A Trail Smoke Eaters third-period comeback was curtailed by a major penalty on Wednesday, as the Smokies fell to the Vernon Vipers 6-3 in BCHL action.
Nicholas Rasovic scored the winning goal when he blocked a shot at the Vipers’ blue line then raced in all alone on Trail goalie Brett Clark and beat him blocker side to give the Snakes a 4-1 lead at 5:43 of the third period.
The Smoke Eaters would mount a comeback scoring two power play goals within three minutes to make it 4-3 midway through the period but a major penalty call on Connor Brown-Maloski for a blow- to-the-head with five minutes remaining quashed any momentum.
Trail native Riley Brandt came back to haunt his former team, scoring twice in the first period to give the Vipers a 2-0 lead, then finishing off the night with a third-period tilt against Cooper Leitch.
“I think he (Brandt) always loves coming here,” Vernon assistant coach Kevin Krause said after the game. “He had a smile on his face when he left Vernon, because he knew he was coming back home and I think half the fans here were here for him.”
The Smokies outshot the Vipers 17-15 in the period, but Vernon goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn made several key saves to keep the Smokies off the board.
Michael Roberts made it 3-0 for the Vipers, before Trail’s Kienan Scott intercepted a pass and beat Schamerhorn to make it 3-1 at 4:49. The Vipers controlled the period and outshot Trail 16-6 but Clark stood tall.
After Rasovic made it 4-1, the Vipers Mitch Meek would be sent off for roughing and on the ensuing power play Dallas Calvin would take a pass from Craig Martin and beat Schamerhorn between the legs to make it 4-2 at 7:05.
Less than three minutes later on another Trail power play, while Calvin held his man up in the corner, Lucchini picked up the loose puck and scored on a wrap around to make it 4-3.
Trail looked poised to take the lead, but the five-minute major would result in another Vernon goal, when Mackenzie Bauer banged in the rebound off a TJ Dumonceaux shot.
Colton McCarthy iced it with an empty netter with 25 seconds remaining.
Vernon outshot the Smoke Eaters 44-30 and went 2-for-3 on the power play, while Trail was 2-for-4. Schamerhorn took first star honours, Lucchini was named the game’s second star scoring his 32nd goal of the season and 78th point, and Rasovic third star.
Trail travels to Vernon to play the Vipers tonight before returning to the Cominco Arena for their final home game of the season on Saturday with the puck drop at 7:30 p.m.