Following an impressive victory over the Alberni Bulldogs on Friday, the Trail Smoke Eaters couldn’t generate the same offensive success versus the Wenatchee Wild on Saturday at the Cominco Arena.
The Smokies put in one of their best efforts of the season in a convincing 7-3 win over the Bulldogs, however, the Wild were hungry for a win. After losing 2-0 to Vernon on Friday and 5-2 to West Kelowna two days before, Wenatchee stifled the Smokies chances in a 5-2 victory.
“I thought our game against Alberni Valley that was the best we played 5-on-5 all season long,” said Smoke Eaters assistant coach Jessie Leung. “We saw a lot of plays off the rush develop that were a product of a little more jump and the work we put in the week before and adjustments we were looking to make so that was great to see.”
Trail owns one of the best power plays in the league, yet has struggled scoring five-on-five. The Smokies addressed that Friday, scoring six-of-seven goals at even strength against the Bulldogs. Yet, Wenatchee, the defending BCHL champion, is a much different team with the league’s three leading scorers, and a defence that has allowed an average of just 20 shots-on-goal per game this season. The Wild effectively neutralized the Smoke Eaters speed and quick puck movement, holding them to just 13 shots through two periods.
“Wenatchee is a great team,” said Leung. “Defensively they are very good at blocking shots. If you look over the course of the game they might have got in front of close to 30 or 40 shots, and as a team, that has something they’ve taken on as a key ingredient to their game. Credit to them for the players getting in front of those shots … and if you’re not ready, and you don’t have that zip, they get on you pretty quick.”
A ‘wild’ bounce off the glass set up the game winning goal for Wenatchee, when a clearing attempt hit a stanchion behind the Trail net, caromed right to Josh Arnold who shovelled it past Smokies goalie Adam Marcoux for a 3-1 lead.
With the win, Wenatchee improves to 5-4-0-0 and is tied for first place with Merritt and West Kelowna, while, the split leaves the 4-3-1-0 Smoke Eaters in fourth, one point behind the Interior leaders, in an Interior Division where first and seventh place are separated by just two points.
Trail opened the scoring on the power play, when Carter Jones found Mack Byers by the left post for the redirection at 14:32 of the first period. It was Byers’ fourth goal and sixth point of the season, but the lead was short-lived as Wenatchee answered less than five minutes later. The Wild’s Murphy Stratton fired a pass across the slot to Christophe Fillion whose quick wrist shot beat Marcoux to even the score.
Wenatchee took the lead 13:07 into the second period, on a Cristophe Tellier tip-in off a Stratton shot from the left wing. Five minutes later Arnold chipped in the game winner with 1:40 to go in the middle frame.
Wenatchee ran into penalty trouble at the start of the third. Blake Bargar was called for cross-checking, and Stratton was sent off for roughing just 28 seconds later. The Smokies capitalized on the 5-on-3 with crisp puck movement as Smokies d-man Jeremy Smith sent a pass to Michael Hodge in the low circle, and Hodge fired it by Wild goalie Austin Park for his second of the season to bring Trail within one.
But Wenatchee didn’t relent, as Chad Sasaki wired a wrist shot from the blue line that found its way through traffic and past the glove of Marcoux for a 4-2 lead midway through the third period. Fillion capped off the scoring, jamming in a puck on a goalmouth scramble with 5:37 to play for the 5-2 final.
Wenatchee outshot the Smoke Eaters 27-22, with Trail going 2-for-5 on the power play and the Wild 0-for-2. Stratton, Fillion, and Tellier earned Game Stars 1, 2, and 3 respectively, as the trio combined for nine points in the game. Trail’s Carter Jones was the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.
On Friday, Braeden Tuck scored twice and added two assists for a four-point night, as Trail rolled to a 7-3 win over Alberni Valley. The Calgary native has embraced his role as team captain, and along with linemates Levi Glasman and Kent Johnson, the trio has been the most productive Smoke Eater line this season.
“Braeden’s been everything we would hope for in a captain and a leader,” said Leung. “For me having seen him for two years, and Barry (Zanier) for three, this comes as no surprise to us. Braeden’s always been a team-first player, doing whatever we ask without hesitation, and this is part of his game that we recognized through his tenure here with the Smoke Eaters, and we’re happy to finally put him in a position with linemates where that can really come to the forefront.”
Alberni’s Jackson Doucet opened the scoring on the first shot of the game 91 seconds in, but Tyler Ghirardosi notched his second to tie it, and Byers gave Trail the lead for good with 6:20 to play in the period.
Tuck scored his first of the game 3:28 into the second, and Trail defenceman Jeremy Smith scored the winning goal and his third of the season midway through the period to put the Smokies up 4-1. Tuck and Glasman then set up Johnson to put the Smokies up 5-1 by the time the buzzer sounded to end the second.
Johnson notched his second of the match on a setup from Glasman and Smith to make it 6-1, but the Bulldogs showed some life as Nicholas Seitz and Isaac Tonkin-Palmer scored 85 seconds apart to cut the lead in half. But Tuck notched his fifth goal and 12th point of the campaign at 6:26 for the 7-3 victory.
Trail outshot Alberni 41-33, were 1-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill. Tuck was the game’s first star, with Johnson and Byers second and third stars.
The Smokies head to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island for the Thanksgiving weekend with games against Powell River, Alberni, and Nanaimo.