The Christmas break will be a welcome respite for a Trail Smoke Eaters team that has struggled the past 10 games.
The Smokies mid-season slump continued on the weekend with a 7-3 loss at home Friday night against the Nanaimo Clippers and a Saturday 5-2 setback to the Vernon Vipers in Vernon.
After jumping out to a 19-5-1-0 start and first place overall in the BCHL, the Smokies have managed just one win in their last 10 matches with injury and absences playing a big part in the team’s misfortunes.
On Saturday in Vernon, the Smokies forward Ryan Murphy tied the game at two at the beginning of the third period but Jesse Lansdell netted the winner at 8:32 and Niko Karamanis and Josh Prokop added some insurance as the Vipers went on to win their 25th game of the season in a 5-2 victory.
Prokop opened the scoring, beating Trail goalie Adam Marcoux at 11:27 of the first. But Trail tied it on the power play before the period was out, when Blaine Caton finished a setup from Carter Jones and Jeremy Lucchini with 21 seconds to play.
Prokop put the Vipers up 2-1 with just eight seconds remaining in the middle frame as Vernon outshot the Smokies 20-11 through two periods.
Murphy notched his seventh of the season, tying it on a Mack Byers pass at 2:32 of the third, but a power-play goal from Jesse Lansdell gave the Vipers a 3-2 lead, and Karamanis made it 4-2 just 80 seconds later.
Prokop completed the hat trick by scoring into an empty net with 38 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Vipers outshot Trail 28-17 going 1-for-4 on the power play while Trail was 1-for-5.
In Friday’s match, Nanaimo’s offence broke open the game in the third period in a 7-3 victory over the Smoke Eaters at the Cominco Arena.
In a physical match up, Trail’s Trevor Zins put Trail up 1-0 at 7:15, but three straight goals in a two-minute span gave the Clippers a 3-1 lead.
Andre Ghantous cut the lead to one with 1:16 to go in the first but Lucas Vanroboys restored the two goal lead at 12:08 of the second period on the power play.
Toe-to-toe tilts between Trail’s Kyle Cherenenkoff and Clippers forward Tyler Maser and Smokies Ethan Martini and Brady Lynn in the third period failed to ignite any spark in the Smokies offence, as Nanaimo got goals from Brad Belisle and Brandon Martinell to put the Clips up 6-2, before the Smokies Tyler Ghirardosi tallied his 10th of the campaign at 12:54.
Vincent Millette capped the scoring at 14:55 beating Trail starting goalie Tanner Marshall for the 7-3 final.
Nanaimo outshot Trail 37-28 and went 2-for-9 on the power play. Trail was 0-for-5.
The Smokies look forward to the return of Ross Armour and Seth Barton who won gold with Team Canada West on Saturday at the World Jr. A Challenge. Armour scored a goal in a 5-1 rout of the U.S.A. in the gold medal final and was named to the WJAC all-star team.
Trail returns to action on Dec. 29 in a home-and-home with the West Kelowna warriors, with the Dec. 30th match going at the Cominco Arena. The puck drop is at 7 p.m.