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Over 1,600 fans came out to watch the Trail Smoke Eaters finish off the season on a winning note Sunday with a 4-2 victory over the Penticton Vees.
The Smokies Luke Sandler netted the winning goal at 5:01 of the second period. Taking a pass from Riley McDougall, Sandler burst down the left wing flew around the defenceman, and fired a backhand over the glove of Nic Renyard to give Trail a 2-0 lead.
Trail won three of four against Pentictonto end the season, but the victories weren’t enough to lift them into the playoffs, as the Salmon Arm SilverBacks ended the regular season with a 5-4 overtime win against Merritt Centennials, and a 5-3 victory over the Prince George Spruce Kings to secure the fourth and final playoff spot.
After a scoreless first period, Marlie Keca got the Smokies on the board at 4:11 when he fired a shot from centre ice that caromed off the stanchion and bounced past a diving Renyard, as he attempted to get back to the crease.
Following Sandler’s goal, Castlegar native Jesse Knowler took a nice pass in the slot from Shane Poulsen and beat Renyard five-hole to put the Smokies up 3-0.
Jarrod Boultbee would make it 3-1, converting a 2-on-1 from Ryan Gropp, before Keca would notch his second of the night, wiring a perfect pass from Riley McDougall top shelf to put the home team up 4-1 with just 1.4 ticks left on the clock. Keca also received the first star nod for his second and third goals of the season, while Sandler was named second star.
Brett Harris scored a late Penticton marker to make it 4-2, as the Smokies closed out their season in front of an appreciative audience. Lyndon Stanwood got the start in net for the Smokies, making 27 saves and getting third-star honours in the win, while Trail fired 37 at the Vees net.
Penticton meanwhile will play Salmon Arm in the first round of the playoffs Mar. 15 while Merritt Centennials play West Kelowna Warriors in the best of seven series.