Both the Trail Smoke Eaters and Vernon Vipers were shorthanded Saturday night as they faced off at the Cominco Arena for their third meeting of the season, but in the end, it was the Smokies who got bit.
The Smokies, plagued by injuries to Adam Fares, Kyle Horsman, Josh Roberts and Brandon Egli, played conservative but good defensive hockey Saturday night, only to fall victim to the Vipers in the second over time 2-1.
The home team squandered a power-play opportunity when Vernon took a too-many-men penalty in the first OT frame.
Fifteen seconds into the three-on-three over -time, the Vipers’ Darren Nowick struck when he broke in front of the net and slid a quick shot under the pad of Trail goalie Jamie D’Andrea to steal the win,
“Last night we were the better team,” said Trail coach Bill Birks.
“I thought that was the best 65 minutes I’ve seen these guys play.”
Running with only three lines, the Smokies managed to outshoot Vernon, 30-27 in regulation, but key saves by Vipes’ goalie Kirby Halcrow kept them in it.
Colton Sparrow gave Vernon a first period 1-0 lead, before Smokies’ center Garrett McMullen took a pass in the slot from Adam Wheeldon and beat Halcrow on the blocker side with a slick wrist shot.
The Vipers were without three key players: Castlegar’s Aaron Hadley, Luke Juha and Brett Corkey played for the gold medal for Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge Sunday in Langley.
The Smokies received solid goaltending from D’Andrea who made a great glove save with 20 seconds remaining in regulation to preserve a point.
It’s a positive sign, following a 7-2 loss to Penticton Friday and an 11-2 humbling at the hands of Salmon Arm Wednesday, in which both goalies, Reed Vogt and D’Andrea, struggled.
“I feel for these kids. We’re working hard and we finally got some goaltending that was just decent last night, we deserve way more than what we’re getting but for a short bench, I was very happy with the work ethic,” added Birks.
The Smokies added affiliate player (AP) Shane Poulsen from the KIJHL’s Kamloops Storm in time for Wednesday’s game in Salmon Arm. The six-foot-three, 17-year-old defenseman scored two goals and 14 assists in 20 games for the Storm. While he will be a good addition to the Smokies lineup, he will be missed by the KIJHL team.
“While it will create a hole on the defense for a time, it is a positive move for Shane and we wish him all the best,” Storm head coach Geoff Smith told the Kamloops Daily News.
“We are a development league and losing players is a part of that development.”
With the short bench, the Smokies are looking to sign AP players like the Nitehawks’ Craig Martin.
However, the Smokies’ lost another young talent when AP Patrick Martens – leading scorer for the Nelson Leafs – signed with the Langley Rivermen.
“He was going to come play with us Wednesday in Salmon Arm but Langley signed him Wednesday morning,” said Birks. “We’re trying hard with the Martin kid. He’s played three games with us and has had two schools sniffing around him already.”
The Smokies also lost the services of forward Adam Boytinck and defenceman Nicholas Wong.
Both players left the team and returned home last week. Trail is pursuing trade options to shore up their depleted lineup.