PENTICTON, BC- Gabe Bast could not have scripted his return to the Penticton Vees line-up any better. The 20-year-old, playing in his first game since late November, scored the overtime-winner in the Vees 4-3 come from behind win over the Trail Smoke Eaters Wednesday night.


Bast, who’s been limited to just six games this season and 15 in the last two years, roofed a cross-crease pass from Nicholas Jones on the opening shift of overtime.


Owen Sillinger forced OT after scoring inside the final minute of regulation on a power-play. James Miller and Ty Amonte also scored for the Vees and Jones picked up two assists in the win. The win puts Penticton two points away from clinching their sixth consecutive Interior Division regular season pennant.


Kale Howarth, Ryan Moon and Korbyn Chabot scored for the Smoke Eaters, who also earned an overtime point Tuesday night in Salmon Arm in a 1-1 tie against the Silverbacks. Linden Marshall was terrific in net for the Smoke Eaters, stopping 45 of 49 shots and was named the second star.


Miller put the Vees up early, opening the scoring seven and a half minutes into the first period. Jones left the puck for Miller on the wall and was given plenty of room to walk in and fire a wrist-shot past a screened Marshall; Miller scoring his fourth of the season and second against Trail.


The Smokies tied things up on the power-play midway through the opening frame. Mat Robson got a pad to Andre Ghantous’ shot from the top of the crease but the rebound sat in the paint for Howarth, who whacked it into an open net at 12:05. That goal seemed to give Trail a boost, as they grabbed their first lead late.


Trail had numbers coming into the Vees’ end and Blain Caton took advantage, centering the puck for a streaking Moon, who fired the cross-ice pass upstairs at 15:54; his ninth sending the Smokies to the dressing room up 2-1.


Penticton got off on the right foot in the second, manufacturing an equalizer before the three-minute mark. Ty Amonte had a rebound come off the pad of Marshall and right on his stick and he made no mistake, smacking it into the net at 2:44. However, the celebration was quickly muted.


18-seconds after Amonte tied it, the Smokies went back ahead by one the very next shift. Ryan Warner found Korbyn Chabot up the middle with a breakaway pass, and he fought off the defender, before sliding the puck around Robson at 3:02.


The Vees went into the third period down 3-2 but found another gear, as the ice started to tilt in their favour.


Penticton thought they had tied it on a power-play midway through the stanza, when Chris Klack batted in a bouncing puck at the side of the net. However, the officials conferenced and waved-off the goal, ruling a Vees’ forward was in the crease, impeding Marshall from trying to make a save on Klack’s shot.


Despite the setback, the Vees kept pressuring, and finally caught a break late. With just over two-minutes in the game, Trail’s Ethan Martini was called for holding behind his net, after reaching out and grabbing a hold of Amonte.


Penticton pulled Robson to make it a six-on-four advantage and the move paid off. After Bast’s shot from the slot hit a stick, it skipped down the side of the goal along the extended goal-line. Sillinger picked up the puck, curled in front and fired it over Marshall’s shoulder; his 17th of the year coming with just 58-seconds left on the clock.


Penticton dogged pressure paid off in the third, as the outshot Trail 18-2, and forced OT.


The Vees controlled the puck right from the opening face-off of four-on-four, and didn’t waste time ending it. Duncan Campbell made a great play to keep the puck in the zone, before putting it down in the corner to Jones. The Vees’ Captain had all sorts of time to walk in and shoot himself, but he alertly slid it across to Bast who hammered it into the back of the net.


Final Score: 4-3 Vees

Shots: 49-23 Vees

Power-Plays: Vees 1-4 Trail 1-2

Three Stars: 1) Gabe Bast 2) Chris Klack 3) Linden Marshall

Attendance: 2,712


Vees Notes: Bast also picked up an assist on the game-tying goal and finished with two points. Wednesday was the Vees’ ninth overtime win this season and third against Trail. The Vees improved their record to 35-12-1-2 with Wednesday’s victory.


The two teams meet again Friday night in Trail, in the seventh and final meeting in the regular season; puck drop is 7:30 pm.