Nothing like down home Trail hospitality.
The Trail Smoke Eaters served up four first period goals to the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks — two hors d’oeuvre 90 seconds into the game — before they decided to doff the maître d’ outfits and play hockey Friday night.
Although the Smokies won the next two periods, they couldn’t overcome the initial four goals they surrendered to their cellar mates in the BCHL’s Interior Conference and dropped the game 6-4 before 450 fans at Cominco Arena.
The home club was buoyed by a three-goal effort from 18-year-old rookie Brandon Long, including a late power play goal with two minutes left in the third to pull within one goal at 5-4.
“We knew we needed to buckle down and get back to what has worked for us since after Christmas,” he said. “But we couldn’t pull (a tie) off.”
And what has worked was a hard checking, hard skating style. The coaching staff reminded the club of that during the first intermission, said Smokies assistant coach Bob Dever, and it propelled them to win the second period 3-1 and dominate much of the play in the third period.
“There was a bit of paint being peeled between the first and the second and we responded with two quick goals but, unfortunately, we couldn’t seal the deal,” he said. “Any team in any league can’t spot the opposition a four-goal lead. It doesn’t happen that you come back very often.”
Dever was at a loss for the slow start, and felt the team broke with the consistent play they began showing since the Christmas break.
“When things aren’t going well, the bounces aren’t going your way, the easiest and the smartest thing to do is to be physical and that’s how you wear the other team down,” he said.
With 10 games left in the regular season — and all but two players set to return for next season — it is next year country for the Smokies. Guys are now competing for jobs for the coming season, Dever pointed out.
“We talked about that today. It’s not a sure thing that just because you are here now doesn’t mean you are going to be here next year, it’s like an audition for next season right now,” he said.
Garrett McMullen chipped in two assists, while Erik Cooper had the other goal for the Smoke Eaters. James D’Andrea was pulled after giving up four goals on 15 shots in the first period, while Lyndon Standwood made 19 saves over the remaining two periods.
The Silverbacks were led by Jeff Kennedy’s two goals, but also had goals from Stefan Nicholishen, Alex Gillies, Myles McCauley and Garrett Hendrickson.
Trail was one for four on the power play, and killed all three Silverbacks’ power plays. Trail had 43 shots on the Silverbacks net — including 19 in the second period — while Salmon Arm had 36 shots in the game.