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Smoke Eaters end regular season with road split in Wenatchee

Trail Smoke Eaters beat Wenatchee 5-2 Friday, then fall to Wild by same score Saturday
The Trail Smoke Eaters wrapped up the season earning a split with the Wenatchee Wild, with identical 5-2 scores on Friday and Saturday in Wenatchee. Photo: Jim Bailey

The Trail Smoke Eaters ended its season with a split in Wenatchee against the Wild this weekend.

Trail wrapped up a difficult last half of the season with a 5-2 victory over the Wild on Friday, before falling to Wenatchee the next night by the same score.

With their place in the standings set for both Trail and Wenatchee, the Smokies went into Saturday’s game looking to build momentum for their first round meeting with top seed Penticton Vees.

A back and forth first period saw Wenatchee jump out to a 2-0 lead, on a pair of redirections from Arvega Hoysepyan and Micah Berger.

With 4:51 to go in the first period, Smokies leading scorer Brady Hunter was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot, but was stopped by Wild goalie Andy Vlaha.

Hunter, however, redeemed himself minutes later scoring his 18th of the season on a power play with 42 seconds left in the opening frame to cut the lead to one.

Berger tallied his 26th of the season on a setup from Cade Littler 1:15 into the second period for a 3-1 lead for the lone goal of the middle frame.

Ethan Mann scored on a great individual effort 1:41 into the third period, but an insurance marker by Christian Kim at 11:50 and an empty netter sealed the win for Wenatchee.

Wenatchee outshot Trail 36-33, and went 1-for-4 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.

The Smoke Eaters’ 2022-23 season is eerily reminiscent of last year, when a spate of injuries to their goaltenders hurt the team in the final months.

This season, the same injury bug bit Trail even harder in the new year, with up to seven regulars out of the line up.

Trail was on a role prior to the Christmas break, winning six straight and in fifth place in the Interior Conference with 14-11-1-2 record on Dec. 18.

On Saturday, the Smoke Eaters played without key forwards Trey Fechko, Ridge Dawson, Anthony Domina, and Connor Seeley and pointman Ethan Warrener.

They have won six games in their last 26 matches, and finished the season with a 20-27-3-4 record good for eighth place and 47 points. Last season, the Smoke Eaters finished in the same spot with 45 points and a 20-29-2-2 record.

In the first game Friday, Trail scored four times in the first period on goals from Mathieu Cobetto-Roy, Hunter, Nic Remissong, and Evan Bushy for a 4-1 lead, then let Teagan Kendricks do the rest on their way to a 5-2 victory.

After a scoreless second period, Littler made it 4-2 at 8:43, but Josh Schenk scored his 16th of the campaign into an empty net with 23 seconds to play for the 5-2 final.

Wenatchee outshot Trail 37-25, with Kendrick earning the game’s first star, Hunter second, and Cobetto-Roy third star.

With Wenatchee’s win Saturday, the Wild take the season series 4-3, and will finish in seventh in the Interior despite a strong 7-3 finish in their last 10 games. The Wild will play the second seed Cranbrook Bucks in the first round of the BCHL playoff.

Trail will face the 49-3-0-1 Vees on Friday and Saturday (March 31 and April 1) in Penticton in Round 1 of the best-of-seven series, before moving to Trail and the Memorial Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 4-5.

Trail faced the same Vees in Round 1 a year ago, handing Penticton its only loss of the playoffs in Game 1.

The Vees then rolled to the BCHL championship reeling off16 straight wins after that.

Read: Smoke Eaters top Eagles and Express in final home games

Jim Bailey

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