Vees hold off Smokies

Trail hosts Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings this weekend

The Trail Smoke Eaters allowed two goals in the opening two minutes, dropping a close 3-1 decision to the BCHL’s top team, the Penticton Vees, Wednesday at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“We got two quick goals against, I think on the first two shots of the game, but after that we competed well,” said Smoke Eater coach Nick Deschenes. “We just lacked a little bit in the execution department.”

Penticton affiliate player Jordy Bellerive scored the winning goal and his first goal as a Vee, when he gathered a drop pass from Mitch Newsome and beat Smoke Eater goalie Adam Todd with a wicked wrist shot blocker side to give the Vees a 2-0 lead at 1:47 of the first.

Before the ice had dried, Jack Ramsey scored just 20 seconds into the match after he capitalized on a Trail turnover. Ramsey’s shot quickly went in and out of the net and was initially waved off by the referee. The play continued and at the other end of the ice, Trail’s Charlie Zuccarini whistled a shot off the cross-bar on a breakaway. Eventually the play was whistled dead and the four officials convened at center ice and ruled that Ramsey’s shot did indeed go in.

The Smoke Eaters regrouped following the second goal, taking the play to the Vees for the remainder of the period, but missed opportunities  foiled the Smokies offensively.

“The game could have gone either way, but I really felt we had an opportunity to win that game had we executed. The effort was there, and it (the game) was there to be had.”

The Vees however would come out hard in the second outshooting the Smokies 13-7, but Todd, the game’s third star, kept the period scoreless with a number of good saves.

Dakota Conroy finally broke through in the third as he walked out of the corner and beat Todd up high at 5:46 to put the Vees up 3-0.

Griffyn Martin, however, spoiled Hunter Miska’s shutout bid midway through the third. Right off the face-off, Martin leaned into a slap shot that found its way through traffic and over Miska’s arm at 12:40.

The 24-4-0-1 Vees outshot Trail 30-23 and went 0-for-2 on the power play while the Smokies were 0-for-3.

New acquisitions Steve Penner and Cooper Leitch played in the game after a long day of travel on the road from Prince George.

“They were definitely a physical presence out there, both of them had probably three or four big hits each, so that’s kind of what we need as a group.”

Penner and Leitch came to Trail in a trade for Viktor Dombrovskiy earlier this week, and should make an immediate impact especially against physical teams like Vernon with former Smokie and Trail native Riley Brandt banging it up this Saturday at the Cominco Arena.

“Vernon is going to be a huge test, but we haven’t shown up against them yet, but it’s at home so there should be no reason for us to take them lightly,” said Deschenes.

The Smoke Eaters have had success against Powell River Kings and will look to make it 3-0 on Sunday.  The Smokies will have to neutralize top-10 scorers Jared Lukosevicius with 38 points and Kurt Keats, 37 points, and, more than that, finish their own opportunities.

“We’ve got to continually step it up a notch,” said Deschenes. “We have to command success, and demand it from our group. The opportunities are there and, like the Island trip, were just coming up short by such a small margin.”

Trail faces off with Vernon at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and against the Kings at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Cominco Arena.

With files from the Penticton Western News.