The Penticton Vees showed why they’re at the top of the Interior Division standings year after year.
The Vees beat the Trail Smoke Eaters 4-1 in Trail’s home opener at the Cominco Arena on Friday and then rubbed a little more salt in the wound with a 7-1 victory on Saturday.
“We knew it was going to be our toughest test going forward,” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Jeff Tambellini. “Right now that is far-and-above the best team in the country, the most talented, the most healthy and it was good because our group got a really good reality check on what they’re going to have to go up against if they want to get out of the division this year.”
Following a tentative start on Friday, the Smoke Eaters came out more determined in Game 2 on Saturday. The Vees still got on the board first, when a turnover at the Trail blueline allowed Vees forward Danny Weight to bang in a rebound 4:34 into the first.
Trail generated a few quality chances, but Vees goalie Derek Krall stopped the shots that he had to, just as Yaniv Perets did on Friday. Late in the period the Smoke Eaters got into penalty trouble, and two power-play goals by Conner Hutchison at 4:38 and Jay O’Brien, a 2018 first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, with 93 seconds left in the first frame, made it a 3-0 game.
“When you play a team like that, which is as deep and experienced team as Penticton is, it exposes every one of your deficiencies,” said Tambellini. “When you play against top players and you make mistakes, they’ll make you pay.”
The Vees owned the second period, as Liam Malmquist scored his first of the campaign beating Buskey for a 4-0 lead just over a minute into the middle frame. He then scored his second of the game when he burst in on a breakaway and went top shelf to make it 5-0, chasing Buskey from the crease.
Trail’s rookie goalie Logan Terness, 16, earned the backup spot over 20-year-old veteran Quebec native Gabriel Waked, and it didn’t take long for him to be tested.
Terness looked poised and confident making a clutch pad save off Penticton captain David Silye on a one-timer in the slot, then stoned Malmquist on a breakaway with just over six minutes to play in the second frame.
“Logan played great,” said Tambellini. “And that’s his job right now as a backup, you have to go in there and finish those games. He went in in the first one, did a great job in the third period, and came into a full barrage in the second period of the second night, and found a way to keep that game in check. For a young man who’s establishing himself in our league, that’s a good first weekend.”
Discipline came back to haunt the Smokies at the end of the second period. Penticton took advantage of a 5-on-3 when O’Brien snuck in through the back door and banged in a cross-ice pass from Weight with 3:24 to play, as the Vees outshot the Smoke Eaters 18-6 in the period.
“That’s the most dangerous power play going, so we needed to limit their chances. But also on the other side, the power play has to push back as well.”
Steve Holtz made it 7-0 five minutes into the final frame, and Smokies forward Michael Colella finally beat Krall, scoring at 7:11 on a setup from Owen Ozar.
Terness stopped 21-of-23 shots in 31:59 of play, while Buskey faced 17 shots in the Trail net. Krall made 29 stops for Penticton, who went 3-for-7 on the power play, while Trail was 0-for-4.
In Friday’s match, Tristan Amonte scored twice as the Vees netted three second-period goals to go up 4-0 heading into the third on their way to the season-opening win.
Ozar scored Trail’s lone goal after a great end-to-end effort from Braden Costello with just under five minutes to play.
Penticton outshot Trail 34-24 with Terness coming in for Buskey in the third period and stopping nine shots, while Perets earned the win for the Vees.
Penticton came as expected, fast and skilled up front, big and mobile on the back end, with two solid netminders. They also showed that the Smoke Eaters still have some work to do.
“You have to play the right way,” added Tambellini. “There’s a right way to play and there’s definitely a wrong way. You see the two goals we scored on the weekend, and it was two guys taking the puck to the net and making a hard play.
They (the Vees) scored 11 goals on the weekend and none of those were doing anything other than making good strong plays and finishing their chances. It was a good lesson for our guys to see that, and a good barometer for where our guys are at and need to be.”
Trail hosts another doubleheader against Salmon Arm this weekend with the puck drop at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena on Friday and Saturday.