Friday, January 20, 2012

Vipers 5 Smoke Eaters 3

The term "unlucky" about sums up Friday's 5-3 loss to Vernon for the Smoke Eaters.

After a Brent Baltus equalizer with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, a laser beam from Adam Tambellini from the left face-off circle seconds later secured the Vipers' 6th victory in as many tries against Trail this season, and kept the Smokies winless away from home since November 6th.

Vernon opened the scoring in the first period on a goal Michael Zalewski will never, ever be able to replicate. His dump-in careened off the end boards, off the skate of Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea and rolled across the goalline. Zalewski was a deserving first star, and after his second period goal improved his point total against Trail this season to 14 (he'd later add an assist).

But Zalewski's output was wrapped around a pretty individual effort by Brandon Long. After a turnover in neutral ice, the Calgarian outwaited Vipers goaltender Kirby Halcrow to tuck home his third goal of the season to level things at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

After Zalewski made it 2-1 Vipers, the Smokies would get another gift, this time partly wrapped by Castlegar's Ryan Renz. The blueliner's "d-to-d" pass landed right on the stick of Trail's Connor Tiechko, who snapped a wrister past Halcrow to even the score at 2-2.

Another bright light for Vernon tonight was captain Patrick McGillis. He gave the home team the lead midway through the third on a Vipers power-play from the slot after a lengthy spell of possession on the Trail perimeter.

That set the stage for Trail's comeback. With Renz in the box for a hit that (mostly) missed Erik Cooper, Baltus slapped a puck towards the goal from the top of the right circle; it took a deflection and fooled Halcrow to put the Smokies back on even terms.

Almost instantaneously, though, Tambellini gave the Vipers the lead back on a rocket from the left circle. McGillis would add an empty-netter to seal the deal for Vernon, secured a much-needed two points and denied Trail a taste of some much-deserved road success.

D'Andrea, for his part, did what you'd ask of any goaltender, and that was give his team a chance to win. Trail was badly outshot tonight (which think grossly exaggerates any edge the Vipers had in play). Kudos to the 19 year-old for stepping in after seeing Lyndon Stanwood carry the load over the last month.

Up Next: Trail heads 45 minutes northeast to take on Salmon Arm Saturday night. Note there will not be a Smoke Eaters Ustream broadcast as originally planned, my apologies for the inconvenience.

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