A playoff spot is slowly slipping away from the Trail Smoke Eaters after losing a home-and-home series with the Penticton Vees on the weekend.
The Vees beat the Smoke Eaters in Penticton on Friday, 6-1, and Scott Conway netted a hat trick in a closer 4-3 victory in Trail on Saturday to clinch the BCHL’s Interior division title for the fifth consecutive season.
Conway netted the winning goal on the power-play. The Vees’ Mitch Brooks made a move out front, but the puck rolled off his stick and right to Conway who ripped a shot up, underneath the cross-bar of Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie at 6:41for his 49th goal of the season.
The loss dropped the Smokies five points behind the Vernon Vipers for the final playoff spot, as the Snakes split their weekend games.
Trail forward Nolan Redler opened the scoring, firing a shot from the right-wing goal-line that jumped off Driscoll’s pad at the near-post and in at 10:49. Tempers flared late in the first when Redler and. The Vees’ Darius Davidson stepped in and dropped the gloves with the Trail forward.
Penticton broke through in the second, scoring twice in just 20-seconds at the beginning of the period. First, Conway batted the puck out of the air for the equalizer 59-seconds into the middle stanza for his 47th. Then, on the next shift, Gerrie took a drop pass and fired a shot from the right-circle that beat MacBurnie far side.
Trail came back when Kyle Star had his shot from below the goal-line find its way into the back of the net. Star threw the puck back out front and it jumped off a defenseman before going off Driscoll and in on the near-side at 3:37 to make it 2-2.
But the Vees regained the lead when Nic Jones, from behind the net, spotted Conway in the circle and he quickly roofed his shot at 4:30 for his 48th, and finished the scoring less than two minutes later for the 4-2 lead.
More fisticuffs in opening seconds of the third saw Easton Brodzinski and Redler exchange blows in the Vees end on the opening shift; both picking up automatic game misconducts. Kale Howarth drew Trail to within one midway through the third, taking a pass from Star and wiring it off the shoulder of Driscoll and in. Trail had there chances to tie it late, but the Vees goalie shut the door to preserve the Vees 41st victory of the season and another division title.