After a great effort in a 4-1 win against the Vernon Vipers at the Cominco Arena on Friday, the Trail Smoke Eaters had a relapse Saturday, suffering a 7-3 loss on the road to the West Kelowna Warriors.
Warriors’ forward Seb Lloyd scored the winning goal at 7:13 of the second period to give West Kelowna a 4-1 lead. It was the second of the night for the Harvard commit and his 13th goal of the season, as West Kelowna won its fourth game in a row.
The Warriors currently sit in third spot in the Interior division with 48 points, one back of the Vipers who beat Nanaimo 3-2 on Saturday after their setback to the Smokies.
Jordan Masters would open the scoring with his 17th of the season after Smokie AP Dakota Kittle was sent off for cross-checking at 8:57.
Less than a minute later Lloyd would net his first on the night, beating Trail goalie Adam Todd, and David Pope would make it 3-0 at 11:23 before the Smokies’ Scott Davidson converted a pass from Jake Lucchini to cut the lead to two heading into the second frame.
However, period two was all Kelowna. following Lloyd’s winner, Tyson Dallman would chase Todd from the net with his 10th of the year, and after Braeden Cross scored his first as a Smoke Eater, Dallman would net his 11th on the power play to make it 6-2. Another power-play marker by Reid Simmonds with 24 seconds remaining in the period would round out the scoring for the Warriors, while Jake Kauppila scored Trail’s final tally at 17:37 of the third.
Trail added two new players to the line up this weekend signing Cross and Taylor Armbruster from the Kerry Park Islanders of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Armbruster, 17, is a six-foot-three, 190-pound defenceman who adds much-needed size and versatility on the back end, while Cross, also 17, brings a scoring touch and set-up potential along with some toughness, scoring 11 times and adding 29 assists in 32 games this season for the Islanders, while also accumulating 73 minutes in penalties.
On Friday, Travis Stephens’ third period power-play goal proved to be the winner as the Smoke Eaters brought a 13-game losing skid to an end in a well deserved 4-1 victory over the Vernon Vipers.
Tied 1-1 after two periods, Trail’s leading scorer capitalized on a high-sticking penalty to a frustrated Mason Blacklock, taking a pass from Bryan Basilico and wiring it by Snakes goalie Austin Smith at 14:26 of the third.
Todd had a stellar game for the home team stopping 31 shots, including a game saver midway through the third period when he robbed Colton Sparrow with a phenomenal glove save. Todd was seemingly down-and-out after a flurry in front of the net, and Sparrow jumped on the loose puck firing it toward the yawning cage, but Todd snatched the puck out of mid-air to preserve the tie and give the Smoke Eaters new life.
The Vipers’ Demico Hannoun opened the scoring on an innocent shot from inside the blueline that sailed by a screened Todd at 2:09 of the second period. However, just over a minute later Trail would get it back on the power play when Basilico jumped on a Dylan Bowen rebound and lifted it over a sprawling Smith.
Basilico also taught Viper veteran Colton Sparrow a lesson in a lively exchange late in the second period.
Following Stephens 2-1 marker, Greyson Reitmeieir would force a turnover and send in Riley Brandt who beat Smith with a bullet from the top of the right circle to put Trail up 3-1 with 4:13 to play in the period. Stephens would tally his 13th of the season into an empty net at 18:07 to ice it.
Special teams proved key for the Smoke Eaters as the penalty kill went 4-for-4 and the power play 2-for-6 on the night. The Stephens line was particularly effective in shutting down the line of Vernon’s leading scorer Mike McNicholas, Hannoun, and Sparrow. The Smoke Eaters fired 31 shots at the Vipers net, in its second solid effort in as many games.
“They worked really hard,” Vernon head coach Jason Williamson told the Vernon Morningstar, of the youthful Smokies. “They were aggressive. We created offence but they did too. They’re going to be good in the future.”
Trail will host the Penticton Vees on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. before playing the next 7-of-8 on the road.