The return of five players from the World Junior A Hockey Challenge to the Penticton Vees roster did not bode well for the Trail Smoke Eaters as they journeyed to the Okanagan town Wednesday.
The Smokies limped into Penticton with five affiliate players from the Castlegar Rebels in the lineup to shore up an injury-plaguedsquad. But penalties and one very skilled line also killed the Trail Smoke Eaters as they suffered a 9-3 shellacking.
The line of Mario Lucia, Travis St. Denis and Connor Reilly counted for 14 points and five Penticton goals.
Former Smokie and Trail native St. Denis scored a goal and picked up four assists for a five-point night while Lucia potted a natural hat trick in the second frame and added two helpers.
It was the players’ first game since returning from the WJAC where St. Denis along with Vees teammates Curtis Loik and Troy Stecher won gold for Canada West and Lucia, playing for the U.S.A., took home bronze and was named to the first all-star team.
Penticton dominated from the start jumping out to a 4-1 first period lead and scoring five in the second to go up 9-1 before Trail quietly replied with two more.
The Vees went 5 for 7 on the power play including one short-handed marker, while Smokies went 0 for 4 in a game that had its share of chippy plays and cheap shots.
The Smokies look to avenge the humbling loss on Sunday when they host the Vees.
It is the fifth time the two teams have met this year, the Smokies winning one at home where the Vees have had their problems.
“There is no doubt we have had troubles with going into Cominco Arena,” said Vees assistant coach Michael Hengen. “We’d like to change that. Doesn’t matter where it is, we want the two points. Any time you get two points in a rink where you haven’t been the most successful in the past is a huge confidence boost for the team.”
The Smokies will need better goaltending and more discipline and find a way to neutralize the explosive Vees offense.
“It’s more a case of a mentality – that it doesn’t matter who’s on the ice, we have to play hard and play a physical game and take away their time and space,” said Smokies assistant coach Bob Dever. “It doesn’t matter who has got the puck in the other team’s jersey.”
Jamie D’Andrea went the distance for the Smokies, stopping 27 of 36 shots fired his way.
The Smokies will likely be supplemented by more AP’s Sunday as Adam Fares, Josh Roberts, Brandon Egli and Kyle Horsman remain sidelined.
The game goes Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
Support the Smoke Eaters as they host their Steak and Lobster Dinner fundraiser at the Colombo Hall tonight, starting at 6 p.m. Draws, auctions and entertainment. Tickets available at ReMax.