Fans would be hard pressed to find more entertaining games than the ones played at the Cominco Arena this past weekend.
The Trail Smoke Eaters took 2-of-3 from the Prince George Spruce Kings, both victories coming in dramatic shootouts.
Trail looked for the sweep on Sunday, playing in their fourth game in five days, but it was P.G. that played rock solid defensively and shut down the home team to salvage a 2-1 victory.
“I didn’t think we were great in the first, but I thought we came on in the second and the third,” said head coach and GM Tim Fragle. “And credit to P.G., we track our shot attempts and they blocked 31 shots tonight. We couldn’t find a way to get through that second and third layer to create some rebounds, so they bought into a big road win today.”
Despite the loss, Fragle was satisfied with 4-of-6 points. The team was without two of their top scorers in Quinn Disher (recruiting trip) and Zach Michaelis (injury) and defencemen Cam Moger (recruiting) and Ethan Willoughby (inj).
Prince George opened the scoring at 3:44 of the first period on a power play goal from Austin Fraser. Then midway through the second, Luc Laylin crashed the net and banged in a pass from Nick Rheaume for a 2-0 lead.
The Smoke Eaters battled back in the third and defenceman Jordan Hendry wired a shot through a screen to bring Trail to within one with 6:39 to play. Trail came within a half inch of scoring the tying goal when Evan Bushy rang one off the post in the final minutes, and with their goalie pulled, the Smokies threw pucks at the net but could not capitalize.
“We gave ourselves a chance today,” said Fragle. “Overall we are obviously happy with 2-of-3.”
The Smoke Eaters inserted Judah Makway, an affiliate player from the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, into the line up and playing with Christian Lowe and Josh Schenk were the energy line of the night, with a relentless forecheck.
Each team had 22 shots on goal, with the Spruce Kings going 1-for-3 on the power play, and Trail 0-for-2.
With the victory, P.G. improves to 19-9-2-3 and currently hold down third place in the Interior Conference. Trail is in sixth place in the competitive division with a 15-14-1-1 record.
Trail went to three straight shootouts this past week, starting with a 2-1 loss to Vernon on Wednesday, followed by 5-4 and 3-2 victories over Prince George in their first two matches of their triple-header weekend.
Smoke Eaters forward Brady Hunter netted a hat trick and Cole Tisdale earned his first win in the Smoke Eaters net to rally Trail’s comeback from a 3-0 first period deficit in the 5-4 victory over the Spruce Kings on Friday.
Trail forward Teddy Lagerback scored once and then added the game winner in the shootout, which followed a magnificent save by Tisdale off the P.G. shooter.
In Saturday’s match, the Smokies jumped out to a 2-1 lead on power-play goals from Charlie Strobel and Coalson Wolford.
With the goalie pulled and an extra man on the ice due to a pending power play, Prince George drew even, scoring with only 1:27 to play in regulation to force the extra frame.
But following another scoreless 3-on-3 overtime, the teams whent to a shootout.
Lagerback played the hero again Saturday, skating in wide right then going backhand forehand for the game winner.
The three straight shootouts was a first for the Smoke Eaters and their four games in five days, a result of games postponed earlier this year.
“You get into a string of overtimes, and usually the 3-on-3 gets concluded on the 3-on-3, but I don’t think that’s ever been the case for me.”
Trail is on the road this weekend playing the Centennials in Merritt on Friday, Jan. 28 and the Warriors in West Kelowna on Saturday, Jan. 29.