Sunday, October 30, 2011

Capitals 7 Smoke Eaters 1

Matt Brown scored twice, including the eventual game-winner, as the Cowichan Valley Capitals stung the Smokies 7-1 in Duncan Sunday afternoon.

Brown and fellow forward Steven Iacobellis each finished the game with 3 points as the Capitals won their second straight contest against Interior Conference competition.

Cowichan started early, as Jacob Charles converted a two-on-one attempt just shy of the ten-minute mark before Brown scored the first of his two markers to give the home side a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.

Brown would add a second goal from the right circle on a second period power-play to widen the gap through two frames.

The Smokies got the third period rolling though, when Erik Cooper fired home a shot from the low slot for his third tally in as many games to cut the deficit to 3-1, but the Caps took advantage of some tired Trail legs the rest of the way.

Travis Stephens and Troy Paterson extended the Capitals lead to 5-1 before the midway mark of the final period, before newcomer Kyle Becker put home his first two goals in the BCHL to round out the scoring.

Trail surrendered more than 40 shots on goal for the second straight game, but goaltender James D'Andrea, making his third straight start, made several big saves to keep the game close through the first two periods. Brady Rouleau made 29 saves for his second victory in as many attempts since arriving in Duncan from AJHL Canmore.

Trail now heads home for some much-needed rest and preparation in advance of a busy weekend against Vernon, Salmon Arm and Westside to kick off November.

Up Next: The Smokies face the Vernon Vipers on home ice Friday, November 4th (7:30, Cominco Arena). Trail played the Vipers well during their last visit only to be sunk by three late third-period goals in a 6-3 defeat.

Local Hockey Today: The major midget Kootenay Ice had a tough go on Vancouver Island as well this weekend. After a 9-2 loss last night, the Ice dropped the back half of a weekend double-header against the South Island Thunderbirds this morning in Saanich. Former Border Bruin Jeremy McGregor and Seth Schmidt scored for Kootenay today.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Capitals

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Cowichan Valley Capitals
When: Oct. 30, 3:30 PM
Where: Island Savings Centre, Duncan

The Smokies have a chance to collect four of six weekend points when they face former head coach Jim Ingram and the Cowichan Valley Capitals this afternoon. As with last night's game in Powell River, this afternoon's contest is the only meeting of the regular season between the two sides, and also serves as a homecoming (of sorts) for Trail's Nicholas Wong and Clayton Chessa, both of whom donned Capitals silks last season.

Speaking of Chessa, he draws back into the lineup today after serving a one-game suspension in last night's overtime loss in Powell River.

Even though the Smokies were badly outshot last night against the Kings, they did well to earn a point. Trail created numerous power-play opportunities through hard work and to have success against a much-improved Capitals squad, I'd expect the coaching staff will expect the same. Erik Cooper has had a strong weekend thus far for Trail, scoring twice. The Alaskan has been much more noticeable on the ice over the past couple of weeks, mainly on a line with Chessa and Adam Boytinck.

This afternoon's game is also, strangely enough, Trail's only visit to Vancouver Island this season: we'll see the likes of Nanaimo, Victoria and Alberni Valley through December, January and February respectively. Also, interestingly enough, it's the second straight contest for Trail against a club that previously defeated the Westside Warriors, after the Caps won 5-2 last night.

Our Opponent: It's a much different Cowichan Valley squad this year than the one that missed out on the BCHL playoffs a season ago. Offensively, the Caps are led by a pair of players with Interior Conference experience, forward Devin Gannon (5-11-16) is a former Salmon Arm Silverback, while Steven Iacobellis (5-7-12) is the player Cowichan Valley landed from Penticton for former Smokie Travis St. Denis this past summer. Speaking of the Silverbacks, both defenseman Josh Monk and forward Brandon Mistal formerly plied their trade in the Shuswap as well; Monk leads the Caps defense with four goals thus far this season. Cowichan's new goaltender Brady Rouleau (who was recently picked up from AJHL Canmore) has gotten off to a fine start, allowing only one goal in his debut. Incumbent Derek Dun made 25 saves in the win over Westside last night.

Broadcast Info: Your video and audio feeds, courtesy of the Capitals broadcasting crew, are available here. I'll be back for all three weekend games next weekend beginning with a Friday night contest at home against the Vernon Vipers.

KIJHL Today: The Beaver Valley Nitehawks, fresh off a 3-2 home ice win over Nelson last night, can pad their lead atop the Neil Murdoch division this afternoon. They visit the Spokane Braves (2:00, Eagles Ice-A-Rena), a team they defeated 7-2 in Fruitvale last Sunday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kings 3 Smoke Eaters 2 (OT)

Daniel Schuler scored twice, including the winner in 3-on-3 overtime as the Powell River Kings edged the Smokies 3-2 Saturday at the Hap Parker Arena.

Schuler poked home his own rebound after James D'Andrea made a terrific save on his first attempt to extend the Kings' unbeaten start at home to seven games.

Trail opened the scoring early in the second period on a sharp wrister from Adam Boytinck. In a goal eerily reminiscent to his tally last week against Penticton, the 19 year-old roofed a shot past Powell River goaltender Jamie Phillips.

It took just nineteen seconds for the Kings to reply, courtesy of leading scorer Cohen Adair, and the home side then took the lead late in the middle frame thanks to Schuler.

The Smokies found a way to level the score on a third-period power-play, though. Erik Cooper jammed his second equaliser in as many nights home midway through the period, ending Powell Rivers' 100% home penalty-killing record.

Overtime proved memorable. After a delayed holding penalty was assessed to the Kings, Trail's Nicholas Wong was assessed a minor for a check to the head. The only thing was, Wong wasn't at all involved in the hit, and took the ice for the ensuing power-play before the whistle was blown and the Smokies were assessed an additional bench minor. Schuler would take Powell River off the power-play 24 seconds later, and upon stepping back onto the ice in the three-on-three portion of extra time the RIT commit put home his seventh goal of the season to end things.

Saturday was another night the Smokies could have used the services of leading scorer Clayton Chessa. Trail found out hours before the game the 20 year-old's involvement in a Friday scrap with Chilliwack defenseman Matthew Hutchinson meant he was suspended for the game against the Kings. Powell River meanwhile, were without four players (Evan Richardson, Sean Maguire, Jordan Paddock and Teagan Waugh) who are en route to Team Canada West camp in advance of the World Junior 'A' Challenge in Langley.

Another strong performance tonight from D'Andrea between the pipes for Trail, too. The 19 year-old made 39 saves including a flurry of action in the early part of the first period that prevented Powell River from gaining an early advantage.

Did You See: The pay-per-view feed didn't catch what precipitated the event, but Smokies d-man Brandon Egli earned his first BCHL fight in a second-period tilt with Jarryd Leung.

Up Next: The Smokies get another early start tomorrow (I understand today's trip to the Sunshine Coast began at about 7:00 am) to head to Duncan for a 3:30 start against former coach Jim Ingram and the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

KIJHL Tonight: The Beaver Valley Nitehawks took over first place in the Neil Murdoch division with a 3-2 home win over Nelson. Former Smokie Keanan Patershuk scored the late winner. The Golden Rockets scored three times in the third period to double Castlegar 4-2.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Powell River Kings
When: Oct. 29, 7:30 PM
Where: Hap Parker Arena, Powell River

Game Two of the three-game weekend swing goes tonight in Powell River, as the Smoke Eaters look to bounce back from a 4-3 overtime loss in Chilliwack last night. Trail secured a point thanks to a late equaliser from Erik Cooper, but allowed Chiefs forward Trevor Hills to put home the winner 39 seconds into the extra frame.

The Smokies weren't as physical last night in the Fraser Valley as they had been during the games against Penticton and Vernon at home last week, but despite that, really benefitted from the return of Adam Fares. The 6-5 Thunder Bay product had a goal and an assist Friday and used his size to open space for his linemates and to separate opposition players from the puck. No doubt the team missed the presence of leading scorer Clayton Chessa, who was handed a game misconduct in the first period for engaging in a multi-fight situation during a stoppage in play.

I also thought James D'Andrea deserved a better fate in his Trail debut. The 19 year-old told me last week his redeeming quality is his willingness to battle for every puck, and we saw that in spades last night. With three games in three days, though, Reed Vogt is sure to see some action.

Our Opponent: The Kings are coming off an impressive 5-0 victory over Westside last night, and are 6-0 at home to start the season. Powell River scored 4 power-play goals Friday, needless to say for the Smokies' discipline will be a primary area of focus. Overager Cohen Adair leads the Kings offensively with 17 points (10-7), he also leads the loop in short-handed goals with 4. Powell River's defense is BIG, case in point being second-leading scorer Craig Dalrymple (4-10-14), who checks in at 6-5. Sean Maguire picked up the shutout last night for the Kings, making 25 saves, but his partner in crime, import Jamie Phillips sits second in the league with a stingy 1.68 GAA. The one break for Trail is that Maguire, defenseman Jordan Paddock and forwards Teagan Waugh and Evan Richardson are all on their way to Langley for Team Canada West's camp in advance of next month's World Junior 'A' Challenge.

Broadcast Info: Kings broadcaster Alex Rawnsley has your requisite video and audio feeds tonight beginning at 7:30.

Local Hockey Tonight: A battle for first place in the KIJHL's Neil Murdoch division goes this evening in Fruitvale, as the Nitehawks host the Nelson Leafs (7:30, Beaver Valley Arena). Nelson lost 5-2 in Creston last night, meaning a Hawks win would catapult them into first place. Castlegar will be without defenseman Riley Ostoforoff tonight in Golden; he was ejected late in Friday's 6-1 victory at Columbia Valley. Rebels overager Scott Morisseau has 5 points from his first two games of the season. Selkirk College, fresh off a 3-1 defeat against Trinity Western University in Langley, continue a weekend trip through the Lower Mainland at my alma mater SFU tonight (7:00, Bill Copeland Arena).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chiefs 4 Smoke Eaters 3 (OT)

Trevor Hills scored 39 seconds into overtime to lift the Chilliwack Chiefs to a see-saw, 4-3 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters in front of 1,704 fans at Prospera Centre Friday.

Hills found himself alone in the slot, and wristed a quick shot into the top corner over the shoulder of Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea to give the Chiefs their first victory in six tries.

Chilliwack opened the scoring midway through the first period on a power-play, as Derek Huisman juked his way around a Trail defender to put home his team-leading 7th goal.

But the Smokies would answer back with force in the second period. Adam Fares marked his return to the lineup with a quick shot of his own off a lost faceoff to level the score at 4:33, then nine minutes later centred a puck to Taylor House for his first BCHL goal to give Trail a 2-1 advantage through 40 minutes.

The Chiefs would reply with two goals of their own in the third period. Kit Sitterley poked a puck into an open net after it was kicked on goal by Josh Hansen, and then before the period was seven minutes old Jeremy Gossard converted a nifty two-on-one feed from Garrett Forster to give Chilliwack a 3-2 lead.

Smokies vet Erik Cooper secured the point for Trail with a hard slapshot from the high slot with only 3:24 remaining in regulation time.

Did You See: Despite having a cheering section in the stands with signs that spelled C-H-E-S-S-A, Smokies leading scorer Clayton Chessa was tossed in the first period for a multi-fight situation involving Chilliwack's Matthew Hutchinson. The incident, which also featured a centre-ice tilt between Clayton McEwan and Forster, was one of the few sparks in a game that lacked intensity.

Dead Air: Thanks to a collision that closed Highway 3 near Princeton for most of the day, I was regrettably unable to make tonight's game in Chilliwack, and won't be in Powell River for tomorrow's game either. Needless to say, it was a very frustrating day that resulted in a seven-hour car trip that landed me right back at home in Castlegar in time to catch the pay-per-view feed. My apologies for the inability to provide any Smokies broadcasts this weekend, but both away games next weekend (SA and Westside) will be on Ustream.

Up Next: The Smokies have an early wake-up call to travel to Powell River to face the Kings Saturday. A daunting task to be sure, as the defending Coastal champs are undefeated at home.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Chiefs

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Chilliwack Chiefs
When: Oct. 28, 7:00 PM
Where: Prospera Centre, Chilliwack

Three games in three days, plus a case-lot of travel miles begins tonight in Chilliwack as the Smokies face the Chiefs for the first time since their resurrection. Trail took yesterday as a travel day and arrived in the Fraser Valley yesterday evening in a move that allows the squad to get a solid night's rest in advance of a busy weekend.

According to my conversation with head coach Bill Birks from earlier this week (listen here), new goaltender James D'Andrea is expected to make his Trail debut tonight at Prospera Centre. The Calgary product is a feisty competitor who tells me his willingness to battle for every puck is one of his most redeeming qualities on the ice. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see both goaltenders get action given the busy weekend schedule, though.

Our Opponent: Chilliwack, formerly the Quesnel Millionaires, are on a bit of a slide entering tonight's game. The Chiefs have lost five straight games, picking up no points on a three-game swing to the Island last weekend. The Chiefs already have home victories over Vernon and Penticton to their credit, though. Malcolm Gould is Chilliwack's offensive leader to this point (3-9-12), while David Bondra (whose father Peter put up more than 500 goals during his NHL career) is close behind with 11 points (3-8). Ontario import Mitch Gillam has posted a stingy 2.47 GAA and .930 save percentage in his six appearances this season.

In The Press Box: Kyle Horsman is the only certain absence for Trail. Chilliwack has no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Chilliwack's 89.5 the Hawk will have the home audio and webcast options, and Team 1040 in Vancouver will be carrying tonight's game as part of their BCHL package.

Local Hockey Tonight: Only two KIJHL squads in action this evening, both on the road. Castlegar visits the Columbia Valley Rockies (6:30 Pacific, Eddie Mountain Arena) in the second of their three-game East Kootenay swing. Forward Scott Morisseau made his season debut last night with 2 points (1-1) in a 4-3 overtime loss at Kimberley. Nelson plays the first of six straight games away from home at Creston Valley (7:30 PM, John Bucyk Arena). The Selkirk College Saints are on the road as well, visiting Trinity Western University in Langley.

Bits & Bites: Some recent trades/transfers involving players with local connections. Former Smokies defenseman Travis Gawryletz has left the ECHL Ontario Reign to join HC Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. Former Castlegar Rebels forward Adam Smith had his WHL rights traded from Portland to Swift Current this week. Broncos play-by-play man (and former Smokies broadcaster) Shawn Mullin tells me Smith is expected in Saskatchewan this weekend. In the KIJHL, Grand Forks swung a deal with the Chase Heat yesterday, sending forward Cole Fletcher north for defenseman Jordan Brucks. Congrats to Trail's Travis St. Denis and Castlegar's Aaron Hadley on being named to the selection camp roster for Team Canada West at the upcoming World Junior 'A' Challenge being held in Langley next month.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hadley to Western Michigan

Vipers forward Aaron Hadley (14) jostles with Smokies defenseman Marley Keca (7) during Saturday's game at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Castlegar product, and Vernon Vipers forward Aaron Hadley has committed to the NCAA Division One Western Michigan University Broncos. Hadley is in his second season with the Vipers after spending the 2009-10 campaign with the KIJHL's Beaver Valley Nitehawks. He put up 24 points (9-15) in his rookie BCHL season in Vernon last year, a season that resulted in a third consecutive BCHL title and an RBC Cup final berth for the Vipers.

I quickly caught up with Hadley before he jumped on the bus after Saturday's win over the Smokies, hear his thoughts here.

Congrats Aaron!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vipers 6 Smoke Eaters 3

Smokies goaltender Reed Vogt stops Vernon forwards Alex Hagen and Peter McMullen in close during Saturday's contest at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Darren Nowick broke a 3-3 tie with just over three minutes left in the third period to help put the Vernon Vipers past the Smoke Eaters 6-3 at Cominco Arena.

Nowick converted a Colton Sparrow feed from behind the net for his first of two goals as Vernon's three-game losing streak came to an end.

But despite the 6-3 score, tonight's game was up for grabs until the dying moments.

Adam Boytinck tipped home a point shot 4:54 into the first period on a Smokies power-play to give Trail an early lead, which was wiped out after Alex Hagen drifted a wrister into the top corner just over two minutes later. Trail would add a second tally before the opening frame elapsed thanks to Clayton Chessa, who tapped home a sharp cross-crease pass past Vipers goaltender Danny Todosychuk.

Vernon would take advantage of Trail's lively boards with their second equalizer, though. Sparrow launched a wrist shot past Smokies goaltender Reed Vogt after retrieving a hefty bounce from the end boards after a Ryan Renz point shot missed the net.

Trail's Luke Bertolucci restored the home team's one-goal advantage, again on the power-play as he lifted a sharp-angle backhand shot over Todosychuk's shoulder 3:13 after Sparrow's tally. But Adam Tambellini would count the first of his two goals before the second period was finished, finishing off a Sparrow pass from the low slot.

After a third period that saw both teams trade chances but Vernon enjoy most of the possession, Nowick broke the 3-3 tie before Tambellini and Nowick again (this time into an empty net) rounded out the scoring.

Up Next: The Smokies hit the road for three games next weekend in Chilliwack, Powell River and Cowichan Valley. I'm still firming up my travel plans but fully expect to carry all three games on the Smokies' Ustream channel.

Local Hockey Tonight: Colton Malmsten scored three times as Nelson upended Columbia Valley 7-2 in KIJHL play tonight. The Rebels and Nitehawks were winners as well, Castlegar 2-1 over Fernie while Beaver Valley defeated Summerland 6-2. In major midget play, the Cariboo Cougars defeated the Kootenay Ice in Castlegar 9-4.

Smokies/Vipers Lineups

The line combinations for tonight's game between Vernon and Trail are as follows.

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
10 - Proulx, 12 - McMullen, 14 - Roberts
22 - Wheeldon, 18 - House, 25 - Beitel

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
2 - Hicks, 7 - Keca
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

1 - Vogt
35 - D'Andrea

15 - Zalewski, 16 - Nowick, 12 - Knisley
14 - Hadley, 9 - Tambellini, 17 - Basara
22 - Sparrow, 8 - Hartley, 27 - Soleway
7 - McMullen, 21 - Hagen, 28 - Lawson

3 - Corkey, 29 - Renz
25 - Crisfield, 24 - Juha
4 - Mowat, 5 -Hetnik

1 - Todosychuk
30 - Halcrow

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vipers

Who: Vernon Vipers @ Trail Smoke Eaters
When: Oct. 22, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

After a hard-fought victory over Penticton Wednesday, the Smoke Eaters face another challenge tonight in the three-time defending BCHL champs from Vernon. The Smokies are understandably feeling good after knocking off the league's top dogs, but just like the Vees Wednesday, the Vipers have oodles of talent and can dissect unsuspecting clubs with clinical precision.

As if beating Penticton wasn't a big enough story in the West Kootenay this week, the Smokies also re-shuffled their roster to the point that four new players could make their debuts tonight. James D'Andrea, Marley Keca, Tanner Hicks and Taylor House all skated with the team yesterday, and took the time to chat with me for a couple of minutes each after practice.

For D'Andrea, click here.

For Keca, click here.

For Hicks, click here.

For House, click here.

Head coach Bill Birks told me earlier this week the moves will help solidify what was an admittedly young blueline as well as shore things up between the pipes. I know I'm excited to see what all four new players bring to the table and am looking forward to seeing how they fare in their Smokies debuts tonight.

Our Opponent: After winning their first seven games, Vernon (7-3-0-0, 2nd Interior) has lost three straight (to Chilliwack plus a home and away against the Vees including a 6-2 setback last night at home). It's been another season of turnover for the Vipers both on the ice and behind the bench, among the team's offensive leaders is 17 year-old Adam Tambellini (6-3-9), whose grandfather Addie was a member of the 1961 World Champion Smoke Eaters. Michael Zalewski leads the Vernon charge offensively with 13 points (8-5) including two game-winning goals. Castlegar products Aaron Hadley and Ryan Renz will no doubt be chomping at the bit to play in front of family and friends tonight, while former Nelson Leafs coach Chris Shaw makes his return to our area in an assistant coaching capacity. 20 year-old Kirby Halcrow has gotten the bulk of the starts in goal for Vernon, and took the 6-2 loss last night against Penticton.

In The Press Box: Kyle Horsman will likely be joined by Adam Fares in civvies tonight. I'm told the Thunder Bay giant picked up a knock in Prince George last weekend but could feasibly be back for the coastal swing next weekend. Vernon has no listed injured players.

Broadcast Info: I'll have tonight's webcast (and accompanying home audio feed) this evening beginning at 7:25. Todd Miller, the voice of the Vipers, will have his call on Kiss FM Vernon.

Local Hockey Tonight: Three of our four local KIJHL teams are on home ice this evening, including a rematch between the Rebels and Fernie Ghostriders (7:30, Complex). Fernie won 5-3 last night in the Elk Valley in a penalty-filled affair. The Rebels Anthony Delong (misconduct rule) and Fernie's Marty Wicks (checking from behind major) are both suspended for tonight's game. Beaver Valley is back on home ice tonight as well against the expansion Summerland Steam (7:30, BV Arena), while Nelson hosts the Columbia Valley Rockies (7:00, NDCC). The major midget Kootenay Ice are at home this weekend against the Cariboo Cougars beginning this afternoon in Castlegar (4:00, Complex).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Birks Talks Trades & More

New Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea makes a save while with the AJHL's Calgary Canucks last season (photo Cole Christensen, Okotoks Western Wheel)

As alluded to yesterday, I chatted with Smokies head coach Bill Birks about the trades that see four new faces arrive in Trail's camp. To recap, the Smoke Eaters acquired goaltender James D'Andrea from AJHL Drumheller in exchange for defenseman Rajan Sidhu, as well as blueliners Tanner Hicks and Marley Keca and forward Taylor House for goaltender Matt Larose, defenseman Daniel DelBianco (and, according to this, the rights to former Smokies d-man Eric Walker who is studying at Northern Michigan University).

To listen to my conversation with Birks, click here.

To get back to the league-mandated 21-man roster, the Smoke Eaters have released forward Matt Bissett to the PIJHL's Ridge Meadows Flames. The 17 year-old put up two assists in 10 games in Trail, and coach Birks says he will get a lot more icetime with the Flames as well as play closer to his Pitt Meadows home.

According to the Smokies roster page, Bissett's #18 sweater has been assigned to House, while Hicks will wear #2, and Keca #7. I'll try to get some audio from the new players after practice today.

Local Hockey Tonight: Another three-game-in-three-day weekend begins in Fernie tonight (6:30 PT, Memorial Arena) for the Castlegar Rebels. I caught up with head coach Steve Junker this morning, hear his thoughts here. The Border Bruins host the Columbia Valley Rockies tonight in the other local KIJHL game (7:30, Grand Forks Arena). Selkirk College is back on home ice tonight as well against former Nitehawk Layne Stopanski and the Okanagan College Coyotes (7:30, Complex).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Smokies Swing Pair Of Deals

The Trail Smoke Eaters have been busy on the trade front, taking part in two deals today that involve a total of seven players.

First, the Smokies sent overage defenseman Rajan Sidhu to the AJHL's Drumheller Dragons for goaltender James D'Andrea. Sidhu scored his first goal of the season last night against Penticton, a well-placed wrist shot that wound up being the game-winner. In D'Andrea, Trail picks up a 19 year-old goaltender with a GAA under 4 despite the Dragons holding a 4-10-2 record so far this season.

Sidhu will do very well in Alberta I'm sure, though his departure definitely leaves a hole on both the Smokies blue line and in the dressing room. Best of luck in Drumheller Rajan, I'll be sure to follow your progress with the Dragons and at RIT next year.

To help re-stock that back end, the Smokies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs put together a five-player deal that sees 17 year-old defenseman Daniel DelBianco and 19 year-old goaltender Matt Larose head to the Island. DelBianco didn't register a point in seven games on Trail's back end (and a couple of appearances up front) while Larose put up a 9-11 record with 2 shutouts during his time with the Smoke Eaters.

In return Trail receives defensemen Tanner Hicks (92) and Marley Keca (93) along with forward Taylor House (92). Hicks, like House and D'Andrea hails from Alberta while Keca put up 12 points with the Bulldogs last season and is a former teammate of Clayton Chessa with Quesnel. House won a KIJHL title last season with the Osoyoos Coyotes, where he put up 62 points during the regular season.

Best of luck to both Daniel and Matt with their new team (if you're keeping track, Alberni Valley visits Trail February 2nd), and welcome to the Smokies James, Tanner, Marley and Taylor!

I'll post the interview I conducted with Smokies bench boss Bill Birks tomorrow morning once it's run on Mountain FM.

Post-Penticton Audio

Smokies goalie Reed Vogt stops Vees forward Steven Fogarty in close during last night's 4-3 Trail win at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

As promised, some tape from last night.

For forward Adam Boytinck, who had a three-point night (1-2), click here.

For goaltender Reed Vogt, click here.

For head coach Bill Birks, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smoke Eaters 4 Vees 3

Smokies blueliner Clayton McEwan upends a Vee during Wednesday's game at the Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Adam Boytinck broke a 2-2 tie five minutes into the second period, and the Smoke Eaters hung on for a 4-3 victory over the Penticton Vees at Cominco Arena.

Boytinck whistled a wrist shot past Vees goaltender Chad Katunar from the right-wing circle, after Connor Reilly's second goal of the game had leveled the score late in the first period.

Reilly opened the scoring early on during a Penticton power-play, converting a centring pass from Travis St. Denis. But just over a minute later, Smokies forward Josh Roberts backhanded home his first BCHL goal to even things at one, before a Tim Coish point shot gave Trail a short-lived first period lead.

After Boytinck's tally, the Smokies extended their lead to 4-2 thanks to blueliner Rajan Sidhu's first goal of the season, before former Smokie St. Denis tipped home his first goal as a visitor to Cominco Arena to round out the scoring before 40 minutes were through.

That's not to say there weren't chances in the final frame, though.

Smokies goaltender Reed Vogt made several point-blank saves, from a first-period breakaway by Vees captain Joey Benik to a deflection off a teammate's kneecap late in the third period, stopping 28 Penticton shots in all to record a much-deserved first BCHL victory.

Tonight's game was a perfect example of what Trail is capable of when they work hard. After the game head coach Bill Birks told me his side did everything the coaching staff asked, and broke the game down into 5-minute segments to try to avoid mental lapses that, to this point in the season, have proved costly at times. I'll post that audio along with Boytinck and Vogt's thoughts tomorrow.

Up Next: It doesn't get any easier for the Smokies, with the three-time defending BCHL champion Vernon Vipers paying their first visit to the Cominco Arena Saturday night, game time is 7:30.

Techno-Illogical: Those of you tuning into the pay-per-view may have noticed Vees play-caller Fraser Rodgers behind the mic tonight. That's because of some technical misgivings in the Cominco Arena booth that, regrettably, prevented the Vees' broadcast from being transmitted to the South Okanagan. All stress aside, I'm glad everything (sort of) ended up working out on his end this evening and that Penticton fans were able to hear the game.

KIJHL Tonight: Max Mois split a 3-3 tie to help Nelson past the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 5-3 at the NDCC. Leafs forward Patrick Martens scored twice, as did Nitehawk winger Tyler Collins. The Leafs now sit five points clear of BV in the Neil Murdoch division, with a busy weekend ahead for all of our local teams.

Smokies/Vees Lineups

Here are the lineups for tonight's game between Trail and Penticton.

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
10 - Proulx, 12 - McMullen, 14 - Roberts
22 - Wheeldon, 18 - Bissett, 7 - DelBianco

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
25 - Beitel, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

35- Larose
1 - Vogt

22 - Lucia, 26 - St. Denis, 20 - C. Reilly
24 - Loik, 8 - R. Reilly, 10 - Nicholson
9 - Benik, 91 - Fogarty, 19 - DePourcq
18 - McLellan, 7 - Hendrickson, 51 - Hanna

5 - M. Reilly, 77 - Stecher
4 - Buchanan, 6 - Urban
28 - Beaulieu, 11 - Bannor

33 - Katunar
1 - Garteig

Programming Note: Due to some technical issues here at the Cominco Arena, Vees play-by-play man Fraser Rodgers will have tonight's pay-per-view call. I will join him on colour.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vees

Who: Penticton Vees @ Trail Smoke Eaters
When: Oct. 19, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smoke Eaters go searching again for their first home win of the season against the top club in the Interior Conference, the Penticton Vees. Trail is coming off a pair of losses in Prince George Friday and Saturday, but have been home since Sunday morning working to prepare for a pair of big games at the Cominco Arena (the latter being Saturday night against Vernon).

Last Meeting: Penticton scored 4 times on the power-play en route to a 9-1 victory at the South Okanagan Events Centre on October 1st. Clayton Chessa scored Trail's only goal.

Homecoming: One side story of course to tonight's game is the return of Vees forward Travis St. Denis to Trail. The nineteen year-old scored four points (2-2) in his first matchup against his old club, and has already put up 19 points in 9 games this season.

Panic Button?: In a word, no. Despite having only one win so far this season, Trail isn't exactly in unfamiliar territory. The Smokies' 1-7-1 record is identical to their record through nine games two seasons ago, when youngsters like St. Denis, Sam Mellor and Eric Walker were finding their feet in the BCHL. Long story short, Trail finished with a home record (13-12-0-5) that, not including overtime games was above .500, and by Christmastime was playing some exciting hockey and was able to hold their own against the likes of Penticton, Westside and Salmon Arm. Although the playoff format adopted this year makes things all the more difficult for the Smoke Eaters, the wins will come.

Coach's Take: I chatted with Smokies assistant Bob Dever yesterday afternoon, hear his thoughts on the weekend in PG as well as what to expect tonight here.

Our Opponent: The Vees (7-1-0-1, 1st Interior) are in the enviable position of having an embarrassment of riches at every position. 6 Vees (St. Denis, Mario Lucia, Connor Reilly, Joey Benik, Mike Reilly and Ryan Reilly) are all averaging more than a point per game, with St. Denis and Lucia over the two-point-per-game mark to this point. Factor in the fact Penticton is at an almost 30% power-play efficiency, and it's easy to see why the Vees score almost 6 goals per game. Chad Katunar (who according to the Vees broadcaster will get the start tonight) picked up his only victory of the season between the pipes Oct. 1 against the Smokies, with former Powell River 'tender Mike Garteig getting the bulk of the starts in net. Penticton is ranked 7th in the CJHL's National Top 20 rankings.

In the Press Box: Kyle Horsman remains out for the Smoke Eaters, while Adam Wheeldon, who has missed the past seven games tweeted this morning he's good to go tonight. The Vees will be without Nick Amies, who has yet to play this season, while captain Logan Johnston continues to serve a 25-game suspension for a pre-season incident.

Broadcast Info: Fisherman's Friend in tow, I'll have the webcast call tonight beginning at 7:30 here. Fraser Rodgers has the Vees' call on EZ Rock Penticton.

KIJHL Tonight: The top two teams in the Neil Murdoch division do battle tonight in Nelson as the Leafs host the Nitehawks (7:00, NDCC). It's the second meeting between the two sides this year, two weeks ago BV came back from a 3-0 second period deficit to nip the Leafs 5-4 in Nelson. Tonight's game also features five of the top six scorers in the KIJHL. Nelson's Patrick Martens and BV's Ryan Edwards both lead the loop with 26 points, while the Hawks' Craig Martin and Chris Derochie (24) and the Leafs' Brett Norman (21) are well within striking distance of the leaders. I chatted with both Edwards (here) and teammate Tyler Collins (here) after Saturday's win over Castlegar (just as the lawnmower was doing the rounds in the BV Arena, as I'm sure you'll hear). The addition of Collins from SJHL Yorkton makes an already strong forward group even better and grittier too.

More Audio: Rebels forwards Nolan Kinney (link) and Brenden Heinrich (link) both took time to speak with me following Sunday's win against the Spokane Braves (in which Kinney counted his first junior hockey hat-trick).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spruce Kings 5 Smoke Eaters 2

Jujhar Khaira and Paul DeJersey each scored twice as Prince George sent the Smokies back to the West Kootenay empty-handed in a 5-2 decision at the PG Coliseum.

Trail opened the scoring nine minutes into the middle frame thanks to an unassisted effort from Nick Wong, but Khaira would put home his third and fourth goals of the weekend before DeJersey re-opened his account to round out the second period scoring.

Sean Landrey widened the gap to 4-1 before Clayton Chessa scored his 7th (and team-leading) goal of the season with 5:38 remaining to give Trail new life.

A DeJersey empty-netter would seal Trail's fifth consecutive defeat and the Spruce Kings' fourth straight win.

Michael Colantone kept his hot start to his Prince George career alive, chipping in with four assists for the home side, who outshot Trail 43-24. Matt Larose made 38 saves for the Smoke Eaters and was named the game's third star.

Up Next: The road doesn't get any easier for the Smokies next week; they play a pair of home games against Penticton (Wednesday) and Vernon (Saturday).

Out of Town: Two early goals helped the Beaver Valley Nitehawks defeat the Castlegar Rebels 7-4 tonight in Fruitvale in KIJHL play. Dallas Calvin had four points for BV (1-3) while Anthony Delong had a hat-trick for the Rebels. Nice as well to see a bunch of familiar faces amongst a healthy crowd at the BV Arena tonight. Patrick Martens had a hat-trick of his own for Nelson in their 4-0 shutout win at Penticton. Jake Lucchini and Kyle Hope each had a goal and an assist as Kootenay tied Thompson 4-4 in major midget action in Chase this evening. The Ice and Blazers play again tomorrow morning at the Art Holding Arena.

Local Look-See: Former Smokie Darnell Dyck scored twice, while former Nitehawk Danny Vlanich chipped in an assist in the Langley Rivermen's 7-1 victory over Alberni Valley tonight.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Oct. 15, 7:00 PM
Where: PG Coliseum, Prince George

The Smokies will go for the split tonight in Prince George after a difficult night last night in the opener to this two-game weekend series. PG won Friday's contest 8-0 thanks to two-goal nights from both Michael Colantone and Jujhar Khaira.

For the Smoke Eaters to be successful tonight, the forward corps will need to find a way to penetrate Prince George's sizeable defence. Something I noticed last Saturday in Salmon Arm and last night as well was many of Trail's shots came from just inside the blue line or from the perimeter, and the Spruce Kings didn't allow Trail much of an opportunity to set up down low.

I also get the impression that the slightest amount of success would go a long way to boost the morale of this team. The Spruce Kings scored some original goals last night, including one that bounced off a forward's face to fall into the wheelhouse of Michael Klonarakis in the slot. Trail simply hasn't gotten many bounces through the first eight games of the season, and despite the efforts of the likes of Logan Proulx to fire up the squad with a second-period fight, the Smokies couldn't answer back to a wave of Prince George pressure that didn't let up until the game was well out of reach.

Our Opponent: The Spruce Kings are on a roll, and it all started with a last-gasp victory on home ice a week ago against Penticton. If last night was any indication, Prince George can score in bunches, for instance Paul DeJersey's 12 goals this season (tops in the BCHL by the way) eclipse the 11 he had scored in 93 previous BCHL games with Burnaby/Coquitlam and Salmon Arm. The combination of Khaira and Colantone was dangerous all night as well.

In the Press Box: The Smokies will again be without forwards Kyle Horsman, Adam Wheeldon and defenseman Brandon Egli tonight, while PG's Jeff Earnest and Jared Crossan remain out long-term.

Broadcast Info: As was the case last night, there will be no Trail audio feed this evening. The Prince George crew has tonight's call both for the pay-per-view and the accompanying audio, to listen, click here.

KIJHL Tonight: Lots of action this evening in our local junior "B" circuit, including what should be a heated battle in Fruitvale. The Nitehawks host the Rebels in the first meeting between the two sides since Castlegar won a playoff series last year (7:30, Beaver Valley Arena). The Nelson Leafs go for a two-game Okanagan sweep in Penticton against the Lakers (7:30, SOEC). Of note, Smokies AP Colton Schell had 6 points in last night's 9-2 win at Summerland.

But Still: A good start at home for the Selkirk Saints last night as they defeated UVic 4-2. Jordan Wood registered a hat-trick in the victory. The two sides go at it again tonight (7:30, Castlegar Complex). The major midget Kootenay Ice open up a two-game set in Chase tonight against the Thompson Blazers (4:00, Art Holding Arena).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spruce Kings 8 Smoke Eaters 0

Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone each had two-goal nights as the Spruce Kings shut out the Smokies 8-0 at the Prince George Coliseum Friday.

Colantone opened the scoring 3:30 in on a sharp wrist shot from between the circles that snuck past Trail goaltender Reed Vogt, before BCHL scoring leader Paul DeJersey doubled the Spruce King lead on a 2-on-0 before 20 minutes were out.

Spencer McHaffie and Colantone would make the score 4-0 PG before the halfway mark of the second period, chasing Vogt, but the Spruce Kings would add two more goals in the middle frame, including one by Michael Klonarakis that saw the Prince George forward benefit from a deflected shot that caromed off the face of teammate Scott McHaffie.

Myles Fitzgerald tipped home a point shot to make it 7-0 just over 2 minutes into the third before Khaira's second of the night rounded out the scoring 5 minutes later.

Former Nelson Leaf Marcus Beesley recorded his first BCHL shutout, making 26 saves.

To me, the Smokies looked good off the hop tonight, despite falling behind early, outshooting PG 9-4 through the first ten minutes. As is expected with young teams, though, there were hiccups, particularly in the second period which continues to be a boogeyman of sorts. Trail worked a lot on goal-line possession but had few chances down low thanks to a stingy, and large Prince George D corps (including former Smokie Ben Matthews who recorded 2 assists) that for the most part kept Trail's forwards to the perimeter.

Did You See: New Smoke Eater Garrett McMullen made his Trail debut, recording 2 penalty minutes. The Rochester, NY native played one game for Powell River earlier this season and was signed by Trail today.

Up Next: The Smokies will get another crack at Prince George tomorrow (7:00, PG Coliseum), before returning home next week for a pair of games against Penticton and Vernon.

Local Look-See: Former Smokie, and Trail product Steve Koshey scored twice and added an assist as his Surrey Eagles came back to defeat Alberni Valley 5-3 on home ice tonight.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Oct. 14, 7:00 PM
Where: PG Coliseum, Prince George

The Smokies took a travel day yesterday and have arrived in Prince George for the start of a two-game set against the Spruce Kings beginning tonight.

With only one victory on the season thus far, this weekend's games, needless to say, are important. Trail played (in my estimation) their most complete game of the season last Saturday night in Salmon Arm, only to fall short in a 3-2 decision against the Silverbacks. With a pair of tough home games against Penticton and Vernon next week, as well as a coastal road swing coming up at the end of the month, there's really no time like the present for the team to gain some momentum in the tough Interior Conference.

The Smokies spent a fair amount of time working on special teams this week in practice, in particular the penalty kill, which at 58.62% sits 16th in the BCHL. I chatted with defenseman Clayton McEwan about the weekend ahead and what the Smokies have been working on over the past few days, to listen, click here.

I also had a quick conversation with new Smokie Adam Fares, to hear his thoughts about his arrival in Trail, click here.

One player who has been adapting well to a new top-line role is overager Clayton Chessa, who has scored in all but two of Trail's first seven games and leads the team with 7 points. The Surrey product had only 13 goals in 92 previous games in the BCHL with the Eagles, Capitals and Millionaires. Chessa scored the game-winner in Trail's only victory, September 30th at Merritt.

Our Opponent: The Spruce Kings won only 13 games last season, but are well on their way to eclipsing that total before Christmas this year. PG (3-3-0-1, 4th Interior) boasts a strong veteran corps led by the BCHL's leading scorer Paul DeJersey (11-4-15 in 7 GP). 17 year-old Jujhar Khaira isn't far behind with 12 points. Gerry, Leo, and Myles Fitzgerald, who played as rookies last season in Nanaimo, were also brought north with considerable press, the 18 year-old triplets are all averaging a point per game. The Kings' defense corps features one of two former Smoke Eaters on the squad: Ben Matthews spent two seasons in Trail before being traded for current Sioux Falls (USHL) forward Todd Skirving. Dylan Tappe, who had 17 points in his rookie BCHL season with the Smokies last year, was acquired by Prince George in a separate deal. Expect former Nelson Leaf Marcus Beesley to play at least one of this weekend's games, he and Kirk Thompson have split duties thus far.

In the Press Box: Trail's Kyle Horsman and Adam Wheeldon stayed home this weekend and will not play this weekend. PG will be without overage forward Jeff Earnest and d-man Jared Crossan, both with long-term injuries.

Broadcast Info: Former Nelson play-by-play man Matt Anthony has tonight's call on the pay-per-view (and its requisite audio stream) here. Regrettably, I did not make the trip north this time around.

Out of Town: Plenty of KIJHL action this evening, though most of our local teams are on the road. Castlegar visits Creston Valley (7:30, John Bucyk Arena), while the first-place Leafs visit the expansion Summerland Steam (7:35, Summerland Arena). Click here for Castlegar head coach Steve Junker's thoughts on his club's busy weekend ahead. Beaver Valley takes on Spokane in Washington state (8:00, Eagles Ice-A-Rena). Grand Forks host the Kimberley Dynamiters (7:30, GF Arena) in the first of two weekend home fixtures for the Border Bruins. Selkirk College also play their home opener tonight against the University of Victoria (7:30, Castlegar Complex). The Saints dropped their opener two weeks ago against Okanagan College. I chatted with Selkirk assistant and GM Jamie Friess this morning, hear what he had to say here.

Local Look-See: The ECHL season begins tonight on 8 different fronts including in Ontario, California, where former Smokie, and Trail product Travis Gawryletz will make his debut for the Reign against the Bakersfield Condors. Gawryletz, who played two seasons in the BCHL with Trail from 2002-2004, spent the past two seasons with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Silverbacks 3 Smoke Eaters 2

Stefan Nicholishen snapped a wrist-shot home on a third-period power-play to lift Salmon Arm over Trail 3-2 at the Sunwave Centre.

After Adam Fares almost gave the Smokies the lead short-handed, Nicolishen skated down the left wing and fired a shot past goaltender Matt Larose.

The Silverbacks jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second thanks to goals from Jeff Kennedy and Mak Barden, but the Smokies equalized later in the middle frame.

Captain Logan Proulx poked home a loose puck to put Trail on the board, and later in the period Brent Baltus scored his second goal in as many games to even things at 2-2.

The Smokies outshot Salmon Arm 40-27 on the night, and despite a 7-hour bus trip showed plenty of jump. After 5 periods of good hockey this weekend, Trail surely feels a bit jilted to come out of the two games empty-handed.

Techno-illogical: For reasons unbeknownst to anyone in our booth, my internet was disconnected 5 minutes before faceoff, despite my neighbouring laptops working normally. Thankfully, for reasons I can't explain, a restart of my laptop did the trick. My apologies for those of you who missed the first period, but for those of you who stuck around for the final fourty minutes, thanks for tuning in.

Up Next: Trail visits Prince George next Friday and Saturday. I won't be making the trip but the Spruce Kings will have audio and video feeds.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Smokies/Silverbacks Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Salmon Arm at the Sunwave Centre.

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 19 - Chessa, 20 - Fares
9 - Baltus, 21 - Cooper, 23 - Long
10 - Proulx, 18 - Bissett, 14 - Roberts
7 - DelBianco, 11 - Bertolucci, 12 - Collins (AP)

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
25 - Beitel, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

35 - Larose
1 - Vogt

17 - Knowles, 9 - Zulinick, 91 - Muller
16 - Dhaliwal, 71 - Gervais, 28 - Balson
19 - McBain, 14 -Nicolishen, 24 - Oleniuk
20 - Gillies, 15 - Barden (AP), 10 - J. Kennedy

5 - B. Kennedy, 7 - Hambrook
11 - Flanagan, 4 - Brown
8 - Friedel, 12 - Kachur

29 - Williams
41 - Clark

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Silverbacks

Apologies for the late entry, but the team is rolling thru Vernon as I write.

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters at Salmon Arm Silverbacks
When: Oct. 8, 7:00 pm
Where: Sunwave Centre, Salmon Arm

The Smokies are en route to the Shuswap for the back end of this weekend home-and-home series with the Silverbacks, hoping to earn a split after suffering a 6-4 loss last night at home.

Salmon Arm rode the strength of five second-period goals, including a pair from Swiss import Devin Muller to earn their first victory of the season.

Trail (1-4-1) and Salmon Arm (1-4-0-1) hold almost identical records: the Smokies have a point by virtue of a tie while the Silverbacks' first point this season came as the result of an overtime loss.

To a man, the Smokies understand the importance of gaining momentum both this weekend and next, we'll see whether the strong finish last night carries over into this evening's game.

Newcomer Adam Fares used his size and strength to his advantage last night, scoring on a pretty third-period deflection and scrapping with Silverbacks d-man James Friedel in the first period. I was also impressed by overager Clayton McEwan on the back end; he logged a lot of minutes and didn't miss a shift after a shoulder to the head from Salmon Arm forward Brett Knowles that left a nasty gash on his cheek.

Our Opponent: With last night's victory, the Silverbacks have a huge monkey off their back, so to speak. What impressed me the most about this Salmon Arm club was all four lines' ability to generate offense. The top unit of Knowles, Muller and Morgan Zulinick was dangerous every shift, and the 'Backs have a very capable puck-mover on the back end in Sean Flanagan, who chipped in last night with two assists.

In the Press Box: Both Kyle Horsman and Adam Wheeldon made the trip though neither are expected to dress tonight. The Smokies have brought along affiliate Jesse Collins, who plays for Creston Valley in the KIJHL. The Silverbacks remain without rookie Joel Kipp, who was injured on opening weekend.

Broadcast Info: Catch my call here beginning at 7. Scott Campbell will have the pay-per-view.

Out of Town: The Castlegar Rebels are hoping for redemption after suffering a 4-3 overtime loss at home to Spokane last night. The two sides meet at Eagles Ice-A-Rena. The Border Bruins play their third home game in as many nights against Creston (7:30, GF Arena), while Beaver Valley searches for win #2 in as many weeks against Osoyoos in the South Okanagan. The major midget Kootenay Ice play their home opener tonight against the Okanagan Rockets (6:30, NDCC Arena). The Ice are 0-2 after a pair of losses two weeks ago at North Island.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Silverbacks 6 Smoke Eaters 4

Trail defenceman J.J. Beitel (25) blcoks a Mak Barden shot in front of goaltender Matt Larose Friday night at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Devin Muller scored twice, including the game-winner, as the Salmon Arm Silverbacks rode a 5-goal second period en route to a 6-4 win in Trail tonight.

Muller put successive backhands past Smokies goaltender Matt Larose for his second and third goals of the season.

Despite conceding an early goal to Silverbacks forward Brock Balson, the Smokies led 2-1 through 20 minutes thanks to tallies from Brent Baltus and Clayton Chessa.

But Salmon Arm stormed back in the middle frame, snatching the lead on goals by Alex Gillies and Brett Knowles before the second period was three minutes old.

Trail battled back in period three, thanks in part to a goal and an assist from defenceman Nicholas Wong, but 'Backs goaltender Kurt Williams made 29 saves to earn his (and Salmon Arm's) first victory of the season in the first half of the home-and-home set.

Newcomer Adam Fares made an instant impression, scrapping with Silverbacks d-man James Friedel after Friedel took exception to a hit Fares made on forward Kody Dhaliwal. The 18 year-old from Thunder Bay opened his Smokies scoring account in the third period, smartly tipping home a Wong point shot to bring Trail back within 2 goals.

Advantage, Salmon Arm through the first half of the weekend home-and-home set. If not for the second-period offensive outburst from the 'Backs, tonight's game might well have gone Trail's way. We'll see tomorrow night if Trail can return the favour at the Sunwave Centre.

Did You See: Smokies d-man Clayton McEwan took a Knowles shoulder to the head midway through the third period while leading a rush into the Salmon Arm zone. McEwan finished the game, Knowles was not penalized, and after the game the Trail defenceman had a noticeable mark on his right cheek.

Up Next: As alluded to, the two sides will be back at it tomorrow night in Salmon Arm. Catch my broadcast on Ustream (link provided tomorrow) or check out new Silverback broadcaster Scott Campbell's call on the pay-per-view.

KIJHL Tonight: All four of our local junior "B" teams were on home ice tonight. Nelson rode two goals from Brett Norman to edge Kimberley 4-3, while in Fruitvale, the Nitehawks used a three-point night from Dallas Calvin to their advantage in a 5-4 win over Creston Valley. Spokane's Zak Kroll tallied in overtime to lift the Braves over the Castlegar Rebels 4-3, while Osoyoos scored 6 times in the first period en route to a 10-0 shutout at Grand Forks.

Local Look-See: Former Castlegar Rebel Erik Wentzel shot me a tweet today to let me know about his Adrian College (MI) Bulldogs' appearance at the ACHA Division 1 showcase this weekend. Wentzel, who took in two stints with the Rebels including a leading role on last year's Kootenay Conference championship club, has put up 2-1-3 in 4 games thus far, and leads the Bulldogs with 33 penalty minutes.

Smokies/Silverbacks Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between the Smoke Eaters and Silverbacks at Cominco Arena.

Smoke Eaters:
24- Boytinck, 19 - Chessa, 20 - Fares
9 - Baltus, 21 - Cooper, 23 - Long
10 - Proulx, 18 - Bissett, 14 - Roberts
7 - DelBianco, 11 - Bertolucci, 12 - Heinrich (AP)

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
25 - Beitel, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

35 - Larose
1 - Vogt

17 - Knowles, 9 - Zulinick, 91 - Muller
16 - Dhaliwal, 71 - Gervais, 28 - Balson
19 - McBain, 14 - Nicolishen, 24 - Oleniuk
20 - Gillies, 15 - Barden (AP), 10 - J. Kennedy

5 - B. Kennedy, 7 - Hambrook
11 - Flanagan, 4 - Brown
8 - Friedel, 12 - Kachur

29 - Williams
41 - Clark

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Silverbacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks
When: Oct. 7, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The first leg of a crucial home-and-home set with Salmon Arm begins tonight at the Cominco Arena. I say crucial because both the Smokies (1-3-1-0) and the Silverbacks (0-4-0-1) are in need of points this weekend to inch closer to their Interior Conference rivals. With only four teams in each conference qualifying for the playoffs, the late-September/early-October fixtures with divisional rivals gain added importance.

I'd imagine the Smokies have put the weekend (both the plusses and the minuses) in the rear-view mirror after another week of practice time. At this time last year, Trail was reeling after a 9-1 loss at Westside, but still managed to put together a start to the season that was well above average, particularly on home ice. Both home teams will be hard-pressed to get out of the gate early this weekend, especially with both visiting teams being forced to endure a 5 to 6-hour bus trip on gameday.

I chatted with Trail head coach Bill Birks on Wednesday (after the trade with Victoria that saw the Smokies acquire forward Adam Fares). He tells me the team is feeling good, and understands the importance of both this weekend's series and the two-game set in Prince George next weekend. Hear that conversation here.

Last Meeting: Matt Bissett scored twice in a 5-2 Smokies pre-season win September 9th in Salmon Arm.

Our Opponent: The Silverbacks, record notwithstanding, boast a fair amount of talent. 17 year-old Morgan Zulinick is leading the charge offensively thus far with 8 points through five games, all the while being complemented nicely by the likes of 30-goal man Brett Knowles and Bryce Gervais. The trio combined for nine points in the 'Backs last game, a 6-4 loss at Chilliwack last Saturday night. SJHL acquisition Sean Flanagan and former Powell River King Klay Kachur are helped out on a deep Salmon Arm back end by fellow vets Matt Brown, James Friedel, and former Nelson Leaf Bennett Hambrook. 20 year-old netminder Kurt Williams has played four of the Silverbacks five games.

In the Press Box:Trail is without forwards Adam Wheeldon and Kyle Horsman tonight and tomorrow. Newcomer Fares is expected to draw into the lineup. The Silverbacks' Joel Kipp will be out for both games.

Broadcast Info: Your home and away broadcasts with myself and Scott Campbell, respectively, are available here. On our end, the webcast will begin at 7:25.

KIJHL Tonight: All four of our local KIJHL teams are on home ice tonight, including the Castlegar Rebels hosting Spokane (7:30, Complex). I chatted with Rebels coach Steve Junker about all things black and gold, including his take on Kootenay Conference player of the month Anthony Delong. Hear that conversation here. Beaver Valley hosts Creston Valley (7:30, BV Arena), 'Hawks coach Terry Jones and I spoke after Tuesday's 5-4 win in Nelson (listen here). A night after losing 12-1 to the Leafs, Grand Forks faces another tough test at home against Osoyoos tonight (7:30, GF Arena), while Nelson welcomes the Kimberley Dynamiters to the NDCC at 7:00.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Smokies Acquire Forward from Victoria

The Trail Smoke Eaters have acquired 18 year-old forward Adam Fares from the Victoria Grizzlies for future considerations.

Fares, a 6'5" winger from Thunder Bay, Ontario, has scored 1 point (0-1) in three games in the BCHL this season.

He put up 34 points (15-19) in 58 games with the Thunder Bay midget AAA Kings last year.

I've spoken with head coach/GM Bill Birks about the trade, he says Fares' size will suit him well in some of the smaller buildings in the BCHL (including the Cominco Arena) and that he's excited to join the Smoke Eaters. It's his expectation that Fares will take part in this weekend's home and home series against Salmon Arm (I'll have the call of both games for you here). My conversation with Birks will be posted here tomorrow once it's aired on Mountain FM.

Fares will wear #20 with the Smoke Eaters.

Welcome to Trail Adam!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Trail Takes 2 In AP Draft, Plus Audio

The first-ever BCHL affliliate draft is in the books, and the Smokies didn't stray far from home with their two selections.

Trail took Fruitvale's Mitch Foyle with the 8th overall pick. The forward led Rossland-Trail's bantam rep squad in scoring last season and now skates for the major midget Kootenay Ice.

Trail's second-round pick, 24th overall, was Cranbrook's Jeff Rayman. He is a defenceman with the midget Cranbrook Ice.

Both Foyle and Rayman can be called up for up to five games this season.

For the full list of draftees, click here.

Audio Vault: A couple bits for your listening pleasure from the weekend that was:

I chatted with Travis St. Denis of the Penticton Vees following the game Saturday night, to listen, click here.

The new voice of the Nelson Leafs, Adam Kamara who is interning at 103.5 the Bridge, spoke with newly-returned Leaf defenseman Jon Petrash, for his thoughts on being back in green and black, click here.

KIJHL Tonight: The only game on the local docket is a good one, Beaver Valley visits Nelson in a battle of two streaking teams (7:00, NDCC). Nelson has won five straight games, while the Hawks boast the leagues top three scorers (Chris Derochie, Ryan Edwards and Craig Martin) and have snagged victories in five of their first six games. Hope to see you there tonight!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vees 9 Smoke Eaters 1

The Penticton Vees scored early and often en route to a 9-1 victory over the Smokies at the South Okanagan Events Centre tonight.

Former Trail forward Travis St. Denis scored twice (including the eventual game-winner), and added two assists as the Vees put up a nine-spot for the second consecutive evening (they defeated Prince George 9-2 Friday).

Steven Fogarty, Mike Reilly, Kyle Beaulieu, Mario Lucia, Cody DePourcq, Grant Nicholson and Troy Stecher also tallied for Penticton, while Clayton Chessa's fifth goal in as many games as a Smoke Eater provided Trail's only reply.

Penticton scored 4 times on the powerplay, and looking back I'm hard-pressed to think of a goal tonight that wasn't well-taken. The Vees' three NHL draft picks; Lucia, Mike Reilly and Fogarty, showed why the Wild, Blue Jackets and Rangers all invested selections with relentless offensive skill that saw the Smokies outshot 44-17 on the night.

Matt Larose was replaced by Reed Vogt after the fifth Penticton goal (the second by St. Denis), which the Trail product tapped in after a pair of one-time, cross-ice passes from Lucia and Connor Reilly. I talked to St. Denis after the game about his new linemates, and the nineteen year-old had nothing but good things to say about their talent level.

For the Smokies, the best thing perhaps is that they've now seen the high-flying Vees at their best, and know what to expect from Penticton over the course of the season. The loss certainly stings, but to me the Smokies were level with Penticton for the first twenty minutes, until penalties and a widening gap in the scoreline took their toll.

Needless to say, next week's home and home series with Salmon Arm is huge for the club, and I'm sure each body in the dressing room would like to see a raucous home crowd for the first half of the double-header on Friday (7:30 PM, Cominco Arena).

Did You See: After serving a four-minute penalty for spearing, Trail's Adam Boytinck quietly slipped behind the Penticton defense 6 minutes into the second period. He received a long-bomb pass and smartly straddled the line only to be foiled on the breakaway.

Up Next:
It's just been mentioned, but it's worth mentioning again. A crucial early-season home and home with the Silverbacks Friday in Trail, Saturday in Salmon Arm.

We All Scream for Ustream: Tonight marked the maiden voyage for the Smokies on Ustream. It certainly wasn't without its hiccups, but it's a start. I hope, despite the scoreline, that those of you who tuned in enjoyed the broadcast tonight, and for those of you who missed it, I'll be sure to publicize its availability in advance of the next broadcasted away game (which happens to be Saturday in Salmon Arm).

KIJHL: The Osoyoos Coyotes spoiled Castlegar's chance at revenge tonight, with a 4-3 victory over the Rebels at the Complex. It was of course Osoyoos who defeated Castlegar in last year's KIJHL finals. Nelson outgunned Creston Valley 6-5 at the NDCC (Dallon Stoddart scored twice including the winner 13 minutes into the third period). Beaver Valley defeated Grand Forks 11-3.

Late From Friday: Caleb Georgetti scored three times, but it was Okanagan College over Selkirk 5-3 in the BCIHL opener. Former Nitehawk Layne Stopanski scored twice for OC.

Local Looksee: Congrats to Nelson's Dryden Hunt for tallying his first WHL point tonight. Hunt had an assist in the Regina Pats' 4-1 victory at Lethbridge.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Smokies/Vees Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between the Smoke Eaters and Vees in Penticton.

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 18 - Bissett, 19 - Chessa
20 - Demchuk (AP), 21 - Cooper, 4 - Romanchuk
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
12 - Kempinski (AP), 10 - Proulx, 14 - Roberts

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
25 - Beitel, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

35 - Larose
1 - Vogt

22 - Lucia, 26 - St. Denis, 20 - C. Reilly
24 - Loik, 8 - R. Reilly, 10 - Nicholson
9 - Benik, 91 - Fogarty, 19 - DePourcq
18 - McLellan, 7 - Hendrickson, 27 - Dancs (AP)

5 - M. Reilly, 77 - Stecher
4 - Buchanan, 6 - Urban
28 - Beaulieu

33 - Katunar
1 - Garteig

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters at Penticton Vees
When: Oct. 1, 7:00 PM
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton

A quick line before I jump in the car for the trip to Penticton.

The Smokies are flying high after taking 3 of 4 points from a home-and-home series with Merritt. And why not! Trail found themselves down 3-0 midway through last night's contest at the Nicola Valley Arena before storming back to win 5-3. Clayton Chessa scored the game-winner as part of a two-goal effort (he now has 4 goals in as many games as a Smoke Eater), while Adam Boytinck, Brent Baltus and Nicholas Wong added singles.

No question tonight will be a real test for Trail. Penticton's list of recruits is enviable, and they only add to what was already a strong core. A good showing tonight from Trail would do wonders for the confidence of a young squad continuing to find their way in the BCHL.

Our Opponent: These Vees need no introduction, and if last night was any indication, they can score in bunches. Ryan Reilly leads the way with 2-3-5 through Penticton's first three games, followed by a familiar face to Trail fans, former Smokies forward Travis St. Denis. The 19 year-old known as "Saint" tallied twice and added an assist in the Vees' 9-2 victory over Prince George a night ago, and has scored 3 times in as many games with Penticton since arriving in the South Okanagan over the summer. As if Penticton's offence didn't look scary enough, consider their starting goaltender, Mike Garteig, led Powell River to the league finals last season, all while putting up an unreal 1.69 GAA and posting 7 shutouts.

In the Press Box: The Smokies will again be without forwards Adam Wheeldon and Kyle Horsman, while d-man Daniel DelBianco missed his second consecutive game last night in Merritt. AP callups Alex Demchuk and Tom Kempinski made their Trail debuts yesterday after joining the club from the KIJHL's Princeton Posse. For Penticton, captain Logan Johnston will be out while serving game 4 of his much-talked-about 25-game suspension, while d-man Nick Amies is out indefinitely.

Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's broadcast on the new Smokies Ustream channel beginning at 6:55 PM. It's the maiden voyage for myself away from the Cominco Arena, so fingers crossed for as few hiccups as possible. As always, I'd love to hear thoughts on what to add to the broadcast as the season goes on. Vees play-by-play man Fraser Rodgers will have your webcast (and home audio) feed on BCHL live.

KIJHL Tonight: A night that will bring back memories tonight in Castlegar, as the Rebels host the Osoyoos Coyotes (7:30 PM, Complex). It's the first meeting since last year's KIJHL final, and I know the returnees on this year's Rebels squad have had tonight's matchup circled on the calendar since the 2011-12 schedule was released. Nelson continues their rather unorthodox weekend of three home games in 2 1/2 days with a fixture against Creston Valley tonight (7:00, NDCC). Grand Forks return home to face the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.