The Trail Smoke Eaters battled to the bitter end before ending a coastal road trip with three games in as many nights with a 4-2 loss in Surrey.
The Eagles, who had been resting since Friday night, jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Aaron Schwartz at 6:46 and Nathan Oickle who scored on his own rebound during a power play exactly five minutes later.
The Smokies stayed step-for-step with the division leading Eagles through the first 40 minutes and solved Eagles goalie Ajeet Gundarah seven minutes into the second period.
Lucas Marshall stepped out the penalty box and sent a streaking Josh Schenk into the Surrey zone with a perfect feed and Schenk sniped a low snapper glove side on the puck stopper with the BCHL’s best save percentage of .940, to pull Trail to within striking distance.
Trail goalie Ryan Parker kept his team close by stopping Savek Brar on a penalty shot just past the 11-minute mark. Parker patiently positioned himself at the top of the crease and made the pad save on a shot low to his glove side.
It was one of several key and sometimes sensational saves by the rookie netminder throughout the afternoon.
Adam Parsons had a glorious opportunity to tie the game on a Smokies power play, about four minutes later.
The veteran winger looked poised to tap a rebound into a wide-open net from close range when the puck jumped over the blade of his stick.
BCHL leading goal scorer Caden Cranston gave Surrey a 3-1 lead on a breakaway at 12:33 of third period, but the Smokies weren’t done.
Chase Stefanek sprung Adam Marshall on a clear cut breakaway with a perfect tape-to-tape pass from inside the Trail blueline, to Marshall who stayed onside at the Surrey blueline. The Smokies sophomore beat Gundarah low to the stick side with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Trail pressed with six attackers after goalie Ryan Parker was pulled with 2:15 remaining and the face off in the Surrey zone.
Cranston who also leads the BCHL with 26 points put the game out of reach with his second goal of the game and 14th of the season into an empty net with 49-seconds remaining.
Coach and GM Tim Fragle lifted Parker again in the final 30 seconds with play in Surrey territory, but the Smokies were unable to put another puck past Gundarah.
Trail outshot the hosts 36-28, went 0-for-3 on the power play and killed off two of three Eagles advantages.
The team had spent 28 hours on the bus, ferries and waiting at ferry terminals before packing up and heading home.
Three hours into that trip, it was learned that Hwy-3 at Princeton was closed because of a rock slide. So a four-day experience that included challenging and sometimes quirky games in Powell River, Chilliwack and Surrey, also included a longer than planned ride back to Cominco Arena.
The team earned a well-deserved day off on Monday and will now prepare for games Saturday night in Penticton and Sunday afternoon in Cranbrook.