Smokies destined to meet Westside for third time

Despite a strong effort in front of a big hometown crowd on Friday and a one-goal loss on Saturday, the start of the BCHL playoffs is going to be a very familiar one for the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Despite a strong effort in front of a big hometown crowd on Friday and a one-goal loss on Saturday, the start of the BCHL playoffs is going to be a very familiar one for the Trail Smoke Eaters.

The Smokies dropped a pair of one-goal decisions to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks over the weekend, clarifying their playoff scenario.

The single point in two games, coupled with wins by Penticton and Westside, has guaranteed the Smokies a first-round matchup with the Westside Warriors for the third straight year.

All that remains to be decided is which team will have home ice advantage when the playoffs open Feb. 25.

Trail has two games left, in Vernon Friday and Merritt on Saturday, to close out the 2010-11 regular season. Meanwhile, the Warriors have four games to play. They wrapped up their northern trip with a game in Quesnel Sunday afternoon, however results were unavailable by press time.

Westside has a stop in Penticton on Wednesday before closing out its season over the weekend with home games against Quesnel and Prince George.

Barring a collapse, all signs point to Trail making a trip to West Kelowna to open the post-season.

Despite the losing weekend, the Smokies put together a pair of solid games in their quest to keep pace with the second-place Silverbacks.

Friday night in front of the largest crowd of the season, Trail took a 3-1 lead into the third on a pair of goals from Travis St. Denis and one from Erik Cooper.

However, Salmon Arm showed its resiliency by cutting the deficit with goals at the six and 16-minute mark of the final frame to force overtime.

It took the Silverbacks’ Charlie Vasaturo’s lone shot on goal in the first overtime to settle things.

The win was the first for Salmon Arm in five meetings with Trail and ran the Silverbacks undefeated streak to eight games.

Saturday night the scene shifted to Salmon Arm with another one-goal decision.

The Silverbacks bolted out to a 3-0 lead in the first period thanks to a four-minute explosion that netted the team’s entire offence for the evening. The hosts fired 22 shots at Trail goaltender Kiefer Smiley in the opening 20 minutes.

The Smokies chipped away at the deficit with Sam Mellor’s 33rd goal of the season seven minutes into the second period.

Down 3-1 with one period to play, Trail stepped up its attack – outshooting Salmon Arm 15-5 in the final frame.

Paul Mailey made it a one-goal game 65 seconds into the third.

The Smokies captain has been on fire of late and the goal was his 39th point of the season, one short of his career best.

Despite the barrage of shots in the final period, Salmon Arm goaltender Kris Moore shut the door the rest of the way.

The win for the Silverbacks keeps them two points up on Penticton and within three points of first-place Vernon. The Vipers hold a game in hand, heading into the final week of the regular season.