Despite a loss to the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday, a thrilling come-from-way-behind home victory on Friday over the Prince George Spruce Kings lifted the Trail Smoke Eaters into second place in the BCHL’s Interior Division standings.
The Smoke Eaters dropped a close 5-3 match to the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday in Kelowna after skating to a gutsy 5-4 win against the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday at the Cominco Arena.
“My expectations are getting higher,” said Smoke Eater coach Cam Keith. “I’m not overly satisfied with our game on Saturday. I felt we played well at times and we were in a position to win but we kind of let it slip, and against a divisional team it’s not the performance we want to be putting forward.”
The Warrior’s Quinn Foreman scored the winner at 8:36 of the third period to give West K a 4-3 lead. The Smokies pulled Linden Marshall late in the period for an extra attacker but Foreman tallied his second on the night into an empty net to seal the win for the Warriors.
Trail led the game 3-2 in the third period on goals from Ross Armour, Blaine Caton, and Kale Howarth, but missed opportunities and a shift in momentum foiled their shot at a fourth win in a row.
“It was a momentum swing,” said Keith. “We actually played well in the first five minutes of the third and had a chance to put the game away, but (Luke) Santerno hit a crossbar and someone else had a chance in front and we didn’t score.”
The Warriors Chase Dubois netted his hat trick at 12:05 to tie the game, and Foreman did the rest, scoring the winner after Armour had been taken down injured in front of the Warriors’ goalie.
“They carried the puck down on a 5-on-4 and capitalized, and then we ran out of gas … we couldn’t muster up a comeback. It wasn’t our best weekend, performance wise, and we need to be better.”
The Warriors outshot Trail 43-27 with first star going to Dubois, second star to Foreman, and third star to Trail’s Connor Brown-Maloski with three assists. The Smokies went 1-for-3 on the power play and the Warriors 0-for-5.
On Friday night in Trail, the Smokies fought back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Spruce Kings 5-4. Santerno netted his 10th of the season with 8:26 to play converting a setup from Spencer McLean and Josh Laframboise to give the Smoke Eaters a 5-4 victory.
“It may have been a big part of why we didn’t have a lot of jam on Saturday,” said Keith. “It was a very emotional game on Friday. I tip my hat to the guys on the character coming back after being down 4-1, but the ‘not too high, not too low’ metaphor comes in. You’re a little bit too excited after the comeback and it’s tough, there’s lots of emotion. We’re a young group and we have to learn to be a little bit more even-keeled.”
Jarod Hovde and Ethan de Jong gave P.G. a 2-0 lead until Ryan Moon made it 2-1 at 6:48 of the opening frame. Second-period goals from Brent Mennear and Chong Lee put the Spruce Kings ahead 4-1, but Armour’s seventh of the season made it 4-2, and the Smokies Blaine Caton drew Trail to within one at 18:10 of the third. New Smoke Eater, Mitchell Barker, tied it with 15:50 remaining, to set up Santerno’s winner.
Prince George outshot Trail 39-34 with Zach Dyment getting the win in net for Trail.
With the victory, the 10-9-1-0 Smokies claim sole possession of second place in the Interior Division but won’t get too comfortable with just two points separating second and fifth place. Trail has two divisional matches against Salmon Arm and West Kelowna on tap at home this week, and with a couple wins can create some breathing room in the Interior Division standings.
“One bad week and you can be in last place,” says Keith. “A team like Salmon Arm has three really good lines, a lot of depth, and they’re good on the back end. They’re record doesn’t reflect the talent they have on their team.”
The Smokies play Salmon Arm tonight at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena and West Kelowna on Thursday.