Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Brooks Bandits
When: Sept. 1, 7:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Trail Smoke Eaters kick off their pre-season tonight against the AJHL's Brooks Bandits as the annual exhibition tourney at Cominco Arena gets underway on two fronts.
For the remaining 25 or so players left with the club, it's the first opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff in a game situation. For the coaches, it's a chance to see how players react in different situations when not facing potential teammates. For fans, it's the first look at a new squad that has a markedly different look than the one that graced the Cominco ice six months ago.
Gone are the likes of Travis St. Denis, Sam Mellor, Scott Jacklin, Jake Baker and Kiefer Smiley. In their place, a mix of young and old as players like Clayton Chessa, Nick Wong, Josh Roberts and Brandon Egli are just a few names expected to make their (unofficial) Trail debuts this weekend.
Head coach and GM Bill Birks says his squad will be fast and will work hard, I chatted with him yesterday about the club and the announcement that former Smokie Nic DeSousa is off to college, listen to that conversation here.
Our Opponent: Brooks comes into the weekend with a few familiar faces. Forwards Ryan Luiten and Matt Wilkins are former Smokies, while defenseman Colton Semenok played in Beaver Valley. Fellow blueliner Matt Tyson is also familiar with our area, having spent time here as a Spokane Brave. The Bandits appear to be making a movement to challenge in the AJHL, and with off-season pickups like Dawson Creek Rage sniper Dakota Mason and American Anthony Petruzelli, who put up 101 points with Helena in the NORPAC league last season, why not? 19 year-old Cam Maclise is a former teammate of Smokies overager Logan Proulx with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored 51 points in Brooks last season.
Broadcast Info: To my knowledge, Brooks is not bringing a radio crew, and our broadcast season will not begin until the regular-season home opener against Westside. Check for frequent updates through the weekend on Twitter.
Out of Town: Of course the Smokies and Bandits aren't the only teams playing tonight. Powell River and Wenatchee play the first half of the Thursday double-header at 3:00.
KIJHL: The exhibition season for our local Junior B loop begins tonight as well, with the Grand Forks Border Bruins hosting the PIJHL's North Vancouver Wolfpack (7:30 PM, Grand Forks Arena). I chatted with Border Bruins head coach Brent Batten yesterday, watch for that tape on Mountain FM and here on the blog in short order. I'm interested in seeing Batten's approach to the Border Bruins this season, it seems as though he and the new faces on the team's board are bringing a fresh approach and lots of energy.