It was a rocky road for the Trail Smoke Eaters on the weekend as they salvaged just one point on their three-game journey through the BCHL’s Mainland division.
The lowly Surrey Eagles thumped Trail 9-5 on Sunday, after a solid effort saw the Smoke Eaters fall to the Mainland division-leading Chilliwack Chiefs 2-1 in double-overtime on Saturday, and 4-1 to Coquitlam Friday.
“One point out of six is not a good weekend,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “We were snake bitten, but at the end of the day, we have two months left in our season, and we have a large number of our players still underachieving.”
Former Smoke Eater Kurt Black had a three-point night for Surrey, scoring once and adding two assists to lead the Eagles to just their sixth victory of the season. Surrey jumped out to a 4-1 first period lead on goals from Tyler Andrews, Black, Brett Stewart, and Donovon Ott while Kienan Scott replied for Trail, wiring in a pass from Max Newton.
“Right out of the gates we weren’t ready. I mean when you’re down 5-1 and you’ve only given up 12 shots at that point of the game – I mean it’s not one player, it’s a collective five players on the ice and a goaltender collectively have to be responsible and do their jobs defensively.”
Recent acquisition, Nolan Redler scored his first goal as a Smoke Eater beating Eagles goalie Daniel Davidson to make it 4-2, but Surrey’s Jaxon Joseph, a former Beaver Valley Nitehawk, restored the four-goal lead, netting his second goal in his second game since joining the Eagles Friday. The goal chased Trail goalie Linden Marshall from the net. Matthew Hermany, Nick Azar, and Matthew Brown made it 8-2 before goals from Trail d-man Bennett Morrison and Scott, with his 20th, made it 8-4 heading into the third period. Ott and Max Newton rounded out the scoring in the final frame, as the Eagles outshot the Smokies 41-32, with both teams going 2-for-5 on the power play.
“There were times when it looked like we were poised for a comeback or a push and then we’d have a let down, so it’s gut check time,” said Deschenes. “I’d like to think there’s enough push in that room that they’re going to want to respond, and keep going and become the best team possible by the end of the year.”
One positive for Deschenes was the addition of Redler, who joined the team from his Winchester, Mass. home on Friday in time for the road trip.
“It was tough for him, because he hadn’t played since before Christmas and he just got off a plane and started playing three (games)-in-three (days), which is a tall order,” said Deschenes. “We managed his ice in the first two games, but tried to get him in as much as possible in the last game, and he did well and made a lot of good plays.”
On Saturday, Bailey MacBurnie made 40 saves and delivered a first-star performance in the 2-1 loss to the Chiefs. Mitch Skapski put Chilliwack up 1-0 on the power play at 7:32 of the second period, but Nick Halloran tied it for Trail with 12 seconds remaining in the middle period. After a scoreless third period and first overtime, the Chiefs’ Jordan Kawaguchi one-timed a centering pass from Jesse Lansdell by a helpless Macburnie to score the winner with 2:05 left in the 3-on-3 OT. Aidan Palino was also stellar in goal for the Chiefs stopping 37 shots on the night.
In Coquitlam Friday, Halloran opened the scoring for Trail on a setup from Evan MacEachern and Kale Howarth for a 1-0 lead, but the Express netted three goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead into the third. Colton Kerfoot then made it 4-1 midway through the third on an unassisted effort, as Trail outshot Coquitlam 42-25, but were foiled time and again by goalie Tyger Howat.
“We have a bit of a disappointing performance in Coquitlam, where for the first half of the game we should have won, but definitely lost the second half of the game, to then taking the second-place team in the league to overtime, then to losing to the last placed team, and there’s nothing in between there except them putting their skates on and going out,” added Deschenes.
“This kind of thing can’t happen at this time of year. We’re tied with Vernon, and we’re still in the mix, but the road ahead is certainly not going to be easy.”