Skip to content

Trail Smoke Eaters finish strong with wins over Vees and Silverbacks; prep for round 1 vs Vipers

Trail Smoke Eaters open playoffs with momentum against the Vipers in Vernon on Friday
Trail Smoke Eaters goalie Teagan Kendrick stymied the Penticton Vees on Friday, making 47 saves in the Smoke Eaters 4-2 victory in Penticton. Photo: Jen Small

The Trail Smoke Eaters gained momentum heading to the first round of the BCHL playoffs on the weekend.

Teagan Kendrick faced 49 shots in a 4-2 Smoke Eaters victory over the Penticton Vees on Friday (March 29), then Trail followed that up with a 4-2 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and a strong 35-save performance from goalie Ryan Parker.

“It was a good finish to the season, no question, anytime you get a couple big road victories in those buildings it is a happy bus ride home on Saturday night,” said Smoke Eaters head coach and GM Tim Fragle.

Trail’s leading scorer Mathieu Cobetto-Roy scored the game winner, his 27th of the campaign, with 2:23 left in the final frame on a setup from Adam Marshall and Jack Kennedy.

After sitting out the last two weeks with injury, Cobetto-Roy, Ethan Mann, and Adam Parsons were back in action on the weekend and only defenceman Ethan Warrener was out of the line up but will be ready for playoffs, says Fragle.

With the wins, Trail finishes in fifth in the Interior with a 28-20-6-0 record and will face the 33-19-2-0 Vernon Vipers in the BCHL playoffs best-of-7 Interior quarter-finals.

Smoke Eaters affiliate and committed player Cash Carter scored his first goal in his first game with Trail for a 1-0 lead against the Silverbacks five minutes into the opening period.

Cole Cooksey and Adam Boater put the Silverbacks up 2-1 to take the lead, but Parsons finished a set up from pointman Alec Whipple to tie it 21 seconds into the middle frame.

Josh Schenk tallied his 12th goal and 32nd point of the season into an empty net with 26 seconds remaining for the 4-2 victory.

Trail goalie Parker was particularly sparkling in the third period stopping 14 of 37 shots on the night, while Trail fired 36 at Salmon Arm goalie Tysen Smith.

Cobetto-Roy, Carter, and Parker earned first, second and third stars of the game.

In Friday’s victory, the Smoke Eaters beat the number-1 team in the Interior Conference at the SOEC in Penticton. The Vees finished the season with three straight losses, and only one win in its last five games, while Trail won three straight, and 7-0f-10 in March.

Cobetto-Roy opened the scoring and d-man Isaac Fecteau made it 2-0 just 20 seconds into the second period. The ice tilted in the Vees favour as the Smoke Eaters killed three Vees power plays before Smokies forward Max Potvin made it 3-0 for the game winner on a brilliant passing play with Christian Kim and Schenk.

Kendrick had one of his best game of the season between the pipes, making 30 saves through two scoreless periods.

“The first five minutes he made a series of good saves, then I thought we got our game going a bit, but in the third period again, he made three of four big time stops to keep the two goal spread.”

Callum Arnott and Francesco Dell’Elce scored for Penticton to cut the lead to 3-2 in the third, but Jason Stefanek added the insurance marker for Trail with less that two minutes remaining.

Penticton outshot Trail 49-18, and went 1-for-5 on the power play, while Trail was 1-for-1.

Kendrick earned first star, the Vees’ Arnott second star, and Potvin third star.

The Smoke Eaters will start its 2024 playoff run against the Vipers with momentum on Friday and Saturday (April 5-6) in Vernon. Trail won the five-game series 4-1 this year, which included a 6-2 victory at home on March 9.

After playing .500 hockey up until Christmas and a 11-11-6-0 record, the Smoke Eaters second half of the season was much improved, going 17-9-0-0. The group has played a more cohesive and determined game on the ice, with a strong defensive core to support a balanced offence, and solid goaltending from both Kendrick and Parker.

“It wasn’t the start we wanted in the season, we were a bit up and down until Christmas, but we are really pleased with the way we progressed after Christmas,” said Fragle.

“Looking back the record we have this year is the third best record the team’s had in a long time, so when you look at the big picture after 54 games, there was some success there. Start to finish there were some ups and downs, but I think we gave ourselves a chance in a very tough division.”

Vernon finished six points up on the Smoke Eaters in the standings and have better stats on special teams with a 24.4 per cent power play and a 80.6 per cent success rate on the penalty kill, while Trail scored 21.4 per cent of the time with the extra man, and killed 75.1 per cent of penalties.

Vernon may enjoy home ice advantage, but Trail’s recent wins, solid record and success against the Vipers this season adds confidence to the Smoke Eaters mix.

“We feel pretty good about our whole team game, and our push hear in March,” added Fragle. “We had a really tough March but we found a way to get valuable points especially in some tough places on the road, and so you just try to ride that into the post season.

“But Vernon is a good team, they have really good depth, so it’s going to be a really tough match up for us, and we are just focusing on them, and trying to prepare as best we can for the threats they throw at us.”

The Smoke Eaters will play the Vipers in Vernon for Games 1 and 2 on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6, before returning to the Trail Memorial Centre for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10, with the puck drop at 7 p.m.

Jim Bailey

About the Author: Jim Bailey

Read more