Trail Smoke Eater captain Garrett McMullen squeezeds this backhand goal by Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar

Trail Smoke Eater captain Garrett McMullen squeezeds this backhand goal by Penticton Vees goalie Chad Katunar

Trail Smoke Eater comeback falls short

The Trail Smoke Eaters came back in the third to tie the Penticton Vees, but couldn't hold on as the Vees eked out a 5-4 win Saturday.

The Trail Smoke Eaters overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period but couldn’t quite complete the comeback as the Interior division front-running Penticton Vees pulled out a 5-4 victory Saturday at the Cominco Arena.

The Smoke Eaters were coming off their second straight overtime win against the Vees Friday night, when Valik Chichkin’s goal in the 3-on-3 OT period gave Trail a 3-2 victory. Unfortunately, Salmon Arm SilverBacks kept pace with their own dramatic 6-5 OT win over Powell River.

The Vees Brad McClure walked in all alone and snapped a quick shot by the blocker of Smokies goalie Adam Todd to nip a valiant Smokies comeback in the bud with 5:45 to play in the final frame.

The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring on the power play when Valik Chichkin’s point shot sailed through traffic and by a screened Chad Katunar. Jedd Soleway would tie it on a deflection, before Louie Nanne took a pass in the slot from Sam Mellor and put the Vees up 2-1 on their own power play with just under three minutes remaining in the first.

The Vees took a 4-1 lead on goals from Cody Depourq and Mike Rebry, but the Smokies Austin Adduono tipped a shot by Katunar on another PP to make it 4-2 with just under two minutes to go in the period.

Veteran leading scorers Garrett McMullen and Brent Baltus stepped it up in the third to draw Trail even. McMullen took a pass from Scott Davidson and squeezed a backhand through the arm of Katunar to cut the lead to 4-3. Just over a minute later, Baltus gathered up a Jesse Knowler rebound and fired it at an empty net, but Vees dman Bryan Sinz slid across to block it. Baltus would not miss the second time banging the rebound into the open net to tie it at 4-4.

Penticton held the edge in shots 35-31, including 16 in the third frame. The loss puts a damper on the Smokies’ playoff hopes, although a Salmon Arm loss to Alberni Saturday kept them tied for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Interior division, the Backs beat Coquitlam Sunday 5-4 to take a two point lead. The Backs have two games remaining finishing their season with games against Merritt and Prince George this weekend.

Trail’s final home game goes at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cominco Arena against the Penticton Vees.