Mitch McAllister

Mitch McAllister

Smokies rally past Vernon Vipers

The Trail Smoke Eaters grounded the Vernon Vipers 5-4 Wednesday night at Wesbild Centre.

Emergency call-up Diego Bartlett scored the tying and winning goals as the Trail Smoke Eaters clipped the Vernon Vipers 5-4 in B.C. Hockey League action Wednesday night at the Wesbild Centre.

The Smokies, who arrived late due to poor road conditions, forcing a 15-minute delay to the opening face-off, reeled off four unanswered third-period goals to move four points ahead of the last-place Vipers in the Interior Division, at 17-22-0-1. Vernon dipped to 12-18-0-7 with three games in hand on Trail.

The Vipers were without leading scorer Adam Tambellini, who watched in civvies, and is believed headed to the Chilliwack Chiefs for future considerations. The league wants teams to wait until Friday before officially announcing trades at the Thursday carding deadline. The Smokies played without their top two snipers – Brett Baltus and Garrett McMullen – both injured.

TJ Dumonceaux pulled the Gordie Howe hat trick for the Vipers, scoring twice, drawing an assist on Liam Board’s goal and fighting d-man Braden Pears after Pears flipped him like a pretzel with a bizarre hit in Trail territory. Aaron Hadley also scored for Vernon. Riley McDougall responded on a powerplay goal, with 57 seconds left in the first period for the Smokies.

The Smokies, who are the league’s worst road team, went into comeback mode 1:38 into the third period when Viper d-man Geoff Crisfield giftwrapped a turnover to Jesse Knowler just feet away from goalie Danny Todosychuk. Knowler clicked again 20 seconds later on a broken play as the fragile Snakes blew defensive assignments.

Bartlett, a Castlegar product who plays Junior B for his hometown Rebels, levelled the score by going roof daddy on a rebound shot from the left side. The play started near centre when the puck bounced away from Dumonceaux and the Smokies cruised into the Viper zone.

Bartlett buried his second BCHL snipe by going top shelf again, 74 seconds into a tripping penalty by Crisfield in the neutral zone.

The Smokies, who outshot the Vipers 20-10 in the third, held a 42-33 final shots advantage. Adam Todd recorded the win.