The hockey Gods have not been kind to the Trail Smoke Eaters of late, as another point was ripped from their clutches in a last minute 3-2 loss to Salmon Arm on Wednesday.
The victory over Trail was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks sixth win in a row, which included a 3-0 shutout over league-leading Penticton Vees on Saturday and a 7-1 drubbing of West Kelowna Warriors last Friday. Silverback forward Bryden Marsh provided the heroics when he redirected a Riley Booth point shot past Smoke Eater goalie Brett Clark with 1:48 to play in regulation for the 3-2 victory at the Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm.
The goal spoiled a solid performance from Clark who faced 40 shots. The win puts the Silverbacks (16-13-3-5) just two points behind the Merritt Centennials for the final playoff spot in the Interior division.
“We competed, I mean I can’t be disappointed at all with our effort,” said Trail Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “We had a lead going into the third, we got the goaltending we needed, we were playing with an edge, and we were battling.”
After a scoreless first period, Trail jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal from Bryan Basilico scoring his ninth of the season with assists to Jeremy Lucchini and Harlan Orr. Craig Martin, in his first game back since suffering a lower body injury against Coquitlam Nov. 15, put the Smokies up 2-0 when he tipped in a Robert Johnson shot, but the Smokies couldn’t hold the lead as the Silverbacks struck for three straight goals to hand Trail its fourth loss in a row.
“They definitely took momentum over in the last half of the game and I thought we could have done a better job managing that . . . You have to control your fate a little bit better, whether the first minute of the game or the last minute of the game, you really have to have the same intensity and approach.”
Marsh started the comeback at 13:55 of the middle frame when he beat Clark to draw the Silverbacks within one. Then after Johnson was called for tripping, the Silverbacks Carson Bolduc would score at 7:24 of the third period with one second remaining on the power play to tie it at two.
The Smokies had a chance to go ahead when Salmon Arm’s Phil Middleton took a holding penalty with seven minutes remaining but the power play couldn’t get one by Zach Dyment or score in the final 108 seconds when Clark was pulled for an extra attacker.
Despite the loss, it was a good bounce back game for the Smokies after being overwhelmed by Vernon on the weekend in a 6-4 loss. But the Silverback victory may have been the dagger in the Smokies playoff hopes as they now sit 12 points back of Salmon Arm and 14 points out of the fourth-and-final playoff spot.
“It’s probably more disappointing because we really need these wins. We’re not in the middle of the pack, where we can afford these. Things have to go our way. But until you’re mathematically out, I mean any team above us can slump and we can do the opposite because we really are in all these games”
In the last four matches, Trail carried three leads into the third period, and were tied with Vernon with five minutes left in the other game, but could not manage a point. For the Smokies the compete factor is there, but the results are elusive.
“I think we are really close,” said Trail assistant captain Jake Lucchini. “We’re losing one goal games, and two goal games which is tough but hopefully we’ll overcome those soon.”
The Smoke Eaters play Alberni Valley Bulldogs tonight before heading to Merritt to take on the Centennials on Saturday. Alberni (18-13-1-3) is holding down the fouth playoff spot in the Island division two points back of Victoria, and beat the Smoke Eaters 5-3 in their trip to the Island Oct. 11.
“They played us extremely well. I think they play a little different at home than on the road. We’ve got a lot bigger ice surface and I think we’ll be sure to take advantage of that and be comfortable back at home. The last time at home we got a win so hopefully we can bring the same excitement and energy to the building . . . then we’ll have a chance to redeem ourselves against Merritt on Saturday in another huge four-point game.”
Face off is 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Cominco Arena.