored on a great individual effort roofing it shortside on Evan Fradette for the game winner.
Rhys Bentham made it 3-1 with 2:27 to play in the middle frame, blasting a point shot through traffic for a power play goal.
Trail outshot Cranbrook 41-37 and went 0-for-1 on the power play, while the Bucks were 1-for-1 with the extra man.
On Friday night Trail jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead on a goal from Jordan Hendry.
However, three Cranbrook goals in just over eight minutes in the second period put the Bucks up 3-1.
Trail’s Brendan Ross replied to cut the lead to 3-2 with 11:14 to play, but Noah Leibl restored the three-goal spread with 8:59 left in the middle frame.
The teams traded goals in the third, with Coalson Wolford scoring for Trail and Andrew King for the Bucks in the 5-3 final.
Cranbrook outshot Trail 40-30, with Callum Tung and Cayden Hamming splitting time in the Smoke Eaters net.
Trail’s next game goes on Thursday, Sept. 30 when they host the Wenatchee Wild, with the puck drop at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Trail and Cranbrook open the regular season with a home-and-home on Oct. 8 and 9, with the first game going at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook at 7 p.m.