Friday, October 7, 2011

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.

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