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).