By Jim Bailey, Trail Times
The Trail Smoke Eaters ended their home season on a high note, defeating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in front of a capacity crowd of [at least] 2,800 fans at the Cominco Arena on Friday.
Trail Smoke Eaters owners Rich and Annie Murphy congratulated their fans for surpassing the 50,000 attendance record, before the Smoke Eaters came out and skated to a crowd-pleasing 8-5 victory over the ‘Backs.
Trail’s 32 victories and 69 points is the most since 2007-08 when they accumulated 35 wins and 76 points and finished third.
The Smokies then wrapped up its season on Saturday in Vernon, falling 8-3 to the Vipers for a fourth-place finish in the tough Interior Division.
In Friday’s win over Salmon Arm, 18-year-old rookie Levi Glasman netted a hat trick and Braeden Tuck and Mack Byers each pitched in with a pair of goals in Trail’s season sweep of Salmon Arm.
Glasman, a Red Deer native, was overlooked for the Interior BCHL rookie of the year considerations, despite leading all BCHL rookies in goals scored, 24, and is second in points, 58, to the Island Division’s Alex Newhook, 22-44-66, this season. Vernon’s Josh Prokop, with 36 points, was the Interior Division’s selection for the rookie award along with Newhook and the Mainland Division’s Cory Andonovski of the Chilliwack Chiefs.
Trail jumped out to a 2-0 lead on early goals from Glasman and Smokies defenceman Conner Welsh. However, the ‘Backs Brandon Whistle cut the lead to one, and Hudson Schandor netted a power-play goal to tie it at 2-2 with less than four minutes remaining.
Trail answered when Byers scored his fourth of the season on a pretty set up from Blake Sidoni to make it 3-2 with just 20 seconds left on the clock.
The Silverback’s Jackson Cooke tied it again at 13:20 of the second period, but Trail erupted for five straight goals with Tuck putting the Smokies up 4-3 at 8:34 before back-to-back power play goals from Glasman gave the Smokies a 6-3 lead heading into the third period.
Byers then notched his fifth of the season, and Tuck put the Smokies up 8-3 before Demetri Kambeitz and Whistle added two more for Salmon Arm.
The Smoke Eaters outshot the ‘Backs 51-31 and went 3-for-4 on the power play, while Salmon Arm was 1-for-2.
Glasman earned the game’s first star, Byers second star, and Tuck third star.
In Saturday’s match in Vernon, Vipers forward Brett Stapley scored three times in an 8-3 win over the Smoke Eaters.
The Smokies rested starting goalie Adam Marcoux, as well as top scorers Kale Howarth and Ross Armour, in a game that meant little for the Smokies in the division standings.
After beating the Wenatchee Wild 4-3 on Friday, the Vipers’ win over Trail locked up the second seed in the Interior, combined with a 5-1 Wild loss to the Penticton Vees on Saturday.
Jesse Lansdell and Niko Karamanis gave Vernon a 2-0 first period lead, before Andre Ghantous replied for the Smokies 63 seconds into the second period. Stapley scored back-to-back tallies including a shorthanded marker midway through the frame, and Keyvan Mokhtari netted another shorty at 11:11.
Trail rookie Daine Dubois made it 5-2 at the end of the second, but third period goals from Lambert and Mitch Anders put the game away, with Glasman counting his 24th on a power play before Stapley finished the scoring at 14:54.
Vernon outshot Trail 46-22, and went 3-for-6 on the power play, while Trail was 1-for-2.
Interior Division Playoffs:
The Vees clinched first place overall with a 40-12-3-3 record and 86 points, and will take on the Coquitlam Express in the first round of the playoffs. The Express finished fifth in the Mainland Division and, with 16 of 17 teams making the post-season, crossover to the Interior to become the division’s eighth seed.
The Vipers will open the playoffs against the seventh seed Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the third-seed Wenatchee will take on sixth-place Merritt.
Trail will face the West Kelowna Warriors in Round-1 of the Interior Division playoffs starting on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Cominco Arena.
The Grizzles nailed down first place in the Island Division after beating Surrey 4-3 on Sunday and will play the fourth-place Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who spoiled Powell River’s shot at the top by sweeping a pair of weekend games against the Kings.
Nanaimo finished up second in the Island Division and are the hottest team in the BCHL with 10 straight wins. The Clippers play third seeded Powell River in the first round of the best-of-seven series.
In the Mainland, the top seed Prince George Spruce Kings play the Chilliwack Chiefs, and the Langley Rivermen take on the Surrey Eagles.