Uncharacteristic third-period collapses by the Trail Smoke Eaters led to identical 6-3 losses against Surrey and Merrit on the weekend.
Despite an extended break, the Smokies are still plagued with injury as five regulars did not dress for the match against the Centennials on Saturday, including top scorers Brent Baltus and Garrett McMullen.
Tied in both games heading into the third, Smokies gave up four third period goals to Surrey Friday, and three to Merritt Saturday to start the New Year on a sour note.
Merritt was fresh off a big 4-2 win over the Penticton Vees on Friday, and their momentum carried them to victory against Trail the next night.
The Cent’s Richard Sabourin broke a 3-3 tie nine minutes into the third period to count the winning goal as the Centennials outshot the Smokies 30-23 in an important inter-divisional game. The loss puts Trail four-points back of Salmon Arm for a playoff spot.
Sam Johnson started the scoring for Merritt, but the Smokies would reply when Scott Davidson deflected a Djordje Leposavic shot past Cent’s goalie Tyler Steele. Trail then took a 2-1 lead on Luke Sandler’s 16th of the season, but Merritt tied it on a Derek Huisman goal and grabbed a 3-2 lead late in the first when Jeff Wight beat goalie Lyndon Stanwood.
Trail worked hard in the middle frame and Sandler would be rewarded again as he banged in his second of the night to tie the game at three.
But Merritt dominated in the third period outshooting the Smokies 10-5 and adding insurance markers from Sebastian Pare and Huisman.
Sandler had a three-point night for the Smoke Eaters with two goals and an assist.
At home against the Surrey Eagles on Friday, Trail held a 2-0 lead on goals from Adam Wheeldon and Valik Chichkin until Surrey mounted the comeback.
Brady Shaw scored twice for the Eagles and Brett Mulcahy added a goal and two assists as the Eagles broke a 2-2 tie, scoring four times in the third period on their way to the 6-3 victory. Trail’s Braedon Jones scored in his first game back after being sidelined with injury.
Trail travels to Vernon on Wednesday for a game against the Vipers before returning to Trail for games against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and West Kelowna Warriors on the weekend.