Vees, Smokies play to draw

The 3,108 fans at the South Okanagan Events Centre didn't see a winner on Friday night, but they got their money's worth in a 2-2 tie between the Penticton Vees and Trail Smoke Eaters.

Both teams entered play red hot and jostling for top spots in the B.C. Hockey League standings.

The second-place Vees are now undefeated in four games to begin 2018, while the Smokies have just one loss in their past seven games, and have points in all of those games. 

Penticton out shot Trail 15-4 in the opening period but found themselves down a goal. Blaine Caton batted a puck in from mid-air just over seven minutes into the game on the powerplay, standing directly in front of Vees goalie Adam Scheel.

It took nearly 47 minutes before the Vees snuck one by Smokies goalie Adam Marcoux, the reigning BCHL player of the week, who was named the first star on Friday with 41 saves.

Defender Kenny Johnson circled the net and threw a pass in the crease that deflected off Dakota Boutin's skate and into the net. That was the Vees' 33rd shot of the night. 

Trail restored its lead just over four minutes later, when Carter Jones ripped a shot past Scheel on the powerplay — the Smokies second powerplay tally on the night.

With a lively crowd chanting for much of the third period, the Vees found fuel to tie the game in the final five minutes of regulation.

Recently-acquired blueliner Michael Campoli scored his first goal as a Vee and his first goal in more than four years, when a shot from the left point hit a Smokies player and deflected past Marcoux. 

That would be the final goal of the night, as two entertaining five-minute overtime periods solved nothing. 

Penticton outshot Trail 4-1 in overtime, but the best chance came on Trail's lone shot.

Scheel was knocked over by a Vees player as the puck came through the crease to Smokies forward Blaine Caton. Standing in the crease with an open net in front of him, Caton hit the post and on his own rebound he was robbed by Scheel who sprawled to make a save.

"I'm still in awe of the play, I can't believe it even happened," Vees assistant coach Matt Fraser said postgame on EZ Rock 800, about 10 minutes after Scheel's larcenous stop.

Penticton ended the night with a 43-21 edge in shots, the same shot margin they had in a 4-3 win against Merritt two nights ago.

Trail won the special-teams battle, going 2-3 on the powerplay and 4-4 on the penalty kill.

Fraser said after the game he thought his team played the right way.

"If we play like that we're going to win more often than not, there's a lot to be proud of. We'd like the extra point but we'll take the one that we earned."

Through three meetings this season, the Vees and Smokies each have a win, a regulation loss and a tie. They meet next on Jan. 20, once again at the SOEC.

Penticton makes a short road trip on Saturday to the Fraser Valley to visit the Chilliwack Chiefs, who will host the RBC Cup in the spring. The Vees are 2-0 so far this season against the team they beat in the BCHL finals last season. 

"We like playing in their building, we've had a lot of good memories there," Fraser said. 

"We played real well against them when we played in the (BCHL) showcase there this year... I'm sure they're going to be hungry to clean up that mess from the last time they played us and to give us a good game on their home ice."

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