Despite a solid record on home ice this season, the Trail Smoke Eaters penultimate regular season game at the Cominco Arena proved to be another reminder that they have a big hurdle to overcome in their quest for playoff success.
The Smokies hosted the Westside Warriors last night with another round going to the Warriors by a 4-1 count.
The win continued Westside’s dominance over the Smokies this season as they upped their record to 5-0 against the Orange and Black. It also allowed the Okanagan team to move within four points of Trail for fourth in the Interior Division.
Two goals in the final minutes of the second period, including one with less than a second on the clock, allowed the Warriors to break a 1-1 deadlock at take a 3-1 lead into the final frame.
Trail had a couple of chances in the third period on a power play chance midway through the frame. But Paul Mailey was stopped from point blank range and the Smokies never came close after that.
Three minutes later Tyler French used Trail defenceman Eric Walker as screen a beat Kiefer Smiley to seal another Westside win.
The Warriors scored the lone goal of the first period although the Smokies certainly had their chances.
Alex Grieve spotted the visitors a 1-0 lead when his spin-a-rama backhand caught Smiley by surprise.
However, the Smokies responded a minute later when Ryan Luiten forced a turnover, which gave Scott Jacklin a scoring chance right on the Warriors’ doorstep.
Then with less than two minutes in the period, Cullen Bradshaw caught Westside goalie Kevin Boyle leaning the wrong way but rang his shot off the post.
The Smokies finally found some luck and knotted the game at 1-1 six minutes into the second period when Jacklin deflected Jake Baker’s point shot on the power play.
Westside came back with a power play deflection of their own with two minutes left in the period as Kyle Singleton tipped a shot past Smiley to regain Westside’s lead.
The Warriors were set to take a 2-1 lead into the third when Matthew Maher slipped a loose puck past Smiley a fraction before the siren sounded to end the middle frame.
Westside outshot Trail 32-30 on the game.
The Smokies will meet the Warriors again on Saturday in West Kelowna. Prior to that match, Trail makes a stop in Penticton on Friday.
The team is back on home ice on Feb. 11 against Salmon Arm for its final regular season home game.