The Trail Smoke Eaters squandered a two-goal lead and ended its exhibition season with a 4-3 loss to the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday (Sept. 16) at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook.
The Smoke Eaters won just once in six preseason matchups, a 7-3 victory over Powell River Kings on Wednesday, Sept. 13. The match was part of a four-team exhibition tournament at the Trail Memorial Centre, which included Trail, Cranbrook, Prince George and Powell River.
The Smokies also suffered a 5-3 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings on Thursday night for a 1-2 record.
Bucks forward Brady Yakesh scored the game winner on Saturday, beating Smoke Eaters goalie Ryan Parker with 8:34 to play in the third period for an exciting 4-3 victory.
The Bucks went 3-1 in its exhibition season, skating to a 2-0 win over Prince George on Thursday, and a 5-4 shootout loss to the Powell River Kings on Friday. Trail also succumbed 6-4 to Cranbrook on Sept. 6, blowing a 4-2 third period lead.
The Smoke Eaters jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals from Lucas Marshall and Mathieu Cobetto-Roy. But the Bucks battled back with Loke Sodergren scoring at 11:07 of the first and Zion Green tying it eight minutes into the second period.
Smoke Eater veteran Ridge Dawson restored the lead making it 3-2 on a setup from Cobetto-Roy with 28 seconds to play in the middle frame, but Donovan Frias tied it up with just five seconds remaining.
Cobetto-Roy had a goal and two assists on the night, and Parker was solid in the Trail net, as Cranbrook outshot the Smoke Eaters 49-27.
Parker, a six-foot-one Sooke product, played with the Pacific Coast Academy U18 prep team (CSSHL) in 2022-23. He had a strong development camp in Trail this past April and was also an affiliate goalie with the Smoke Eaters in the 2022-23 season.
Trail also fell to Vernon Vipers 5-4 to open the exhibition schedule on Sept. 3 and 5-3 to the Penticton Vees on Sept. 8.
The Smoke Eaters will open the 2023-24 regular season on Friday, Sept. 22 at home against the Bucks, and play the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday, Sept. 23. The puck drop is at 7 p.m.