The Trail Smoke Eaters did something in their first game that they couldn’t all of last year – they won in Vernon, taking a 5-3 decision over the Vipers on Friday, before dropping a 5-2 match at home on Saturday.
It was a happy homecoming for Vernon native and Smokies forward Harlan Orr .
The 20-year-old Vernon product took a pretty pass from Kurt Black, with the teams playing four-on-four, and fired a wrist shot past former Beaver Valley Nitehawk goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn for the game-winning goal midway through the third period in the B.C. Hockey League regular-season opener for both teams Friday night at Kal Tire Place.
“I came off the bench, was fortunate to get the puck right away when I was open and luckily enough I got it over the goalie,” Orr told the Vernon Morningstar. “It’s pretty exciting.”
“The win is really big, especially for our confidence this year. We never got a win in this rink last year, so starting the season off on a good note is going to help us.”
Trail’s Rhett Wilcox scored two goals and was named first star, but had to leave the game in the third period after sustaining a concussion on a hit-to-the-head from Vipers’ defenceman Mac Ferner, who received a five minute major and a game misconduct on the play.
Nick Halloran and Kienan Scott’s empty netter rounded out the scoring for the Smoke Eaters, while Hunter Zandee, Steven Zandric, and Liam Finlay scored for Vernon. Trail outshot the Vipers 40-39 with Bailey MacBurnie earning his first win in goal for Trail.
It was a different story on Saturday, as Trail native Riley Brandt and his Vipers returned to his home town for a tilt at the Cominco Arena Saturday. The Vipers shot out of the gate and caught the Smokies on their heels scoring twice in the first six minutes on goals from Michael Roberts and Joe Cipollone.
However, Trail would strike back when Kurt Black banged in a rebound off a Jake Kaupilla drive to the net at 8:25 of the first. But Colton McCarthy netted the winner on the power play on a nice setup from Brandt and Bo Pellah as the Vipers outshot the Smokies 13-12 in the period.
Trail would claw to within one in the second period when Black broke in on a breakaway but was stopped by Viper goalie Andrew Shortridge, however the Smokie forward would regain control of the puck and feed Kaupilla in front to make it 3-2. Trail would press in the second firing 15 shots on the Vernon goal including a breakaway try by Halloran who made a great move by the Vipers defence before getting stoned by Shortridge.
The Vernon goalie would keep the door closed in the third as Finlay score the insurance marker at 5:43 into the final frame, and Brandt would ice it into an empty net with 3:15 remaining. The physical forward from Trail was also named Vernon’s assistant captain prior to the season start Friday.
Vernon outshot Trail 39-37 with Finlay taking first star honours, Black second star for Trail, and Michael Roberts the game’s third star.
Trail’s next game goes in West Kelowna on Tuesday night against the Warriors before returning home Saturday for a game against Merritt.