The Trail Smoke Eaters skated away with 3-of-4 points on the weekend against two of the toughest teams in the BCHL.
Both weekend games against the Penticton Vees and Wenatchee Wild needed overtime. The Smoke Eaters lost the first one Friday 4-3 to the Vees in Penticton, before bouncing back with a 6-5 overtime victory over the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday.
“In Penticton on Friday, it was overall a really good team effort,” said Smokies head coach and GM Tim Fragle. “It’s tough to get points out of that rink. I thought we had a really good performance from Evan Fradette in net, he played very strong. Then from there we just hung around.
“Last night (Saturday vs Wenatchee) was a bit of a roller coaster from a coaching perspective. But obviously the outcome was good.”
The Smoke Eaters scored 1:10 into the fourth period, when Brady Hunter made a quick move at the Wild blue line, broke past a defender, sprinted down the wall and passed to defenceman Evan Bushy in front for the game winner.
With the victory and the OT loss, Trail’s record improves to 2-2-1-0. The game was also the first for recent acquisition veteran 20-year-old forward Charlie Strobel. And it didn’t take long for the Minnesota native to make an impact, tying the game in the final minute of the first period on a setup from Corey Cunningham, another recent addition.
“We felt like we needed to add some experience, and some experience that can provide some offence so both those players in particular have come in and done that the first few games with us, so hopefully that will continue.”
The Smoke Eaters, however, sent veteran Smoke Eater Jaden Senkoe, a Westlock, Alberta native, to the AJHL Spruce Grove Saints for futures on Saturday to make room on its roster. Senkoe tallied 20 points in 74 games with the Smokies.
Wenatchee took a 3-1 lead in the second period on goals from Owen Bohn and Hunter Hastings, but the Smoke Eaters answered with Cunningham tallying his first at 11:09, and Brady Hunter also scoring his first of the season on a Teddy Lagerback setup to tie it at 3-3 at 17:47.
Coalson Wolford gave Trail a 4-3 lead, but 13 seconds later the Wild’s Garrett Szydlowski tied it at 4 heading into the third.
The teams traded goals in the third period with Adam Parsons scoring for Trail and Landon Parker for Wenatchee.
Evan Fradette faced 42 shots in the Trail net, while Hank Levy faced 29 for the Wild. The Smokies’ Lagerback earned the game first star with two assists, Wenatchee’s Parker was second star, and Stroble the third star with a goal and a helper.
On Friday, Fradette stopped 51 shots in the game, and the Smoke Eaters earned a road point in the 4-3 OT loss to the Vees in Penticton.
After the Vees took a 1-0 lead 2:28 into the first period, Lagerback tied the game midway through the period, before Bradly Nadeau restored the lead for the Vees.
Trail withstood a frenzy of activity in the middle period when the Vees outshot Trail 16-2 but the Smoke Eaters Garrett Valk netted the lone goal to tie the game at 2-2.
Zach Michaelis tallied his fourth of the season, 5:10 into the third to give Trail a 3-2 lead, before Nadeau tied it with 10 minutes to play.
With 16 seconds remaining in the OT period, Luc Wilson beat Fradette in close for the Vees victory. Penticton outshot Trail 54-28, the Smoke Eaters were 0-for-6 on the power play, and the Vees 0-for-5.
Fragle says, given the 5=4 loss to West Kelowna on Wednesday, he was satisfied with the weekend results, but the Smoke Eaters are still looking to make improvements when and where they can.
“It’s a work in progress to be honest. We have lots of things to shore up, but I think this weekend was a good step in the right direction,” said Fragle. “We played two good opponents and we were right with them, and that gives you hope that you’re on the right path, but we still have lots of work to do.”
Trail travels to Chilliwack for games against the Surrey Eagles at 10 a.m. Oct. 23 and Langley Rivermen at 2 p.m. on Oct 24 in the BCHL-Bauer Showcase.