The Trail Smoke Eaters looked to take advantage of home ice against Penticton on Monday, but will have to wait until Game 4 Tuesday to even the score.
The Vees held on for a 2-1 victory over the Smoke Eaters in Game 3 of the Interior Conference quarter-final at the Trail Memorial Centre.
Trail went into Penticton and earned a split with a 5-3 victory in Game 1 before suffering a 5-1 loss in Game 2 on Friday to the Vees.
In a pivotal Game 3, the teams played a scoreless first period with the Vees outshooting Trail 9-8 in shots on goal.
Penticton struck first when Luc Wilson wired a low shot past Trail goalie Cole Tisdale for a 1-0 Penticton lead six seconds into the middle frame.
Minutes later, Trail went on the power play after Wilson was sent off for interference. Yet, it was Vees forward Casey McDonald that tallied a shorthanded marker scoring what turned out to be the game winner at 12:24.
Tisdale kept Trail within reach going into the third, making several big saves in the second half of the period, as the Vees outshot Trail 18-8 in the middle frame.
Trail came close in the opening minutes of the third period, when Smokies defenceman Ethan Warrener rang one off the crossbar, and two minutes later Corey Cunningham’s shot hit the post.
The Smokies finally beat goalie Kaeden Lane, when forward Teddy Lagerback scored on a Coalson Wolford set up in front to make it 2-1 with 12:42 left on the clock.
Trail pressed but Penticton played solid team defence and Kaeden Lane made the saves when he had to for a 2-1 series lead.
“We knew going into the third we had an uphill battle and our guys responded, we just couldn’t find that second one,” said Trail assistant coach Dallas Calvin in a post-game interview with Smokies broadcaster Ben Phillips.
“We didn’t have the puck luck we needed, a couple posts there, but a positive third period, and we’ll use that going into tomorrow and hopefully we can get a couple bounces out of it.”
The Vees outshot the Smoke Eaters 34-29, with Penticton going 0-for-2 on the power play and Trail 0-for-3.
The Smoke Eaters will take some positives from the loss particularly their discipline in staying out of the penalty box and killing off the power plays the Vees did get.
The series continues on Tuesday, April 5 with Game 4 at the Trail Memorial Centre and the puck drop at 7 p.m.