Smoke eaters: Trail drops pair at Showcase

The Smokies suited up against a winless Prince George team Saturday, before playing the unbeaten Wild Sunday evening.

The Trail Smoke Eaters came close but returned from Chilliwack and the BCHL Showcase without a point, losing to the Prince George Spruce Kings, 6-3, and Wenatchee Wild, 3-1, on the weekend.

“We needed to be a better team in the first game,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “We had an opponent that hadn’t won all year, and just as a group we came out flat.”

The Smokies suited up against a winless Prince George team Saturday morning at Prospera Place, before playing the unbeaten Wild Sunday evening.

The Smoke Eaters were tied heading into the third in both games, but could not muster a victory in either final frame. In any case, the game against the Wild was a good bounce-back effort for the Smokies after the disappointing loss to Prince George.

With the score tied 1-1, the Wild’s Brendan Harris would break wide into the Smokies end, whirl around the net and beat Bailey MacBurnie on a wrap around with 12:04 to play to score what proved to be the winning goal in the 3-1 victory.

Kyle Stephen opened the scoring at 9:06 in the first as the Wild outshot Trail 11-7 in the period. But Trail came out energized in the second and Nick Halloran evened it on a Cole Arcuri setup at 8:49 of the middle frame.

The Smokies held an 11-8 edge on shots in the second and continued to dominate in the third, but could not beat Wild goalie Chase Perry, a Detroit Red Wings 2014 fifth-round draft pick. Despite outshooting Wenatchee 13-6 in the period and enjoying two power play opportunities, Trail could not capitalize.

“The power play I thought it was better,” said Deschenes. “Sometimes teams will go through dry spells and at the start of the year it looks a little bit worse than it is. But our group got better through practices and in video work, we accomplished a lot more on the power play. Did the puck go in? No, but scoring chances and opportunities were there.”

Troy Conzo iced it for the Wild, scoring into an empty net with 29 seconds remaining. The Smokies outshot Wenatchee 31-25 overall and went 0-for-3 on the power play while killing off four chances for the Wild.

In Saturday’s game, after two periods the Smokies were tied with Prince George 2-2 on goals from Harlan Orr and Rhett Wilcox. Kienan Scott gave the Smokies a 3-2 lead 3:27 in the third, but P.G. tied it 70 seconds later on a Braiden Epp goal.

With less that two minutes remaining, Connor Logan put the Spruce Kings up for good, and Stephen Penner made it 5-3 on a bank-shot into the empty net. Logan added another with two seconds left in regulation to give the Spruce Kings their first win of the season.

“I thought it was a game we could have controlled from start to finish, and with the circumstances in the Showcase, our players needed to put their best foot forward and so we didn’t quite get the results we wanted,” said Deschenes. “The next night we responded really well, the effort was definitely there, and it came right down to one play this way or that way. We outshot them and carried the play for most of the game and consensus is we deserved a better fate, but that’s sports.”

The Smoke Eaters also acquired Bennett Morrison from the Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday. The 19-year-old Mississauga native  is a six-foot-two, 205 pound defenceman who split his time between Salmon Arm and Chilliwack last season, scoring three goals and adding 11 assists in 56 games. Trail also released defenceman Evan Korizis.

Trail is on the road on Saturday playing its only weekend game in Salmon Arm against the Silverbacks.