The Trail Smoke Eaters had a tough week, dropping three in a row to division opponents including a pair of losses to Salmon Arm on the weekend.
Coming off a 7-6 loss to Penticton on Wednesday, fatigue looked like it may have been a factor Friday night as the Smokies lacked intensity in a 4-0 loss to Salmon Arm, but coach Bill Birks doesn’t buy it.
“These guys are in pretty good shape, that’s an excuse I don’t believe in,” said Birks. “They took them too lightly and Salmon Arm came out and worked hard and took it to us.”
With the two wins, the Backs leap-frogged the Smokies to sit a point ahead and tied with Vernon, but thanks to Merritt and West Kelowna losses on the weekend, the Interior division remains close with second place Merritt and sixth place Trail separated by just five points.
“It was a huge weekend, we needed some points and didn’t get them, but other teams didn’t get as many as they hoped as well and still kept it kind of tight.”
Silverbacks goalie Adam Clark allowed just two goals on 76 shots as he backstopped the team to a shut out on Friday and a 5-2 win Saturday in Salmon Arm.
“Their goalie played really well, we didn’t play very good here Friday night but I thought we played really well in Salmon Arm on Saturday, it’s just that their goalie was good and we couldn’t score.”
Clark stopped 28 shots in the 4-0 shut out then put in a 41 save performance the next night. Despite outshooting the ‘Backs in both games, Trail had a hard time solving the hulking six-foot-five New Hampshire University commit.
Evan Anderson scored the winner, when he stole the puck from a Smokie defender and slipped it by goalie Lyndon Stanwood at17:02 of the second period for a 3-1 Silverbacks lead.
Ryan Schwalbe opened the scoring at 5:01 in the first, wristing a shot by Stanwood to put the ‘Backs up 1-0. The Smokies would tie it less than a minute later after Brent Baltus finished a nice passing play from Garrett McMullen and Scott Davidson.
However, Steve Iacobellis scored his first of two on the night, converting a pass from new captain Brandon Mistal to put the ‘Backs up for good.
Baltus notched his second of the night at 8:35 of the third to make it 3-2 but Iacobellis and Anderson each added their second goals of the evening to finish the scoring, and make the final 5-2.
Baltus improved his scoring output to 18 goals and 13 assists and sits in fifth in BCHL scoring.
“He’s playing really good. He’s our leader on the ice point wise, well deserving of the scholarship (to University of Alaska) – he’s still going hard which tells you what kind of character the guy has.”
The shots were 43-34 in favour of Trail.
On Friday, the Smokies had a rare off-night at home, as they looked sluggish and had a hard time generating any meaningful offensive opportunities, while the ‘Backs scored two power play goals and a short-handed marker on their way to the 4-0 win.
The Smokies went 0-for-13 on the power play on the weekend, and will need a much improved effort when they hit the road for three games this weekend.
“We throw the puck around like NHL guys and don’t shoot it, you know it’s frustrating. But it’s a work in progress and we’ve got to keep working on it this week,” added Birks.
The Smokies leave for the coast Thursday, playing the Powell River Kings Friday, Coquitlam Express Saturday, and Chilliwack Chiefs on Sunday.