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The Trail Smoke Eaters picked up just a single point in a two-game home-stand on the weekend, and, as a result, sank to the bottom of the Interior division standings.
Trail tied the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-3 Friday night, and then in front of a sparse Trail crowd was completely outclassed by the Merritt Centennials in a 6-1 drubbing on Saturday.
The Smoke Eaters managed just 17 shots on goal including five in the third period, as the Cents’ Bennett Huber took a nice drop pass from Gavin Gould and rifled a shot under the arm of Smokie goalie Dustin Nikkel to net the winner at 18:26 of the first period.
In two games at the Cominco Arena this season the Centennials have outscored the Smokies 11-1. The win, coupled with a 4-3 victory over Victoria Grizzlies Friday, propels Merritt from the basement to third spot in the BCHL’s tight Interior division. Vernon and Salmon Arm each split their two games this weekend and remain tied for fourth spot with 11 points, while West Kelowna’s 4-2 win over Nanaimo has propped them up on top with 15 points, a point ahead of the Penticton Vees who lost to Salmon Arm 5-2 Friday, before defeating Alberni, 6-2, Saturday.
Merritt opened the scoring at 11:57 when Diego Cuglietta snuck behind the Trail defencemen and broke in all alone on Nikkel beating him with a quick wrist shot to the stick side. Sebastien Pare would make it 3-0 before Trail could answer. After Peyton Schafer took a goaltender interference penalty the Smokies’ defenceman Curtis Toneff crept in from the point and converted a Jake Kaupilla pass to make it 3-1 with just 13 seconds to go in the second period.
However, that’s as close as the home team would get as Sam Johnson, Zach Hartley, and Patterson each scored in the third period to put the game out of reach.
In Friday’s match, two overtime periods could not decide a 3-3 draw between the Smoke Eaters and Alberni alley Bulldogs.
The Smokies stormed back from a first period 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead, but Alberni replied, tying it with just under two minutes to play in the middle frame. However, Nikkel and Bulldog goalie Tyger Howat shut the door in the third period as well as the 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 overtime periods, as both goalies faced 40 shots on the evening.
After being traded from Vernon earlier in the week, Trail native Craig Martin scored his first goal as a Bulldog to give Alberni a 2-0 lead, but Tyson Witala, Braedon Jones, and Jesse Knowler would put the Smokies up before Darian Henry tied it.
The Smoke Eaters next have a home-and-home with Salmon Arm Thursday and Friday, with the SilverBacks coming to Trail Friday night for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop.
See Tuesday’s edition of the Trail Times for more on the Trail Smoke Eaters.