The Trail Smoke Eaters went into the Christmas break with mixed results.
After skating to an exciting 6-3 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks Friday in front of a home town crowd, the Smokies traveled to Merritt where they fell 5-2 to the Cents.
The win over the ‘Backs momentarily put the Smoke Eaters in the fourth and final playoff spot a point up on the Vernon Vipers, who lost to Merritt the same night. However, the Vipers erupted for four goals in the final period on Sunday to overcome a 3-1 deficit and beat the Powell River Kings 5-3, to move a point ahead of Trail in the Interior division playoff hunt.
On Saturday Merritt jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back as they beat the Smokies for the first time in four tries this season with a 5-2 victory. Tyler Ward scored twice in the first two minutes and 47 seconds and Colin Grannary netted the next two including the winner midway through the second period to give Merritt a 4-0 lead.
Kyle Star got Trail on the board after a Cooper Leitch set up at 10:35 on the power play, but the Cents Nick Fidanza would restore the four goal lead with 5:35 to play in the middle frame. Leitch rounded out the scoring with less than three minutes to play on the power play blasting a Connor Brown-Maloski pass by the Cents keeper.
On Friday, Trail kept its momentum going after a 6-3 victory over Vernon on Wednesday, to comeback and score a 6-3 win over the division’s second place Salmon Arm Saturday.
Ryan Swanson scored the winner with 4:22 remaining in the second period to give Trail a 4-3 lead after Trail led 2-0 after one. Leitch and Ross Armour opened the scoring for the Smokies, before Josh Blanchard and Jared Turcotte tied it 3:16 into the second. Jeremy Lucchini grabbed the lead back for Trail on a great individual effort, before Chase Zieky tied it again 3-3.
Following Swanson’s goal, Leitch and Kale Howarth would round out the scoring in the third for the Smokies 17th win of the season, to momentarily overtake the Vipers for the final playoff spot.
Trail outshot Salmon Arm 32-30 on the night and went 1-for-4 on the power play. CBM was named the games first star, while Lucchini took second star honours.
Trail’s next game goes on Wednesday at the Cominco Arena against the West Kelowna Warriors.