Josh Schenk scored twice including the game winner to lift the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-3 victory over Salmon Arm and its first win of the season on Friday (Sept. 29) at the Trail Memorial Centre.
“It was very similar to the Cranbrook game, I thought we played a pretty good 55 minutes,” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Tim Fragle. “We were happy with our game and really liked our third period, tied going into the third and we really stepped up and wanted the two points.”
Schenk scored with 16:35 to play in the third period to give the Smoke Eaters a 4-3 lead, one they would not relinquish, as Trail dominated the Silverbacks outshooting the visitors 15-6 in the final frame.
After two 5-4 overtime losses in the opening week to Cranbrook and West Kelowna, Trail needed a confidence builder coming into the match against the undefeated Silverbacks.
Fragle gave rookie goalie Ryan Parker the start, and the Sooke native made 29 saves in his first victory as a Smoke Eater.
“It was an emotional night for him, he was pretty excited to get his first BCHL start,” said Fragle. “He made two or three really good saves in the first and then after that we played pretty good and limited Salmon Arm’s quality chances.
“I thought he was steady and didn’t try to do too much. He was really composed, and we are really happy for him to get that first BCHL win.”
The Silverbacks jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but Trail responded with Schenk’s first of the season on a setup from Jason Stefanek and Adam Parsons midway through the opening period.
Veteran Smoke Eater Maxim Potvin put Trail up 2-1 just 56 seconds into the middle frame, and Ridge Dawson and Christian Kim assisted on defenceman Ethan Warrener’s first of the campaign for a 3-1 lead 42 seconds later.
Salmon Arm bounced back with a pair of goals in the final four minutes by Zach Nicolas and Reid Varkonyi to send the game to the third period deadlocked at three to set up Schenk’s game winner.
Trail outshot Salmon Arm 36-32, and went 0-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
In Saturday’s match, the Smoke Eaters travelled to West Kelowna for its first road game, but fell to the Warriors 5-3.
Warriors’ Jack Pridham scored the game winner 91 seconds into the third period to give West K a 4-2 lead, on their way to a 5-3 victory.
The win improves the Warriors record to 3-1-0-0, after falling to Cranbrook Bucks, 2-1, on Friday.
Smoke Eaters forward Jason Stefanek scored his first of the campaign with assists to Gryphon Bucci and Trip Pendy with 2:38 left in the opening frame.
Warriors Felix Caron tied it 11 seconds later, and West Kelowna kept rolling in the second when Jackson Kyrkostas and Caden Kemkaran-Humble gave West Kelowna a 3-1 lead 3:47 in.
Adam Marshall converted a setup from Jack Kennedy and Mathieu Cobetto-Roy to make it 3-2 at the 14:44 mark.
After Pridham made it 4-2, Schenk brought Trail to within one with 11:06 to play, but the Warriors iced it with an empty netter from Michael Salandra with 1:15 remaining.
West Kelowna outshot Trail 39-21, and went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Trail was 0-for-4.
“On Friday we embraced the tie game and I thought we rose to the challenge, and got timely saves,” said Fragle. “On Saturday in West Kelowna, one face off play they run late in the third period, one mistake they score then there is the game. We played pretty solid in the third for a road game, but we have to find a way to win those types of games.”
Trail is back in action this weekend with a home-and-home with the Penticton Vees. The Vees have suffered two losses in their four games, a 5-3 loss to the Warriors to open the season and a 3-2 shootout loss to Powell River on Saturday, Sept. 30. But like every year, they are loaded with talent with 18 NCAA committed players on the roster led by sixth round Philadelphia Flyer draft pick Ryan MacPherson.
“It’s a tough challenge the home-and-home,” said Fragle. “Friday is their home opener so they will be excited. The challenge they possess is they are extremely deep, and I’ve been saying, even with Salmon Arm and West Kelowna, these good teams, you just can’t be bad for one shift because it can cost you the game.
“So we are trying to stress with our guys going into Penticton about being consistent shift after shift and give ourselves a chance to get points in a tight division.”
Trail travels to Penticton on Friday, and will host the Vees at home on Saturday with the puck drop at the Cominco Arena at 7 p.m.