After dropping the first game of a home-and-home against the Penticton Vees 4-3 Friday, the Trail Smoke Eaters completed the most improbable and incredible of all comebacks with a 3-2 double-overtime victory on Saturday in front of their home Cominco crowd.
The Smokies trailed 2-0 early in the third, but would battle back scoring with seconds left in the third to tie it, then again late in the second overtime period for the 3-2 victory. Smoke Eater forward Dallas Calvin skated over the Vees blue line drew the defenseman, then slid a perfect pass to a streaking Jake Lucchini down the right side, who one-timed the pass over the glove of Penticton goalie Hunter Miska for the 3-on-3 overtime win with 1:16 remaining on the clock.
It was the first win of the season for the Smokies over the league-leading Vees, despite earlier close matches. After losing Charlie Zuccarini to a suspension, having both goalies, Adam Todd and Brett Clark, out with illness, and Bryans Gerstenfeld and Basilico, as well as Robbie Johnson and Evan MacEachern on the sideline with injury, the chance of a Trail victory seemed even more remote. But a combination of great goaltending from AP Patrick Zubick and a solid defensive effort limited a balanced Penticton attack to just two goals on the night.
Penticton opened the scoring at 3:29 of the first when 16-year-old Tyson Jost walked out from behind the net and slipped it past Zubick. The Smokies came close on a few occasions, but two posts and the best goalie in the BCHL thwarted the home team’s attack. A scoreless second period was highlighted by a lively encounter between the Smokies Sheldon Brett and Penticton defenceman and former WHLer Shayne Gwinner, but the score remained 1-0 through two, with the Vees enjoying a 23-21 edge in shots.
The Vees would make it 2-0 just 35 seconds into the third when Patrick Newell banged in a cross-ice pass from Dakota Conroy past a sprawling Zubick. But Trail would get on the board when Cooper Leitch stole the puck and wired a wrister from the top of the circle by Miska to make it 2-1 with 17:56 to play.
The Smokies poured it on in the third but it looked like Miska would weather the storm as he absolutely robbed Lucchini of a sure goal when Calvin sent a cross-crease pass to the Trail captain, but the Vee goalie slid across and made a great pad save with two minutes to play. Miska then took one away from Harlan Orr just moments later as Trail fired 15 shots at the Vees net in the period.
But it wasn’t over. With just 23 seconds to play the referee made a decision to keep the faceoff in the Vees zone, and with time winding down, Trail swarmed the Penticton goal, banging away at the puck, until it slipped free out to Lucchini in the high slot. With bodies flying and just seconds remaining, Lucchini calmly waited for an opening then fired it high on Miska to tie it with 3.6 seconds left on the clock.
The Vees had their chances in the first and second overtimes, firing six shots at Zubick who made a couple of game-savers in OT to give the Smokies a chance to win. The overtime goal was Lucchini’s second of the night and 24th of the season, good for first-star honours, while Calvin had two assists. Zubick was named the game’s second star, while Miska was third star for the Vees as Trail outshot Penticton 38-37.
Trail travels to Merritt to play the Centennials on Wednesday, before returning to the Cominco Arena for a pair of games on the weekend versus Merritt and Surrey.