The Trail Smoke Eaters lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling 4-0 to the Vernon Vipers on Friday at the Cominco Arena in front of 2,231 fans.
The shorthanded Smokies were shut out by the Vipers for the second time this season following a 9-0 drubbing in their first regular season match up last month.
The Smokies went into the match with three veteran forwards, Ryan Murphy, Blaine Caton, and Braeden Tuck, and top scoring rookie Levi Glasman, sidelined with injury. Despite the good play of AP Nolan Krogfoss, the offence lacked finish around the net, scoring just once in their last two games against Penticton and Vernon.
The Vipers newly acquired Sam Anzai scored what proved to be the winner when he walked in all alone and slipped the puck between the pads of Smoke Eater goalie Tanner Marshall at 13:51 of the first period. Anzai, an L.A. native, was acquired last week from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drayton Valley Thunder.
Michael Young scored a power play goal at 7:39 of the second period to put Vernon up 2-0, and Brett Stapley and Josh Prokop added insurance markers in the third period for the 4-0 victory.
Trail had their chances but no puck luck as the Smokies hit three posts, missed a wide open net and were generally neutralized by the Vipers defence and goalie Anthony Yamnitsky, the game’s first star.
Vernon outshot Trail 40-28 and, despite the loss, Marshall made several outstanding saves and earned the game’s third star, while Vernon’s Jimmy Lambert had two assists and was the second star.
The win vaults the 18-6-0-4 Vipers into first place in the Interior Division, a point ahead of the 19-7-1-0 Smoke Eaters.
The loss comes two days after a 2-1 setback to the Penticton Vees, and Trail will look to get back on track tonight when they travel to Merrit to take on the Centennials.