The Greater Trail Midget AA Smoke Eaters skated to victory at its annual tournament at the Cominco Arena Sunday.
It was the third year in a row the Midget-AA Smoke Eaters faced Merritt AA Centennials in the final, and after beating the midget Centennials 3-0 in last year’s championship match, the Greater Trail Midgets repeated with a 3-2 win.
Veteran captain James Booth scored twice in the final and Chris Colquhoun netted what proved to be the winner, as the double-A Smoke Eaters held period leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before the Cents made it close.
“Our older guys played really well,” said Trail head coach Paul Matteucci. “They’re so spirited, so it kind of carries over . . . I think we impressed a lot of people this weekend, just because no one’s seen us play and there were some big crowds, it was fun.”
The AA Smokies play in the Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association and play the majority of their regular season games on the road.
The team seemed a little flat in its opening match against Missoula Friday, but got better as the weekend wore on.
“We played a lot better in our other four games than we did in that game,” said Matteucci.
Indeed, after tying Missoula 3-3 in its opening match, Greater Trail reeled off 5-2 wins over Spokane and Kelowna to finish the round robin, before downing Spokane 7-2 in the semifinal to advance to the championship game against Merritt.
Merritt faced Kelowna in the other semifinal, in a very close matchup that was decided by a shootout in a 2-1 victory for Merritt.
Trail was plagued by injuries, but a disciplined and concerted effort coupled with solid defensive play and good goaltending from Drake Poirier and Cole Gallo carried the team over their annual rivals.
“We have been at times undisciplined, and this weekend the focus was to stay out of the box,” said Matteucci. “This time, especially in the final game, we stayed out of the box, and the kids were committed to turning a blind eye.”
With some spirited fan participation, the games did not lack excitement on the ice or in the stands, as large contingents showed their colours in each and every game.
Matteucci also gave well-deserved praise to the refereeing crews who worked the games on the weekend, and the organizers and volunteers for all their hard work.
The Greater Trail AA Midgets finish their OMAHA season in Penticton this weekend. The team will play in a tournament in Lethbridge later this month to prepare for the Provincial championships in Kelowna in March.