Sunday, March 10, 2013

Smoke Eaters 4 Vees 2

Marley Keca scored twice as the Smokies closed the 2012-13 season with a 4-2 win over Penticton in front of 1,649 fans Sunday at Cominco Arena.

Keca opened the scoring on another crazy carom, then added a second on a one-timer bullet with 1.4 seconds left in period two to help the Smokies to a 26th victory of the season in the final BCHL game for 20 year-olds Brent Baltus, Garrett McMullen, Tyler Berkholtz and Bennett Hambrook.

The Vees, who scratched ten regulars and dressed only 14 skaters Sunday, held Trail off the scoresheet through the opening frame, but the hosts found their offensive touch with a 3-goal outburst in a 94-second span early in the second period. First, Keca fooled everyone with a left-wing dump-in that bounced off a stanchion and jerked toward a goal vacated by Vees netminder Nic Renyard. It was a goal eerily similar to one scored by Braeden Jones against this same Penticton club just two weekends ago.

Moments later, the Smokies went ahead 2-0 after Luke Sandler juked past a defenseman, then outwaited Renyard with a backhand effort to score his 23rd goal of the season. Jesse Knowler potted his 9th of the campaign on the next shift on a pretty centring feed from Shane Poulsen.

The Vees would score before the end of the middle frame thanks to Jordan Boultbee. The rookie forward was sent in alone on Trail netminder Lyndon Stanwood after a spin-o-rama pass from linemate Ryan Gropp found his stick in the left-wing circle.

Keca's second of the game added an exclamation mark to the Smokies' second-period outburst, though. The 19 year-old hammered a cross-zone pass from forward Riley McDougall into the top corner for his second goal of the game, and third of the season.

Trail took advantage of a tired Vees squad in the third period possession-wise and territorially, outshooting the visitors 18-6. It was Penticton, though, who scored the only goal of the final frame (in the final minute to boot) as AP callup Brett Harris tapped home his first in the BCHL to round out the scoring with 44 seconds left.

Stanwood made 27 saves for the Smokies to collect his 15th win of the season, while Renyard made 43 saves at the other end for the short-handed Vees.

Of the four twenty year-olds, only McMullen failed to record a point Sunday, though not for lack of effort. This Trail squad was motivated, aggressive and physical this afternoon, and were bent on ending a disappointing weekend with aplomb. Sunday's win also sealed the first season-series victory against Penticton since the 2004-05 season. It was a fitting send-off for the graduating Smoke Eaters too: each of them battled through injury and adversity this season and were incredible ambassadors for the Smoke Eater crest throughout their time here.

To "Hammy," "Baltsy," "Berky" and "Mully," all the best in wherever life takes you both on and off the ice, and thank you for keeping us all entertained during your time with the Orange & Black.

Thanks as well to the players & coaches for their commitment, as well as our legion of volunteers, billet families and YOU the fans and parents for being a part of the 18th season of BCHL Smoke Eaters hockey. With all but four skaters eligible to return next year, there's reason to be excited for 2013-14. I know I can't wait to see what happens next, and I hope to see you all back at the Cominco Arena come the second half of August.

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