A four-goal deficit proved too much to overcome as the Smoke Eaters dropped a 4-3 decision to the Vernon Vipers Saturday at Cominco Arena.
Adam Tambellini's second goal of the game early in the second period proved to be the difference as a Trail rally fell just short, and the Smoke Eaters' 4-game win streak came to an end.
The Vipers started their attack early in the first period, when Liam Board pounced on a loose puck in the low slot, wristing a shot over an outstretched Lyndon Stanwood just shy of the 5-minute mark. The Vipers added to their lead later in the opening frame when Tambellini redirected a Marc Hetnik centring feed for his 20th goal of the season.
Vernon made it 3-0 early in period two, just as Smoke Eaters defenseman Bennett Hambrook was stepping back on the ice after serving a penalty. Braedan Russell snapped a quick shot from the right circle that eluded Stanwood. The Vipers would make it a four-goal advantage thanks to a fortuitous bounce to Tambellini, who was alone in front of Stanwood after a Bryce Eviston shot rattled off a Trail defender's shinpad.
The Smoke Eaters needed a spark desperately, and found one 8:08 into the second period when Tyler Berkholtz's wrist shot from the left-wing circle fooled Vipers goaltender Austin Smith. Mitch Foyle banged home a power-play rebound in the final minute of the period to cut the deficit to 4-2 and give the home side some life.
Trail poured everything it could on the Vernon net (outshooting the visitors 35-21 overall), and struck a third time midway through the third period on a nifty deflection from Luke Sandler. The 19 year-old redirected a Djordje Leposavic point shot for his 15th goal of the season, and 6th in the month of December.
It was as close, though, as Trail would come, despite golden opportunities in close on Smith in the dying moments, including a cross-crease pass in the final seconds that hopped at the worst possible time, and stayed away from Smoke Eater sticks, and away from the Viper net. Vernon's early goals proved to be too much to handle as the Vipers snapped a four-game skid of their own, and moved to within two points of Trail for the fourth seed in the Interior division.
My Three Stars:
1. Adam Tambellini, Vernon
2. Tyler Berkholtz, Trail
3. Andrew Tegeler, Vernon
Up Next: The Smokies get little to no time to dwell on tonight's loss, with a visit from the Nanaimo Clippers set for Sunday afternoon. Puck drop at Cominco Arena is at 3:00 pm.