It must have been the shoes — or the favourable bounces, special teams, strong goaltending yada yada.
Ominously lined neatly up against the wall outside their dressing room, the Smokies dress shoes sat as their exuberant owners hopped off the ice after securing their trip to Wenatchee to play the Wild in the BCHL Interior Division final.
“It’s just a tradition. We came here in Game 5 (which they won) and we all put our shoes outside the room to have cleaner floors inside our dressing room and we won last time so when we came here for Game 7, immediately it was ‘boys shoes at the door,’” explained Smokies netminder Adam Marcoux. “I guess it will be a thing moving forward, it has worked so far.”
The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring in the game on a broken play. Blaine Caton took a shot from the slot that deflected off a Vees leg and right to the slot where Andre Ghantous had a wide open net 9:58 into the first period.
A few minutes later, the Smoke Eaters were given a power play after the Vees were called for too many men on the ice. It took the Smoke Eaters just 47 seconds into the power play as Ross Armour slid a pass to Braeden Tuck in front of the goal, who pulled it to his backhand before finding a hole on Adam Scheel’s blocker side with 2:32 to play in the first.
The Vees generated a ton of high quality scoring chances in the second period and getting their first power play of the game, they looked to cut into the Smokies lead. Unfortunately, it was the Smoke Eaters taking advantage, as Armour found a turnover in front of the Vees net and beat Scheel under the blocker to make it 3-0 less than six minutes into the period.
“When you get in these moments you can’t make the mistakes that we did. We had an unfortunate bounce that gave them their first goal, then after that we take a too many men on the ice penalty … then a short-handed goal put us in a big hole,” said Vees head coach Fred Harbinson. “I thought our guys fought hard and tried to get back in the game.”
Wyatt Sloboshan cut into the lead when he and Chris Klack came in on a two-on-one rush. Klack cut to the middle of the ice before sliding the puck to Sloboshan, who fired it past the blocker side of Adam Marcoux.
Vees forward Taylor Ward was an inch away from making it 3-2, as his shot from the right circle off a Trail turnover hit the underside of the cross bar but stayed out.
Trailing 3-1 into the third, the Vees came out with jump in the final period. After holding Trail in their zone for a minute, the Smokies took advantage of another turnover. Tuck came down the left wing into the Trail zone before finding Armour heading to the front of the net who tipped the pass through Scheel to make it 4-1 just 70 seconds into the period.
Kenny Johnson pulled the Vees to within two after throwing a massive hit along the Trail blue line. The Vees regrouped at centre, and Luke Reid skated down the right wing in the Trail zone before firing it across the ice for Johnson who tapped it in backdoor.
The goal came with eight minutes to play, but that was as close as the Vees would come as the game ended with the 4-2 score.
Cam Keith, head coach of the Smokies, said Kale Howarth was their MVP of this series and chose Marcoux as the standout in Game 7.
“Our goalie just made those big saves. That is what you need, especially in a Game 7 … it could have gone either way tonight and we were fortunate to get those two goals early then it was kind of a uphill battle for Penticton.”
The loss ends the junior careers of the Vees Sloboshan, Jordan Henderson, Dakota Boutin, Jackson Keane, Klack and Owen Sillinger a they were in their final year of eligibility.
The announced attendance for Game 7 was 4,324.