Game 7: Smoke Eaters succumb to Vipers

Trail Smoke Eaters exciting playoff run comes to an end in Game-7 loss to Vernon Vipers

The Vernon Vipers dashed the Trail Smoke Eaters hopes of a return to the BCHL Interior Division final with a 5-2 victory on Monday.

Trail’s Game-7 loss brings an end to an inspired playoff run, which electrified crowds and restored faith in a young Smoke Eaters team that had its share of ups-and-downs over the regular season.

“I’m so proud of that group,” said head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “For that group to go on the second longest playoff season in Trail’s franchise history in the BCHL. I was so impressed the way that group could come together in such a short amount of time.”

Related read: Smoke Eaters look to repeat Game-7 win

Despite finishing in seventh place in the Interior, the upstart Smoke Eaters upset Number-2 seed Merritt Centennials in five games in Round-1 and forced Game 7 against Vernon in the division semifinal with a thrilling Game-6 victory at home on Saturday.

“It takes time, in those rebuild years, but we got to a point where that team could have won a lot of rounds. You always get a sense at the end of the year, whether they want to go home or they want to keep playing, and those kids wanted to keep playing, you could just feel it every time you’re around them.”

Trail’s turn-around started in earnest with the acquisitions of defenceman Luke Gallagher and goalie Donovan Buskey at the Jan. 10 trade deadline. Even without veteran goalie Adam Marcoux, who was lost to injury, Buskey backstopped the Smokies to a strong finish to the regular season, and following a Game-1 loss, the Smokies went on a six-win romp in the playoffs.

“No one expected our group to do anything,” said Tambellini. “Which was fine on the outside, but on the inside we knew. No one was going to see us coming, because the only ones who knew how good our team was were the coaching staff and the players. As a coach, that’s exactly what you want is for people to underestimate how good your hockey team is and how hard they work.

“But’s it’s disappointing in the fact that if we got through this round, this is a team that could have taken it all the way.”

Related read: Smoke Eaters leave Snake Pit with 2-0 lead

In Monday’s match, Vernon dominated in the early going, scoring three times in the first period, including Jagger Williamson’s game-winning goal. The Vipers veteran forward broke in and beat Trail goalie Adam Marcoux with 3:18 remaining in the first period to deliver a palpable blow to the Smokies hopes and lift the Vipers to a 3-1 lead heading into the middle frame.

“That was the first game when we didn’t have a good first period,” said Tambellini. “We found our legs probably in the middle of the second, but you get behind a few and you’re not able to get it back.”

The Vipers Josh Latta opened the scoring when Matt Kowalski sent Latta down the right side and he fired a low shot stick side for a 1-0 lead at 12:24 of the first.

The Vipers went up 2-0, on a Ben Helgeson tip-in off a shot from Nicholas Cherkowski less than two minutes later.

Hayden Rowan got the Smoke Eaters on the board on a power-play goal, deflecting a slick slap-pass from Carter Jones past Vipers goalie Aiden Porter at 3:52, but 34 seconds later Williamson put the Vipers up 3-1.

Carver Watson gave the Vipers a 4-1 lead five minutes into the second, sending Marcoux to the bench in favour of Smokies backup Donovan Buskey as Vernon outshot Trail 22-10 through two periods.

Smokies captain Braeden Tuck gave the Smokies momentary life in the third, scoring 3:15 into the final frame to cut the lead to two. The Smokies pulled Buskey in the final two minutes for an extra attacker, but Latta ended it, scoring into the empty net with 44 seconds remaining.

“Give them a lot of credit, that series was exactly what it should have been, a seven-game series, where you get to take it right down to the wire. It was an outstanding series.”

Vernon outshot the Smoke Eaters 29-19, with the Vipers going 0-for-2 on the power play and the Smokies 1-for-2.

The Smoke Eaters gave a farewell nod to veteran Marcoux, who was reinserted following the empty netter, to finish his BCHL career on the ice. Also, graduating are veterans Tuck, Spencer McLean, Ryan Chernenkoff, and Trevor Zins.

“I talked about it at the start of the year, ‘I need to build this team with great people,’” he added. “I was so fortunate to have amazing captains this year. Those guys were so important to us having success just because they wanted to win so bad and wanted to do it right every day. Then you go through the veterans, and it’s hard to single out one guy, but that’s just it, it’s the characteristic of a good team.”

The Vipers move on to the Interior final against the Wenatchee Wild that is scheduled to start Friday in Wenatchee.

The Smoke Eaters will regroup and prepare for their Spring Identification Camp, Apr. 5-7.



sports@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

No clear option to help more Rosslanders access recreation facilities in Trail: Report

Rossland residents have had to pay double the cost to use the facilities in recent years

Nelson’s American sister city faces COVID-19 culture war

In Sandpoint, Idaho, wearing a mask is about Black Lives Matter, gun rights, and COVID-19

B.C. village grants reprieve for those living in RVs

by JOHN BOIVIN Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

RDKB to spend $5,000 to review 2020 freshet response

The province is also kicking in $5,000 for the review of flood protection rollout and communications

Regional fire crews initiate rope rescue for stranded trio

Regional fire rescue recovered couple and their dog from steep cliff

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Most Read