The Trail Smoke Eaters finished off a difficult 2012 season Sunday with a 5-2 loss to the Chilliwack Chiefs.
After taking a 2-1 second period lead on goals by Tanner Clarkson and Riley McDougall, the Chiefs scored four straight to put an end to a dismal Smokies campaign, that saw them finish eighth in the BCHL Interior division with 11 wins and 42 losses.
Playoffs have long been out of the picture, and a shorthanded Smokies team struggled in the final two months going winless in their last 15 games, including 6-2 and 5-2 losses to Merritt on Friday and Saturday.
The Smokies will lose at least two of their leaders; 20-year-olds, captain Clayton McEwan and team top scorer Erik Cooper, played their last game in Junior hockey, still the team will build on a solid core of young players acquired this season.
The team now looks ahead to next year and will run their spring camp from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1.
On the upside, the Penticton Vees streak came to an end, as the Prince George Spruce Kings scored three goals in the third period to take a 5-2 home win over the Vees, stopping the streak at 42.
With the game tied 2-2 heading into the third, Myles Fitzgerald popped the winner at 7:16 of the final frame, before Michael Colantone added a pair of insurance markers, to hand the Vees their first loss since Nov. 5. The win earned Prince George the third seed in the Interior Conference.
Also, the Spruce Kings’ Paul De Jersey added three assist to claim the Brett Hull Trophy with 98 points on the season, two better than Penticton’s Joey Benik who had one assist Saturday night.
Logan Proulx’s Cowichan Valley almost claimed the second seed but came up short finishing a point behind Surrey to take third spot. Despite firing 62 shots at Langley Rivermen goalie James Barr, the Capitals lost 2-1 in OT at home.
The Chilliwack Chiefs win over the Smokies and a 5-2 home win over the Westside Warriors leaves them one-point behind Prince George for fourth spot in the Interior Conference. The Chiefs play top-seeded Penticton in the first round of BCHL playoffs.
The first round of the BCHL playoffs commence Friday.
With files from BCHL