Kale Howarth’s natural hat-trick early in the second period was the difference, as the Trail Smoke Eaters held-off the Penticton Vees 5-3 Wednesday, in a back-and-forth game at Cominco Arena.
The loss snapped the Vees five-game win streak and was their first loss to Trail in two seasons, as they won all seven games against the Smoke Eaters last year.
Jonny Tychonick, Ty Amonte and James Miller scored in a losing effort for Penticton, as they lost just their third road game all season. Both of the Vees’ goalies had their struggles Wednesday, as Nolan Hildebrand was pulled early in the second, after allowing two goals on 13 shots in 24-minutes of work. Mat Robson came in and gave up three on six shots the rest of the way.
It was a good start of the Vees as they had a strong push off the start and scored the only goal in the opening 20-minutes. Midway through the first period, Tychonick’s point-shot found the back of the net, as he put it past several bodies in front and over Zach Dyment’s shoulder at 13:26; his third of the season and second against Trail.
The first period didn’t lack controversy, as Owen Sillinger appeared to have opened up the scoring earlier but the referee waved off his shot at the side of the net, deeming it had gone off the post on the glove-side. However, the shot indeed went in, hitting the middle bar at the back of the net.
Despite that, the Vees took a 1-0 lead into the second but the game quickly did a 180. Trail came out hard in the second, led by Kale Howarth, as he scored three goals in the first five and a half minutes.
Howarth brought Trail level with a power-play goal just 69-seconds into the second. The Trail forward squeezed his shot between Hildebrand and the post on the short-side.
Howarth was at it again three-minutes later, this time scoring off the rush. Connor Brown-Maloski dropped the puck to Howarth in the left-circle, and he forced it underneath Hildebrand’s glove at 4:21. That goal spelt the end of Hildebrand’s night, as he was replaced by Mat Robson.
It was a rude welcome for Robson, as he had to face another Smoke Eaters power-play right away, and it was Howarth completing the natural hat-trick pouncing on a loose puck. Robson got a piece of the initial shot but it trickled past his blocker and in the crease, where Howarth swatted it in at 5:30.
When the dust settled, it was Howarth scoring three goals in just 4:21 span.
Nicholas Jones had a great chance near the end of the second to close the gap to one but his wrist-shot from the left-wing rattled off the post on the glove-side. The Vees headed to the intermission down 3-1.
Penticton didn’t pack it in and rallied in the first half of the third period to claw back and tie it. First, off a face-off in the Trail end, Ty Amonte went back for the puck at the blue-line, spun and wired a shot over Dyment’s shoulder at 3:43; his ninth of the year making it a one-goal game.
The blue-line seemed to be the sweet spot for the Vees, as they scored on another point-shot to tie it at 3-3 three and a half minutes after Amonte’s goal.
James Miller took a pass from Amonte, and near the boards, fired a wrist-shot up high that sailed past Dyment at 7:03; his third bringing the Vees all the way back from 3-1 down.
However, Trail went back ahead late in the third and quickly, as Spencer McLean scored the game-winner right off a face-off in the Vees’ end. Blaine Caton kicked the puck back to McLean and he surprised Robson with a shot through his legs at 13:21.
Luke Santerno iced the win with a breakaway goal nearly four-minutes later, sliding the puck underneath Robson, after winning a race to the puck in the Vees end at 17:14.
Final Score: 5-3 Trail
Shots: 29-19 Vees
Power-Plays: Vees 0-4 Trail 2-4
Three Stars: 1) Kale Howarth 2) Spencer McLean 3) Ty Amonte
Wednesday was the Vees (23-5-0-0) first long since November 11th and their first road loss in a month (October 29th in Wenatchee). It was just their second loss against an Interior Division team, as they’re now 11-2-0-0 against their own division.
Penticton returns home Friday to face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the SOEC; face-off is 7 pm. It’s the Silverbacks’ first trip to Penticton and the second meeting of the season between the two teams. Fans can get their tickets at the Valley First box office, or online at www.valleyfirsttix.com