Victoria Grizzlies claw out OT win over Smoke Eaters

Trail Smoke Eaters drop two weekend games in agonizing fashion

Following a third-period comeback, an ailing Trail Smoke Eaters lost in double overtime, 6-5, to the Victoria Grizzlies on Sunday, closing out a three-game road trip to Vancouver Island with three of a possible six points.

After beating the Cowichan Valley Capitals 3-2 Friday, the Smokies lost in agonizing fashion to the Nanaimo Clippers 2-1 on Saturday, before falling to the Grizzlies in OT Sunday.

“It went pretty well considering,” said Trail coach Nick Deschenes. “By the end of the trip we had four APs in the line up and two injuries during the game so we were really down to three lines and five D.”

Trailing 4-2 heading into the third period, the Smokies tied it on goals from Charlie Zuccarini and AP Wilson Northey. The Grizzlies would pull ahead at 14:52, but Connor Brown-Maloski netted his third goal of the season to even it at 5-5 with 2:42 to play in regulation and send it to overtime.

The teams played a scoreless 4-on-4 OT period, before Zachary Dixon would score for Victoria on an unassisted effort at 1:07 into the 3-on-3 overtime period to give the Grizzlies a measure of revenge for a 10-4 thumping suffered at the hands of the Smokies Nov. 14.

Trail  opened the scoring on AP Jake Fletcher‘s power play goal at 4:50 of the opening period, and went up 2-0 after Dallas Calvin set up Jake Lucchini. But the Grizzlies would storm back making it 2-1 on Brett Gruber’s marker with 91 seconds left in the first period.

The Grizz then erupted for three goals on 20 shots in the second period to go ahead 4-2, until Trail mounted their own third-period comeback.

Adam Todd stopped 30 shots in net for Trail while Michael Stiliadis turned aside 22. Trail went 2-for-4 on the powerplay and the Grizzlies were 1-for-3.

“As the weekend went on our team finally bought in to how we wanted them to play . . . I think there was a lot of lessons learned and as a group we came out of that with a lot of value.”

The Smoke Eaters were without injured players Craig Martin, Robbie Johnson, and Bryan Basilico, in addition to Jeremy Lucchini (illness) and defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy, who requested a trade early last week.

The Smokies were forced to make emergency call ups, going  with affiliate players Northey, Fletcher, Hunter Atchison, and Matthew Lynes.

“It’s tough to pick up Affiliate players far away from here because they don’t really get any practices and the games are kind of sparse, but they helped us out, and if they want to stay on board there might be more opportunities for them,” said Deschenes. “They definitely didn’t hurt us at all.”

On Saturday, the Nanaimo Clippers’ Brendan Taylor scored a power-play goal with three seconds remaining in regulation time to break a 1-1 tie and win their 17th game of the season.

After a scoreless first period, Jacob Hanlon scored unassisted when his shot trickled over Trail goalie Brett Clark’s shoulder, off the post and into the net to give the Clippers a 1-0 lead. However, Harlan Orr would reply six minutes later on a setup from Max Newton and Scott Davidson.

The game looked destined for extra time but with 19 seconds remaining in regulation Orr was penalized for hooking. After a face off, the Smokies would ice it, but with time ticking down, Taylor made a dashing end-to-end rush and beat Clark in the final seconds to end it.

“The ref called a very questionable penalty . . . and we had an opportunity to shut them down for 19 seconds, but had four consecutive breakdowns that allowed them to come to our net and score.”

Trail also had a tough time generating scoring chances in the third and managed just four shots on goal, but Clark was huge in net for the Smoke Eaters stopping 31 shots on the night and was named the game’s third star.

Incredibly, Clark, at 2-6 this season, has a 2.50 goals against average in his six losses, but his team has mustered just six goals in those six games, while tallying 17 in his two wins.

In Friday’s victory over Cowichan Valley, Zuccharini scored a short-handed goal at 15:54 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie, and Todd took care of the rest stopping 32 shots on the night including 16 in the middle frame for his eighth win.

Ryan Swanson and Scott Davidson also scored for the Smoke Eaters, while Jake Lucchini was named the game’s second star with two assists on the night.

Trail will look to replace Dombrovskiy who led all defenceman in scoring with two goals and 15 points in 19 games, and had recently committed to Harvard University.

“He requested a trade, but unfortunately he went about it in an unethical manner, so basically it’s for the best interests of the team right now that he is not a part of it, so we’re just trying to find him a place to play right now,” added Deschenes. “It’s very disappointing.”

Trail’s record improves to 10-11-0-1 for 23 points and a tie for fifth spot in the Interior division with Salmon Arm, however, the Smokies have a game in hand. The Silverbacks lost to Cowichan Valley 7-4 on Sunday.

Trail hosts the West Kelowna Warriors at the Cominco Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m.