Didn’t take long. Less than two minutes, actually.
The Smoke Eaters went from a team looking like a strong contender for an Interior Division playoff spot to a likely also-ran in just that limited time.
Playing without three of their top seven scorers, Trail carried a two-goal lead very late into the third period Sunday, with what looked like a good chance to stay tied with Vernon for fourth place, the final playoff berth, in their division. A minute and 43 seconds later, they were losing by a goal – they gave up an empty net clincher at the death.
An utter collapse, against a team playing its third road game in less than 48 hours – and with it perhaps the collapse of our hopes for BCHL playoff action at Cominco Arena for the first time in quite a while.
Vernon is here tomorrow (last night’s game happened between the writing and publishing of this piece) and a win in that game would keep playoff hopes alive.
It will be a tough slog, even for a healthy roster, regardless of last night’s score, however, because all but two of the remaining 12 games on the Smoke Eater schedule are against the top teams in the division, including three, beginning with a home-and- home set next weekend, against the number one junior A team in Canada, the Penticton Vees.
It was deflating for the spectators Sunday and had to be crushing for the players who had handled roster adversity fairly well for almost 55 minutes. Reality is, however, real, and the team that buoyed our expectations through December with strong results will have to be even better the rest of the way to stay in touch with playoff contention.
The games are still very entertaining, exciting even, and I will continue to support the team by showing up at games. I will, however, arrive at the rink with my optimism tempered unless the circumstance improves.