A dramatic come-from-behind 5-4 victory over Chilliwack Chiefs on Friday had the Trail Smoke Eaters on cloud nine, but the Vernon Vipers quickly brought them back down to earth with a 9-2 humbling on Saturday.
Trail spotted the Chiefs a 3-0 lead before mounting a comeback that would see captain Garrett McMullen cap it with a goal at 7:26 of the third period.
Scott Davidson made a nice tape-to-tape pass from behind the net, in front to a waiting McMullen who made no mistake in lifting it over Chiefs’ goalie Josh Halpenny for the winner.
“I was super pleased, to be down 3-0 and get a win was huge confidence for the boys for sure,” said Trail Smoke Eater coach and GM Bill Birks.
Trail goaltender Adam Todd picked up his first win for the Smoke Eaters, and responded well after a tough first period, stopping 28 of 32 shots.
“I thought the last two periods he was really good,” said Birks. “He settled down and made some big saves for us.”
Jake Lucchini got the rally rolling, when he wristed a quick shot past Halpenny for his third goal of the season with just over two minutes remaining in the first period. Austin Adduono then slipped one by the Chiefs goalie 26 seconds into the second frame, however, Chilliwack replied, and were up 4-2 before Brent Baltus got Trail back within one when he deposited Davidson’s rebound off the boards into the back of the net at 13:17 of the second.
With the Chiefs leading 4-3 in the third, Luke Sandler broke in on a two-on-one and using the decoy smartly snapped a low shot past Halpenny to tie it at 5:19 mark, setting the stage for McMullen’s winner just minutes later.
On Saturday, the intensity of the previous night seemed to be snuffed out early, as Brett Soleway scored 16 seconds into the game, to set the tone in favour of the Vernon Vipers.
“I didn’t think we played that bad, it wasn’t that good, but it wasn’t a 9-2 game from the effort from our players,” said Birks.
Trail native and former Beaver Valley Nitehawk Craig Martin had a two-point night for the Vipers, scoring his first goal against the Smokies, a team he played nine games for last season as an affiliate player.
“It was nice to come back to Trail and have my parents in the stands, and friends watching as well,” said Martin on Monday as he was en route to Michigan Tech for a recruiting visit.
Martin and the Vipers have had an up and down season, but Saturday night’s win was its third in a row, as they get set to play Trail again on Friday in Vernon.
“The 3-0 loss (their last visit to Trail) was a tough one, but we just knew we had to get shots on Stanwood, and get guys to the net and it seemed to work pretty well Saturday night,” said Martin.
Adam Tambellini and Brett Corkey both had four-point games for Vernon, with each netting a goal and three assists, while Vernon outshot the Smokies 47-43.
By the numbers: The Smoke Eaters have three wins in their past five games and have killed 22 of 28 short-handed situations, while the power play is 5-for-17 over that time.
The disparity in power-play chances may be a concern, with the Smokies giving up an average of almost six PP’s per game while enjoying just over three per game themselves. However, they have scored just one less PP goal in that time.