Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Vernon Vipers
When: December 15, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Smokies go for a fifth straight win and a third consecutive victory against Vernon as the Vipers pay their final visit to Cominco Arena tonight. Nine nights ago, the Smoke Eaters found overtime magic thanks to Garrett McMullen for a 2-1 win at Wesbild Centre, a triumph that marked the first time in Smokies franchise history that Trail has won twice in Vernon during the same regular season.
Tonight, the Smokies come to play on the heels of more overtime heroics. Connor Collett took advantage of a miscue from West Kelowna goaltender Tyler Briggs 39 seconds into 3-on-3 play to give Trail their seventh overtime win of the season. Luke Sandler added two goals while Lyndon Stanwood stopped 41 shots as Trail moved into sole possession of fourth in the Interior division. It was a characted win for the Smokies, who allowed three leads to lapse but once again showed their prowess in extra time. With three home games scheduled over the next four days, Trail will rely on a supportive home crowd to help keep the recent string of success alive.
Last Meeting: McMullen’s OT winner helped Trail to a 2-1 victory December 6th at Wesbild. Brent Baltus had the other Trail goal while Adam Tambellini scored for Vernon. The two teams will meet only once more during the regular season after tonight’s game: January 9th in Vernon.
Our Opponent: The Vipers come into tonight’s game in very unfamiliar territory: last in the Interior division. Penticton handed Vernon a 3-1 loss in the North Okanagan last night, and the Vipers come into play this evening three points behind 5th place Salmon Arm. Tambellini’s 19 goals (and 36 points) are tops on the squad, while the shutdown defensive pairing of Ryan Renz and Brett Corkey have combined for a perhaps-surprising 34 points from the back end. Watch out as well for NHL Entry Draft-eligible forward Dexter Dancs, who was recently acquired from Penticton. Expect Austin Smith to get the start in goal for Vernon, the ex-Swift Current Bronco has appeared in 26 games and despite an 8-17 record holds a very respectable 2.67 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
In the Press Box: Defensemen Braeden Jones and Shane Poulsen, forwards Baltus, Jesse Knowler and goaltender Adam Todd remain out for Trail. Vernon are minus Craig Martin while forward T.J. Dumonceaux did not dress last night.