The Trail Smoke Eaters earned a split with the Penticton Vees on the weekend, taking the opening match 4-3 before falling 5-1 to the Vees in Penticton. Jim Bailey photo.

Trail Smoke Eaters host Merritt Centennials in postponed match

Lineup is set as Trail Smoke Eaters begin final 14 game of the season

The Trail Smoke Eaters are set to host the Merritt Centennials on Tuesday night, following a weekend split with the Penticton Vees.

The Centennials couldn’t make the trip to Trail last week due to poor road conditions, so the teams rescheduled the game for tonight at the Cominco Arena.

The Smoke Eaters have dominated the Centennials this season, winning all four matches, including a sweep of the Cents to open the new year on Jan. 3 and 4.

The 26-14-2-1-1 Smoke Eaters sit in second place in the Interior Division and will face a seventh place 10-28-1-3 Centennials team that is winless in 2020, losing both ends of a home-and-home last weekend against the West Kelowna Warriors.

Merritt’s line up will also be a bit depleted, after giving up forward Matt Osadick to Trail, and sending their top two defencemen Joey Berkopec to the Coquitlam Express and Olson Werenka to the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL for futures prior to the trade deadline.

Related read: Minimal moves at BCHL trade deadline

Trail is coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to the Penticton Vees on Saturday, following a well-earned 4-3 victory on Friday night at the Cominco Arena.

“It was a good measuring stick for us,” said Smoke Eaters hockey and business director, Craig Clare. “We had a decent start in Penticton, but the pucks didn’t go in and the game got away from us a bit. At home, Logan (Terness) played a heck of a game, and we battled out a victory.”

Five different Vees players scored in the victory at the South Okanagan Events Centre, as Trail and Penticton paid tribute to its World Championship teams with Trail wearing a replica jersey from the 1963 Trail Smoke Eaters, who played in the World Hockey Championships, and the Vees donned the 1955 jersey of the Penticton world champions.

Vees forward Liam Malmquist continued his strong play, sniping a shot over the blocker of Terness at the 12:54 mark for a 1-0 lead. Tristan Amonte made it 2-0 with 1:34 to play in the opening frame banging in a rebound, as Penticton outshot Trail 13-8.

The home team’s Jackson Niedermayer wired a shot glove side for a 3-0 lead with 19 seconds to play in the middle frame, and Tyler Ho made it 4-0 just 2:47 into the third.

Newly acquired Matt Osadick scored his first goal as a Smoke Eater, tipping in a Braden Costello shot with 3:25 remaining in the final stanza to spoil the shut-out bid of Penticton goalie Carl Stankowski. The Vees Danny Weight finished the scoring 27 seconds later for the 5-1 final.

The win restores the Vees 10-point lead on the Smoke Eaters for the top two spots in the Interior Division standings, winning the season series 4-2.

Penticton outshot Trail 32-18 and both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play.

On Friday, Braden Costello and Kent Johnson each scored twice and goalie Terness stopped 43 shots for Trail in a tight 4-3 win at the Cominco Arena.

Penticton outshot Trail 46-27, with Costello earning first star, Johnson second star, and Malmquist third star. Terness earned his league-leading sixth Fortis Energy Player of the Game honour.

The series could be a preview of things to come as the season winds down, and the teams prepare for a playoff run.

“I think they are two evenly matched teams but again we can’t look past anything,” said Clare. “We have Round 1 and Round 2 to go, and you can see anything in this league can happen, so we got to be ready.”

Trail hosts the Merritt Centennials tonight (Tuesday) with the puck drop at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.

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