An empty net goal by Brady Hunter proved to be the game winner as the Trail Smoke Eaters finally solved the Penticton Vees in a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.
Trail was 0-3 against an undefeated (6-0) Vees team heading into Wednesday’s game at the South Okanagan Event Centre in Penticton, but a determined and rested group jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and weathered a storm in the second to improve their record to 3-4.
Quinn Disher notched his third goal of the season 88 seconds into the first when he finished a 3-on-2 rush by sniping the puck under the glove of Penticton netminder Kaeden Lane.
Ryan Helliwell then netted his first as a Smoke Eater when he gathered a pass from Hunter at the Vees blue line then toe-dragged around a defenceman and fired a shot top shelf for a 2-0 lead with 6:22 to play in the opening frame.
The Vees came out flying in the second outshooting the Smoke Eaters 18-5, but veteran goalie Logan Terness made several big saves to keep Penticton off the board.
The Vees cut the lead in half on a two-man advantage 37 seconds into the third, when Liam Malmquist snapped a cross-ice pass by the blocker of a sprawling Terness.
But the Smoke Eaters were resilient the rest of the way, getting some good chances of their own in the third period, until Hunter made it 3-1 with the Vees goalie pulled 1:33 to play.
The Vees made it a tense final minute when Ryan McGuire banged in a rebound with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.
Penticton outshot Trail 41-27, and the Vees went 0-for-6 on the power play, while Trail was 0-for-2.
Smokies goalie Terness was named the first star, Malmquist the second star, and Trail forward Justin Ross the third star for his two assists.
Trail next faces the Cranbrook Bucks at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Smokies notes: The ice has had a definite tilt to it when it comes to penalties at the Penticton bubble.
In seven games at the SOEC, the Vees have enjoyed 36 power plays and were shorthanded 20 times.
Trail has had 26 power play opportunities and been shorthanded 27 times, while Cranbrook Bucks has been awarded 16 power plays, while being shorthanded 27 times.