Trail Smoke Eaters climb back into playoff race

The Trail Smoke Eaters are back in the thick of a playoff hunt winning their fourth game in a row on Sunday.

The Trail Smoke Eaters are back in the thick of a playoff hunt winning their fourth game in a row on Sunday to pull within two points of the Vernon Vipers for the fourth and final play off spot in the BCHL’s Interior division.

The Smoke Eaters opened their extended three game road-swing with a 4-2 win over the 18-12-0-1 Powell River Kings on Friday, before being stalled by a wind storm that halted ferries and prevented the Trail team from making their date in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island to play the Bulldogs on Saturday night. That game was rescheduled for Monday night, so the Smokies, undeterred, moved onto Duncan to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals for their scheduled Sunday afternoon tilt in which they skated to a 7-3 thrashing of the Capitals.

Trail jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead on goals from Ross Armour, Cooper Leitch, Jake Kauppila, and Kienan Scott, short handed, and extended that to 7-0 in the second period. Scott netted his second goal of the game and 15th of the season on the power play at 1:22 of the second period on a set up from Kale Howarth and Kyle Star, before Harlan Orr converted a Howarth pass 30 seconds later and Evan MacEachern made it 7-0 on a nice individual effort with just over five minutes to play.

Luke Santerno finally got the Capitals on the board with 4:50 left in the middle frame, and the Caps would net two more in the third with Connor Russell beating Smokie goalie Linden Marshall, who subbed in for Bailey MacBurnie in the third period, and a shorthanded effort from Ayden MacDonald to round out the scoring.

Leitch took first star honours for his three-point night, Kauppila was second star, and Orr earned third star.

Cowichan Valley outshot the Smokies 33-21 and 14-2 in the third period, as MacBurnie earned his 11th win of the season and fourth in as many games. The Beverly, Mass. native was also short listed for the Player of the Week award last week for his back-to-back victories over Port Alberni and Wenatchee, where he earned one shut out, and allowed two goals on 55 shots for a .968 save percentage.

On Friday, Nick Halloran had a big night scoring twice and adding an assist to lift the Smokies to a 4-2 win over Powell River.

The 17-year-old rookie scored the winner with 2:29 left in the third period taking a pass from Armour and beating the Kings goalie Stefan Wornig to give Trail a 3-1 lead.

The fast-paced match up saw Powell River outshoot the Smokies 20-19 in the first period, but great play by MacBurnie and goals from MacEachern and Halloran gave Trail a 2-1 lead after one.

The teams fired 10 shots at each other in a scoreless second period, before Halloran netted the winner. Tristan Mullin got the Kings within one with 1:25 to play, but an empty netter from Armour sealed the win for the Smoke Eaters. Powell River outshot Trail 45-40 with Halloran being named the game’s first star, MacBurnie the second star, and Wornig the game’s third star.

Trail played in Port Alberni on Monday but results were unavailable at press time.

The Smokies host the Vernon Vipers on Wednesday night at the Cominco Arena. The Smoke Eaters are offering a special $5 admission across the board and a special Sud Shack $4 price.

Come out and support your Smoke Eaters on “Let’s Beat Vernon Night.” Bring a non-perishable food item to the game for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Food Hamper Drive.

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