Penticton, BC: Trailing 3-1 with 7:24 to go in the second, Wyatt Sloboshan’s shorthanded goal kickstarted the Vees offence as they scored four unanswered goals to take a 1-0 series lead against the Trail Smoke Eaters with a 5-3 win.
After a strong start by the Vees, Trail pushed back and racked up the shots on goal throughout the opening 20 minutes. It wasn’t until late in the period that Braeden Tuck was able to jump on a rebound to give Trail the lead through 20 minutes.
Just 27 seconds into the second, Blaine Caton extended the Smokies lead after his shot from the goal line was stopped by Adam Scheel, but the rebound bounced off Ryan Sandelin’s skate and into the net.
Jack Barnes got the Vees within one coming down the left wing into the Trail zone. The Smoke Eaters defender went down to his stomach to try and take away the pass, but Barnes drove to the net and stuffed the puck through Adam Marcoux for his third goal of the playoffs 3:04 into the second.
Trail quickly regained their lead when Ethan Martini’s wrist shot from the left point eluded Scheel’s glove. It was Martini’s first goal of the season, as he went 56 regular season games without scoring.
With Trail’s chances piling up, the Vees appeared to be on their heels with the Smoke Eaters going to their second power play of the game. But it was the Vees capitalizing.
After a bad drop pass from Ross Armour, Kale Howarth tried to poke the puck into the Vees zone, but Sloboshan got a piece of it and deflected it high in the air. Howarth then inexplicably went off for a change, allowing the Vees to skate in on a clear cut 2-on-1 rush.
Sloboshan, skating down the right side, held onto the puck before wiring it under the blocker arm of Marcoux for his third of the playoffs with 7:24 remaining in the second.
The Vees kept pushing Trail, and their hard work paid off in the dying seconds of the period. After Jonny Tychonick made a great play to hold the puck in at the right point, Dakota Boutin did a lap in the Trail zone before firing a wrist shot from the slot.
The puck was deflected on its way, and Taylor Ward was able to shovel in the rebound with just nine seconds remaining, sending the teams to the locker rooms tied at three.
Howarth was assessed a slashing penalty after the period had come to an end, giving the Vees their third power play to start the third. Just 48 seconds into the period, Tychonick sent the puck to the goal line where Owen Sillinger deflected it off his skate to the slot.
The puck came right to Chris Klack, and he dropped down to one knee before roofing it over Marcoux’s blocker to give the Vees their first lead of the night.
Penticton went to another power play just moments later, and Boutin showed off some great patience skating down the right wing before hitting the trailer, Jordan Henderson, who beat Marcoux under the blocker to make it 5-3 Vees.
Trail managed just four shots on net over the final 20 minutes as the Vees held on for the 5-3 win. Game two of the series goes Saturday night at 6:00 as the Vees will look for the 2-0 lead.