Offence has driven the Trail Smoke Eaters success this year but with three of their top four forwards away to play for Team Canada West in the World Jr. A Challenge, goals have been hard to come by.
Trail went 0-for-3 on the weekend, falling to the league-leading Coquitlam Express 4-1 on Friday, 5-2 to the Langley Rivermen on Saturday, and 4-1 to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Sunday.
The absence of BCHL leading scorer Kent Johnson, dynamic forwards Owen Ozar and Philippe Lapointe and defenceman Powell Connor has been felt acutely by the Smoke Eaters, particularly on the power play where Trail went just 1-for-12 in the three games. Trail averaged almost four goals per game prior to their departure, and will have to find a way to get more pucks in the back of the net in the three remaining games without the foursome.
The Smoke Eaters beat the Chiefs 3-1 at home last month, but couldn’t generate a sustained attack in Sunday’s rematch.
Chilliwack opened the scoring at 7:24 of the first period on a tap in by Kyle Penney at the right post of Trail goaltender Logan Terness, as the Chiefs led 1-0 after one period of play.
Penney got his second of the game and 13th of the season on the power-play at 3:32 of the middle frame to give Chilliwack a 2-0 lead. Tommy Lyons netted his fifth of the campaign at 11:57 before scoring again at the 16:06 mark to build a 4-0 Chiefs lead after 40 minutes of play.
Chilliwack outshot Trail 15-9 in the second period and Terness gave way to Matteo Paler-Chow to begin the third. Paler-Chow turned aside all 11 shots he faced and Trail scored the lone goal in the final period at 5:18 on a shot by Cody Schiavon that beat Chiefs goaltender top shelf.
Chilliwack outshot Trail 36-28 and went 1-for-4 on the power-play while Trail was 0-for-4.
The Smoke Eaters still hold onto second place in the Interior Division with a 19-12-2-1-1 record, but fall nine points back of 25-9-1-0 Penticton, who swept their weekend series against the 5-21-4-2 West Kelowna Warriors.
In Saturday’s match against the Rivermen, Langley jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Brian Scoville and Kaeden Patrick, before Trail’s Chase Dafoe scored his fourth of the season with 13 seconds to play in the first period.
Jake Livingstone gave Langley a 3-1 lead, before Connor Sweeney drew Trail to within one 18 seconds into the third period.
However, Patrick netted an insurance marker 67 seconds later, and Devin Leduc scored an empty netter for the 5-2 final.
Langley outshot Trail 32-27 and was 1-for-2 on the power play, while Trail was 0-for-4.
In Friday’s match up, Coquitlam extended their home record to 19-0 with a 4-1 victory. The Smoke Eaters got off to a good start and took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal from Dafoe. However, it was all Coquitlam after that with Will Margel tying the game with 2:33 to play in the opening frame, and Ethan O’Rourke, Christian MacDougall, and Tyler Schleppe scoring for the Express.
Coquitlam outshot Trail 32-18 in the match and went 2-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Trail’s next game goes on Wednesday when they host the 16-14-3-1 Wenatchee Wild. The Wild have had a rough time on and off the ice of late, with longtime head coach and GM Bliss Littler having to relinquish his coaching duties last week due to illness. Assistant Chris Clark has taken over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and Littler will retain his GM duties.
The Interior Division’s fifth-place Wild are coming off two losses to the Coquitlam Express, 4-2, and the Vernon Vipers, 6-4, on the weekend, and are 5-4-1-0 in their last 10 games. Wenatchee has no players at the World Jr. A Challenge, but has been bitten by the injury bug with six players out of their line up on Sunday because of injury.
Littler came to Wenatchee in the 2012-13 season. In his time with the Wild, he posted a record of 259-136-49 for a win percentage of .639 and led the Wild to their first league championship (BCHL’s Fred Page Cup) in 2017-18. The Wild also won the CJHL’s Doyle Cup that same year. In his 26-season career, he went 836-450-144.
Trail will look to get back on the winning track Wednesday, with the puck drop for the Trail-Wenatchee game at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.