The Vernon Vipers exacted some retribution from a loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters last weekend by coming to their home ice and beating the Smokies 3-1 on Saturday.
Vipers goalie Roan Clarke stopped 34 shots in the victory, and forward Hank Cleaves scored twice and added an assist to give the Vipers a crucial Kootenay Conference win.
The shorthanded Smoke Eaters came back to beat Vernon 3-2 in overtime last weekend. But also suffered another loss in a gutsy 5-4 overtime setback to the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday, Feb. 24.
At 17-22-3-3, injuries are taking their toll and the gap between the Smoke Eaters and the 21-19-2-4 Vipers is widening. Trail holds down the eighth and final playoff spot, but now is eight points back of seventh place Vernon in the Kootenay Conference with nine games remaining.
Cleaves scored his two goals five minutes apart in the opening period to put the Vipers up 2-0.
Trail dominated the second period outshooting the Vipers 17-7 but could not solve the Vernon goalie. Former Smoke Eaters Walker Erickson put the Vipers up 3-0 with just under three minutes to play. But Josh Schenk notched his 10th of the season and broke Clarke’s bid for a shut out with 80 seconds remaining.
Trail outshot Vernon 35-22 and were 1-for-4 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
In Friday’s match versus the Warriors, Trail got off to a rough start falling behind 3-0 in the first period.
But the Smoke Eaters rallied in the second getting goals from Evan Bushy, Brady Hunter, Josh Schenk and Brady Smith to take a 4-3 lead.
The Warriors tied it on a goal from Riley Sharun with 1:39 to play and sent it to the third deadlocked at 4-4.
Adam Parsons finished a set up from Hunter and Nic Remissong to make it 5-4 Trail 45 seconds into the third. It remained that way for most of the period until with 24 seconds left on the clock Rylee Hlusiak beat Keagan Maddocks to tie it and force overtime.
Warriors forward Jaiden Moriello notched his second of the game, scoring nine seconds into the extra frame for the 6-5 win.
West K outshot Trail 40-31. The Smoke Eaters went 0-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-1 on the PK.