Penticton Vees
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WADE MURPHY, middle, of the Penticton Vees has been difficult for the Trail Smoke Eaters to stop. Murphy had an assist during a 4-3 double overtime loss in Trail last weekend to give him two goals and seven points in four games against the Smoke Eaters. Below, Tim Horton’s Timbit goalie Jorja Moore high-fives teammates Caleb Bedard and Brodie Kenney after Bedard scored in their game during the first intermission of the Vees game Feb. 22.
Emanuel Sequeira/Western News

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Vees look for redemption against Smoke Eaters

A 4-3 double-overtme loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters is not concerning Penticton Vees forward Sam Mellor.

Mellor, a former Smoke Eater, said despite a slow start in which they didn’t score until the third period, they were better after losing their bus legs.

“We were playing good, playing hard,” said Mellor, who as a Smokie enjoyed seasons with 63 and 67 points respectively. “It was a pretty close game.”

Asked if they deserved a better fate, Mellor said he felt they outplayed them for most of the game. To him, a couple bad penalties, a couple bad bounces made it go the other way.

Returning to Cominco Arena was different for the Cranbrook native. He still enjoys going there and playing in the rink because, he said,  “You never know where the puck is going really because of the hard boards.”

Even with that challenge, Mellor has a goal and seven points against Trail in four games. The key to his success, he said, is just playing hard and playing his best to help the Vees win.

“If you are working hard, the bounces should come your way,” said Mellor.

When asked about the Vees’ misfortunes in Cominco Arena, Mellor didn’t have an answer.

“It’s a hard rink to play in for sure for the visiting team,” he said. “It’s a long bus trip and they like playing at home.”

Vees play-by-play man Fraser Rodgers wrote in his Three V’s blog  about the bounces the Smoke Eaters got that Saturday.

“The bounces are so unpredictable … and the rarest of goals are the norm in Trail. Jake Lucchini scored just his fifth of the season in the first period and he wasn’t even facing the net. He threw a puck, from behind the net, out front which appeared to hit the back leg of either Nic Renyard or the defenceman in the crease. Renyard made the initial save off the partial breakaway and Sean Flanagan swept the rebound away from danger, or so the Vees thought,” wrote Rodgers.

The Smoke Eaters second goal to tie came courtesy of Braeden Jones from the neutral zone. Jones, who up until this goal, didn’t see a regular shift in the third period,  dumped the puck to go off for the line change. His shoot-in from the left wing at centre, kicked off a stanchion on the left boards and ricocheted into the open net as Nic Renyard headed behind his goal to stop the puck.

The next bizarre goal according to Rodgers went to  Marley Keca, who hadn’t scored yet this season. His tally gave the Smokies the lead on a power play. Keca made a pinch from the left point and snuck down to the back-post. He was given a nice cross-crease feed from Connor Collett and made no mistake.

One aspect that didn’t play a role in the Smoke Eaters win were the fans as Mellor said “it was kind of dead in there to be honest on Saturday night.”

The Vees have three of their next four against Trail, including two more at Cominco Arena. Mellor said these final two weeks will have a playoff feel. With the Smoke Eaters still having a chance to clinch a playoff berth, the Vees will face a hungry opponent. The main thing Mellor stressed for the weekend is having a strong start.

“I think we’re going to have a good start this Friday night and we’ll win,” he said. “Don’t have any mental lapses.”

He said mental lapses is what happened against Merritt, who scored two goals in 17 seconds.

“It’s hard to come back from that,” he said.

What makes Trail a good opponent said Mellor is they are  a “blue collar team.”

“They have some skilled guys up front,” he said.

Mellor said what will also help them is having Jedd Soleway back. He was suspended one game for a checking from behind penalty against the Merritt Centennials late in the third period.

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