Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Smoke Eaters 4 Centennials 3

Smokies forward Erik Cooper puts home the game's opening goal on a first-period short-handed break (Randy Emery photo)

Make it two in a row for the Smokies!

Marley Keca scored the eventual game-winner in the third period, while Lyndon Stanwood made 42 saves as Trail edged Merritt 4-3 at the Cominco Arena.

Erik Cooper (pictured above) opened things up just shy of the 8-minute mark when he roofed a short-handed breakaway over Centennials goaltender Tyler Steel. Connor Tiechko added a second breakaway marker (this time at even strength) minutes later to give the Smokies a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The two teams would trade goals early in the second, Merritt's off an Evan Stack deflection on an early-period power-play, Trail's by Garrett McMullen, who banged a rebound through a crowd of players to restore the two-goal advantage.

A Richard Sabourin point shot caught everyone on the ice by surprise to round out the second-period summary. Sabourin directed a slapper from the left point which went into the top of the Trail net through a maze of bodies.

That set the stage for Keca's goal in the third. The defenseman took the puck out of the left-wing corner and drove hard to the net, beating Steel for his third goal of the season.

Dustin Lebrun put home a wrister from the slot just under five minutes later, but with 7:10, remaining in the period, Smokies AP Craig Martin was hauled down on a breakaway, resulting in a penalty shot.

Steel outwaited the 16 year-old, going left to right and making a fine pad save to keep the scoreline at 4-3.

The rest of the game was up to Stanwood. He made several key saves right up until the dying seconds to preserve the victory for the Smoke Eaters, who improve to 2-0-1 against the Cents this season.

Once again, Trail showed rarely-before-seen confidence on the ice, and although Merritt tried to claw their way back after falling behind early, the Smokies denied them a much-pressed-for equalizer. Keca was particularly strong on the back end, while the line of Cooper, Tiechko and McMullen (thrown together after Clayton Chessa was scratched) were magnificent.

Although he failed to register a point, Luke Bertolucci had a particularly strong game for Trail, carrying the puck into the dirty areas of the ice and generating several scoring opportunities on a line with Martin and Brandon Long. Safe to say the 16 year-old is beginning to find his offensive flair at the junior "A" level.

Without Team Canada West member Reece Willcox, the Cents defense were stretched at times, but I thought rookie Tyler Martin showed a fair amount of poise on the back end for Merritt, logging a lot of minutes and continually making sure pucks made their way out of the defensive zone. Steel was also good in goal after giving up the two early breakaways. His stop on Martin's penalty shot was, at that point, a game-saver.

Up Next: Trail begins a weekend two-pack with the Chilliwack Chiefs at the Cominco Arena. I don't envy the Chiefs for their travel schedule this week; Chilliwack played (and won by the way) in Prince George against the Spruce Kings tonight.

December First Madness?: It remains to be seen what will happen tomorrow with the carding cutdown. I'm sure all five of our local junior "A" and "B" teams will be testing the market, but at least two coaches have told me the deals could well be few and far between. Like those of you reading, I'll believe it when I see it, as always stay tuned here and to Mountain FM/103.5 the Bridge for the latest breaking sports news out of our area, both from the BCHL and KIJHL.

Smokies/Centennials Lineups

The line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Merritt are as follows:

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
17 - Horsman, 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
22 - Wheeldon, 24 - Martin (AP), 3 - McEwan

2 - Hicks, 5 - Johnson (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

12- Soquila, 19 - Brears, 9 - Stack
8 - Harper, 10 - Fletcher, 15 - Reichert
21 - Lebrun, 14 - Bruce, 16 - Maktaak
18 - Schaefer, 22 - Low, 17 - Lamont

4 - Martin, 25 - Pfeil
24 - Sabourin, 6 - Mancuso
2 - Marshall, 7 - Chanter

31 - Steel
35 - Chimienti

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: Nov. 30, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies will try for a second consecutive win tonight when they tangle with the Merritt Centennials at Cominco Arena. Confidence is high and the mood is good in the Trail dressing room after a well-earned 3-1 victory over the Westside Warriors on Saturday night.

Trail's special teams were instrumental in Saturday's win. The power-play accounted for all three goals (including a pair of 5-on-3 tallies from Connor Tiechko), and the PK held Westside at bay all weekend save a Richard Vanderhoek goal Friday night. That will need to continue tonight and through the weekend set with Chilliwack for Trail to enjoy success.

Speaking of Tiechko, both he and Garrett McMullen have stood out over the past couple of weeks. Head coach Bill Birks switched things up a bit Saturday and played the Rochester native on the top line with Tiechko and Clayton Chessa, and it paid off. Both McMullen and Tiechko have speed to burn, and came together nicely on Trail's third goal. I spoke to Tiechko after the Westside win, to listen click here.

Don't be surprised to see Lyndon Stanwood get another crack in goal tonight. The newcomer was terrific Saturday, making 33 saves and perhaps more importantly developing an early rapport with his teammates. I thought Stanwood's rebound control was very good, and even when caught out of position the 18 year-old had the wherewithal to scamper cross-crease quickly and make saves he had no business making. I caught up with Stanwood after Saturday's victory, to listen click here.

To round out some Saturday audio, I also chatted with Smokies defenseman Tanner Hicks post-game. His thoughts can be heard here.

Last Meeting: The Smokies rallied for a 5-3 come-from-behind victory at Merritt on September 30th. After falling behind 3-0, Trail came back with five unanswered goals, including a third-period pair from Chessa, to record their first victory of the season. Trail leads the season series so far with a 1-0-1 record.

Our Opponent: What can you say about the Cents? Merritt sits second in the Interior Conference without the razzle-dazzle of a Penticton or Vernon, but Luke Pierce's squad has a work ethic that is second-to-none. The Cents returned almost their entire roster from a season ago, and after a slight stumble out of the gate have found their stride. Merritt is the only team in the BCHL to have taken three points this year out of the South Okanagan Events Centre, and have also recorded wins over the likes of Surrey and Powell River. The red-hot Centennials are 8-1-0-1 over their last ten games. 18 year-old Regan Soquila leads the way offensively with 30 points (9-21), while goaltenders Lino Chimienti and Tyler Steel have similar numbers in terms of GAA (3.10 and 3.14 respectively). Steel was the goaltender of record in Merritt's last visit to the Cominco Arena, a 3-3 tie on September 28th.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without forwards Josh Roberts and Adam Fares, as well as defenseman Brandon Egli. The Cents have no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Join me for the pay-per-view beginning at 7:30. Both that feed and free audio can be found here closer to game time. Merritt's crew has the call on Q101.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leafs Swing Two Deals

The Nelson Leafs were busy over the weekend not only on the ice, but off it.

Nelson made two separate deals with Eddie Mountain divison clubs that see two blueliners leave, and one forward return to the West Kootenay.

First, the Leafs sent Californian rearguard Taylor Carriveau to the Fernie Ghostriders in a futures deal. Carriveau played both weekend games with the Ghostriders, and recorded five assists during his time in Nelson.

Next, Nelson traded defenseman Riley Henderson (pictured) to the Golden Rockets for forward Marc Lepine. The Richmond product was in his second season in Nelson after putting up 26 points last year; he'd already recorded 15 (3-12) this year despite missing time with an injury.

In return, the Leafs snag a fellow nineteen year-old in Lepine, who has scored only two goals thus far this season but brings plenty of grit, according to Leafs bench boss Frank Maida. The Edmonton native was in his second season with Golden.

It's no surprise to see defensemen leaving the Leafs in advance of the December 1st carding deadline. With new acquisitions J.J. Beitel and Eric Spring thriving in green and white, something had to give with no fewer than nine blueliners on the Leafs' active roster as of Friday. It's just as important for Nelson to add a role player or two that can provide some sandpaper on the third and fourth lines, and in Lepine, the Leafs appear to have found their man.

Our team at Mountain FM and 103.5 the Bridge caught up with coach Maida this afternoon, hear his thoughts on tomorrow's morning news.

Local Products Named to BCHL's All-Time Team

Over the past few weeks, fans of the BCHL have had the opportunity to vote for their favorite players from the past 50 years, and not surprisingly, some West Kootenay legends have made the list both for their accomplishments in our area and beyond.

The full list was released Friday, and can be seen here.

As for the locals:

- Former senior Maple Leaf and Smoke Eater Ernie Gare (Penticton/Vernon, 1969-1972) scored 133 points with the Essos during their 1971-72 championship season, and played nine seasons in the old Western International League with Nelson, Spokane and Trail.

- Nelson's Greg Adams (Kelowna, 1980-1982) is best-known in BC for his overtime winner that sent the Vancouver Canucks to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. He scored 90 points in his rookie year in the BCJHL with the Buckaroos and tallied 743 games over his 1,000 game-plus NHL career.

- Trail's Ray Ferraro (Penticton, 1981-1982) played with the Smokies during their time in the KIJHL, and won a Memorial Cup with Portland in 1983, but his greatest junior hockey exploit has to be a 108-goal season with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings in 1983-84. Ferraro enjoyed a lengthy NHL career that saw him put up 898 points.

- Rossland's Dallas Drake (Vernon, 1987-1988) won a Fred Page Cup with the Lakers before attending Northern Michigan University. He played over 1,000 games in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.

- Castlegar's Shawn Horcoff (Chilliwack, 1995-1996) played with the Smokies during their time in the Rocky Mountain Junior League before embarking on a 4-year collegiate career at Michigan State. The Edmonton Oilers captain has been an NHL mainstay since 2001, playing more than 700 games.

- Jeff Tambellini's (Chilliwack, 2000-2002) father Steve played for the junior Smokies, and his grandfather Addie was a member of Trail's 1961 World Champions. Tambellini skated with the Vancouver Canucks during their run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, and along with his father was a guest of honour at this past summer's Smoke Eaters alumni banquet.

- Montrose's Connor and Kellen Jones (Vernon, 2008-2010) combined for 371 points during their BCHL careers, and now skate together at Quinnipiac University. The twins won a pair of Royal Bank Cups in 2009 and 2010.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Smoke Eaters 3 Warriors 1

Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood kicks out a save (Randy Emery photo)

Just what the doctor ordered for the Smokies, and the more than 1,100 fans who turned up at Cominco Arena Saturday.

Connor Tiechko scored twice, and Lyndon Stanwood stopped 33 of 34 shots as Trail rode the strength of its power-play in a 3-1 home win over the Westside Warriors.

All three Smokies goals were scored on the man advantage, with Tiechko's pair coming on two separate 5-on-3 power-plays.

As was the case last night, things didn't get started offensively until the middle frame, when a blast from Tanner Hicks wound up in the top left-hand corner of the Warrior goal.

The scoreline would hold true until the third, when Tiechko poked home a loose puck in the Warrior crease for his (like Hicks) second goal as a Smoke Eater. The Chilliwack native would add a third for Trail minutes later from the low slot on a pretty feed from Garrett McMullen.

Westside's Tyler Krause put his squad on the board in the final three minutes, outwaiting Stanwood on a rebound as he skated across the crease for his fifth goal against Trail this season.

Stanwood, for lack of a better term, was remarkable. As was the case last night in West Kelowna, the former Hollyburn product made several stops bordering on the acrobatic, and showed plenty of poise between the pipes in front of the largest (and most vocal) Smoke Eaters home crowd of the season. Safe to say the newcomer has left a lasting impression on everyone who was in the building tonight.

That's not to take anything away from the performance of Dwayne Rodrigue of the Warriors. He robbed Erik Cooper on a cross-ice one-timer attempt late in the first period, and was solid yet again for Westside, though he faced a much tougher test from his Trail opposition than at Royal Lepage Place a night ago.

Up Next: The Smokies look to make it two in a row Wednesday when they host the Merritt Centennials. Trail has taken 3 of 4 points this year from a Merritt squad that sits alone in second place in the Interior Conference.

Local Hockey Tonight: Lots of action in the KIJHL, including a 9-3 Castlegar victory against the Summerland Steam. Scott Morisseau scored three goals for the Rebels. Nelson doubled Spokane 4-2 at the NDCC thanks to a hat-trick from Nik Newman. Grand Forks lost 9-1 in Fernie, while Beaver Valley defeated Columbia Valley 9-3. The major midget Kootenay Ice were edged 5-4 in Langley by the Valley West Hawks, and Okanagan College won at home over the Selkirk Saints, 6-3.

Local Look-See: Trail's Craig Cunningham had a goal for Providence (AHL) in a 3-2 setback at Norfolk, while former Nitehawks Ryon Sookro and Zak Majkowski each tallied as the Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) won 5-1 at home over Melville. Trail's Steve Koshey also had the OT winner as the Surrey Eagles beat Powell River 4-3 in other BCHL action tonight.

Smokies/Warriors Lineups

The line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Westside. If they look awfully similar to last night, it's because neither team has made changes.

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
17 - Horsman, 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
22 - Wheeldon, 3 - McEwan

2 - Hicks, 5 - Johnson (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 -Keca
4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

15 - Fauchoux, 16 - Hochhausen, 19 - Morrison
17 - McKinnon, 24 - Skrbich, 18 - Blanleil
4 - Steinke, 8 - Renner (AP), 23 - Simmonds
9 - Vanderhoek, 14 - Dempsey, 26 - Krause

5 - Betker, 22 - Cave
12 - Kachur, 21 - MacIntosh
27 - Berglund, 3 - King

30 - Rodrigue
33 - Leonard

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Westside Warriors
When: Nov. 26, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

A quick write-up before I jump in the car and head back to the West Kootenay from Kelowna.

The Smokies get another crack at Westside tonight after three third-period goals paced the Warriors to victory in West Kelowna last night.

A frustrating night to be sure from a resilient, and short-handed Smoke Eater squad that defended well, made hits, but had trouble testing Warriors goaltender Dwayne Rodrigue thanks to plenty of blocked shots and good positional defense from the home side.

To win tonight, the Smokies need to force the issue offensively. Trail did an admirable job getting to pucks and starting a cycle in the offensive zone, but from my recollection of last night's game I can't think of many shots that Rodrigue didn't see all, or most of the way in. At the other end, new goaltender Lyndon Stanwood looked impressive, making key saves through the first two periods before a pair of well-placed shots by Reid Simmonds and Richard Vanderhoek broke the game open early in the third.

Don't forget Smokies fans, tickets for tonight's game are just $5, with a host of prizes up for grabs tonight as part of the BCHL's fiftieth anniversary celebration.

Last Meeting: Last night's 4-1 win victory for the Warriors gives them a 3-1 edge in the seven-game season series. Clayton Chessa scored the lone Trail goal.

Our Opponent: Westside is still a bit banged up, with four players out of the lineup (see below). But this team is gritty, despite being maybe a bit undersized up front. The likes of Shawn Hochhausen, Brett McKinnon and Connor Dempsey showed plenty of pace up front last night, and the Warriors warhorses on the blue line, Izaak Berglund and Peter MacIntosh, again logged plenty of minutes on the back end last night. Dwayne Rodrigue looks like a real keeper, pardon the pun.

In the Press Box: Trail is again without forwards Adam Fares and Josh Roberts as well as defenseman Brandon Egli, while the Warriors missed defenseman Josh Monk, alongside forwards Max French, Brennan Clark and Seb Lloyd last night.

Broadcast Info: I'll have tonight's pay-per-view call beginning at 7:30. For those of a Warrior persuasion, Jon Zacks has you covered. Both broadcasts can be accessed here.

Local Hockey Tonight: Aside from one KIJHL team, it should read "Local Hockey (Away) Tonight." The Nelson Leafs wrap up a home and home with Spokane after a wild 8-6 win in Washington state last night (7:00, NDCC). Castlegar faces old friend Alex Ross and the Summerland Steam here in the Okanagan, while Beaver Valley and Grand Forks (who won their first game of the season last night) continue their East Kootenay swings. The Nitehawks are at Columbia Valley, while the Border Bruins visit Fernie. Selkirk College hits the road tonight for a one-off at Kelowna against Okanagan College, while the major midget Kootenay Ice are in Langley to face the Valley West Hawks.

Trade Winds: Grand Forks have traded their captain, Jacob Bergeron to the Golden Rockets Thursday for cash and a player to be named later. Bergeron scored 17 points with the Border Bruins, but was held off the scoresheet in his Rockets debut last night, a 7-2 loss against Beaver Valley.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Warriors 4 Smoke Eaters 1

Richard Vanderhoek scored twice, while Reid Simmonds' early third-period tally proved to be the game-winner as the Westside Warriors defeated the Smokies 4-1 at Royal Lepage Place tonight.

After Clayton Chessa put Trail ahead early in the middle-frame off a centring feed from Erik Cooper, Vanderhoek capitalized on a loose puck in front of the Smoke Eater net in the final minute of the frame.

Westside maintained the play through much of the first period, at one point outshooting Trail 8-1, but the second period was a mirror opposite until Vanderhoek's equalizer, which came on a Warrior power play.

Simmonds snapped a wrister over the left shoulder of goaltender Lyndon Stanwood, who was making his Smokies debut, then 66 seconds later Vanderhoek scored a similar tally from the opposite side.

Westside put the game out of reach midway through the third when a Klay Kachur point shot deflected off a Trail forward past Stanwood.

Newcomer Dwayne Rodrigue made 23 saves in goal for Westside to collect his second victory in as many starts in the BCHL.

Even more impressive, from my point of view, was Westside's pursuit of the puck in the defensive zone. The likes of Izaak Berglund, Peter MacIntosh and Michael King each recorded several blocked or re-directed shots, and aside from a few chances gave Trail little room in the offensive zone. At the other end, Stanwood made several ten-beller saves including a diving effort from left to right across his crease early in the second period, and a right pad save off a Brett McKinnon breakaway in the first.

It was also nice to see Kyle Horsman back in action tonight. The big winger missed the last 20 games with an injury suffered on opening weekend (against the Warriors no less).

Up Next: The same two teams go at it again tomorrow at the Cominco Arena. Tickets are only $5 and I can only imagine what a full barn might do for this club's confidence. Hope to see you there!

Local Hockey Tonight: The Grand Forks Border Bruins put their first win of the season in the books tonight. Overage defenseman Brendan Jackson scored the winner in a 5-4 victory at Columbia Valley. Tyler Robinson counted the winner in a 3-2 Castlegar Rebels OT victory at Osoyoos, while Dallas Calvin scored twice in a 7-2 Beaver Valley victory at Golden. Nelson outgunned Spokane 8-6 in Washington state. Castlegar's Eric Walker recorded an assist in his WHL debut, but his Vancouver Giants lost 4-3 in OT at Prince Albert (Castlegar's Jesse Knowler recorded 2 PIMs on the Raiders side).

Smokies/Warriors Lineups

The line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Westside.

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
17 - Horsman, 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
22 - Wheeldon, 3 - McEwan

2 - Hicks, 5 - Johnson (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 -Keca
4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

15 - Fauchoux, 16 - Hochhausen, 19 - Morrison
17 - McKinnon, 24 - Skrbich, 18 - Blanleil
4 - Steinke, 8 - Renner (AP), 23 - Simmonds
9 - Vanderhoek, 14 - Dempsey, 26 - Krause

5 - Betker, 22 - Cave
12 - Kachur, 21 - MacIntosh
27 - Berglund, 3 - King

30 - Rodrigue
33 - Leonard

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters at Westside Warriors
When: Nov. 25, 7:00 PM
Where: Royal Lepage Place, West Kelowna

The BCHL's 50th birthday weekend kicks off tonight on eight fronts including West Kelowna where the Smoke Eaters will try for a second straight win against the Warriors. Clayton Chessa's overtime marker paced Trail to a 3-2 victory 19 days ago at Royal Lepage Place; the Smokies and Warriors have managed only one victory between them since that time (that being a Westside OT triumph over Merritt earlier this week).

Needless to say, both teams are desperately trying to make up ground in the tough Interior Conference. Trail sits 8th with 3 wins and 10 points, 15 behind 4th place Chilliwack. The Warriors meanwhile have slipped to sixth and are five points behind the Chiefs.

The Smokies have new goaltender Lyndon Stanwood in the fold, though I haven't been apprised as to whether he'll get the start tonight against the Warriors. I took in practice yesterday and the West Vancouver product looked outstanding, showing poise with the puck as well as the unwillingness to give up on any play, even during a drill. I chatted with head coach Bill Birks on Wednesday about Stanwood's arrival (listen here), and Stanwood himself after the on-ice session yesterday (listen here).

Last Meeting: No question Trail's 3-2 overtime win on November 6th was a memorable one, from the early start to a couple of nasty incidents to Chessa's OT goal from the slot. The season series stands at 2-1 Westside after a pair of Warrior victories on opening weekend in Trail.

Our Opponent: The Warriors are starting to get healthy, slowly but surely, and have finally bumped a nine-game losing streak that, as my former colleague Jon Zacks put it, left everyone in Warrior camp scratching their heads. Dru Morrison put home the overtime winner Wednesday night against Merritt to bump the slump, while all the while securing a BCHL debut victory for new goaltender Dwayne Rodrigue, who Westside recently acquired from AJHL Grande Prairie. Up front, Tyler Krause has been a Smokie-killer this season, including a four-goal performance on opening night in Trail. New addition Klay Kachur (late of Salmon Arm and before that, Powell River) bolsters a Warrior blue line that now features three 20 year-olds (the others being captain Izaak Berglund and Peter MacIntosh).

In the Press Box: Trail will finally welcome back forward Kyle Horsman at some point this weekend (he told me the Saturday game was his target return two weeks ago), while Adam Fares, Brandon Egli and Josh Roberts remain out of the lineup. Adam Wheeldon missed Sunday's loss to Penticton but did skate yesterday. The Warriors were without forwards Seb Lloyd (broken collarbone), Brett McKinnon, Brennan Clark and defenseman Josh Monk for Wednesday's victory over the Centennials.

Broadcast Info: Join me for tonight's game on the Smokies Ustream channel beginning at 7:00. Jon Zacks has your pay-per-view option available here.

Celebrate the BCHL: Tomorrow's return affair at Cominco Arena will be a special night to be sure. The Smokies are offering $5 tickets for Saturday's game, as well as 50-cent hot-dogs (while they last). I chatted with team president Tom Gawryletz earlier this week about tomorrow's game as well as his take on the recently-announced Western Junior "A" Championship set to be inaugurated in BC at the end of the 2012-13 season. To hear that conversation, click here.

Local Hockey Tonight: All four of our local KIJHL teams are on the road this evening. Beaver Valley and Grand Forks both travel to the East Kootenay, with the Nitehawks visiting Golden and the Border Bruins tangling with the Columbia Valley Rockies. Castlegar visits Osoyoos for the first time since Game 5 of the 2011 KIJHL finals, with new goaltender Jordan Gluck (late of the Coyotes) set to make his debut. Nelson begins a home-and-home set with the Spokane Braves tonight in Washington state. A pair of Castlegar products are set to meet in the WHL tonight as well. Defenseman Eric Walker (who spent two seasons with the Smokies) makes his Vancouver Giants debut against Jesse Knowler and the Prince Albert Raiders in Saskatchewan. I talked to Walker on Wednesday about the move to the WHL from Northern Michigan University, to listen click here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Smokies Sign Stanwood From KIJHL

The Smokies have made a goaltending shuffle by signing 18 year-old Lyndon Stanwood from the KIJHL's Kamloops Storm.

Stanwood, a native of West Vancouver, posted a record of 14-1-2 with 2 shutouts in his second season with the Storm, and won a provincial major midget championship in 2010 with the Vancouver Northwest Giants. He attended Smokies training camp in August and was signed to an AP card by the Nanaimo Clippers.

The release from the Smoke Eaters is available here. I've chatted with head coach/GM Bill Birks about the move and will post that audio once it airs.

The Smokies made room for Stanwood by releasing Reed Vogt. Reed is a bright prospect who is sure to land on his feet and I wish him nothing but the best.

Stanwood has arrived in Trail and will be in the lineup Friday when the Smokies visit Westside. Join me for the play-by-play from Royal Lepage Place on the Smokies Ustream channel beginning at 7, as we kick off the BCHL's 50th anniversary celebrations (more on that tomorrow).

Wednesday Audio; Buckley On The Move

Some tape from earlier this week for your enjoyment.

I chatted to Nitehawks forward Craig Martin about his team's victory Sunday over Nelson, as well as his thoughts on his time with the Smokies and what the future could hold in store. To listen, click here.

I also spoke with Rebels head coach Steve Junker following the transaction that sees Alex Ross head to Summerland and Jordan Gluck arrive in Castlegar. To listen, click here.

Buckley To Osoyoos: With Gluck's departure, the Coyotes were in need of another goaltender and found one in the form of Cole Buckley, who they acquired from Grand Forks. In 8 appearances with the Border Bruins, the 19 year-old went 0-7 with an 8.27 GAA. Buckley will be paired with another former Neil Murdoch division goaltender in ex-Leaf Darren Hogg with Osoyoos.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ross To Summerland In 3-Team Swap

A three-team trade in the KIJHL involving Montrose's Alex Ross. The 19 year-old netminder is headed to the Summerland Steam in a deal that also involves the Osoyoos Coyotes.

In return, the Rebels receive goaltender Jordan Gluck. The 19 year-old from Scarsdale, New York has posted 6 victories in 11 appearances with an accompanying 2.86 GAA.

In 41 games with the Rebels, Ross posted a 27-9 record, 2.58 GAA and .905 save percentage. He was also named the 2011 Neil Murdoch division goaltender of the year. In "Rossco," the Steam get a real battler who is just as good-natured off the ice as he is a fierce competitor on it. Ross was always willing to run tape with me last season and will certainly be missed in Castlegar.

I chatted with Rebels head coach Steve Junker about the trade, that tape will run on Mountain FM this (Monday) afternoon and will be posted here tomorrow along with some other weekend tidbits.

Four players are also changing hands between the Steam and Coyotes including one-time Border Bruin callup Sam Nigg, who heads north to Summerland from the defending champs. In a twist of fate, the Rebels face both the Coyotes and the Steam away from home this weekend (Friday and Saturday).

Best of luck in Summerland Alex, we'll be watching!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vees 8 Smoke Eaters 5

Smokies forward Brandon Long prepares to put home his first BCHL goal (Randy Emery photo)

A quick write-up tonight after a long day of hockey both in Trail and Fruitvale.

A first and third period to remember, a second period to forget, as the Smokies dropped their fifth straight this afternoon with an 8-5 setback against Penticton.

After Clayton Chessa put Trail ahead in the first period, the Vees took the middle frame by storm, putting a half-dozen goals (including a pair from newcomer Bryce Gervais) past Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea.

But despite trailing 6-1 after two periods, Trail battled back into the game courtesy Tanner Hicks, Brandon Long and Garrett McMullen, before a pair of goals within a half-minute of the sponsor timeout (including a second from Steven Fogarty) restored a four-goal advantage for the visitors.

Taylor House would deflect home a point shot moments later to round out the scoring.

There were bright moments, to be sure. The first period was fast-paced and evenly played, and I thought the Smokies were the more physical team in the third as well. The difference today? A second period that saw Penticton assert the game physically and mentally, starting with the two early goals from Connor Reilly and Gervais that put the Smoke Eaters behind the eight-ball inside of two minutes.

Up Next: The Smokies could have some healthy faces back in the lineup when they and the Westside Warriors help celebrate the BCHL's 50th anniversary with a home-and-home set beginning Friday in West Kelowna. Join me for that game on ustream.

KIJHL Today: A spirited affair tonight in Fruitvale as the Nitehawks came from behind to defeat Nelson 5-3. After the Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, the Hawks got a late third-period winner from Max Flanagan. Castlegar edged Penticton at home 3-2 (Anthony Delong scoring a late second-period winner), and Spokane upended Grand Forks 8-4.

Smokies/Vees Lineups

The line combinations for this afternoon's game between Trail and Penticton are as follows.

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
24 - Heinrich (AP), 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
25 - Foyle (AP), 3 - McEwan

2 - Hicks, 5 - Johnson (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
8 - Perpelitz (AP), 4 - Poulsen

1 - Vogt
35 - D'Andrea

22 - Lucia, 26 - St. Denis, 20 - C. Reilly
71 - Gervais. 91 - Fogarty, 9 - Benik
10 - Nicholson, 8 - R. Reilly, 24 - Loik
19 - DePourcq, 13 - McCallum (AP), 18 - McLellan

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

1 - Garteig
33 - Katunar

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Penticton Vees
When: Nov. 20, 3:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies and Vees wrap up a 9-day stretch that sees them play each other 3 times this afternoon, with Trail coming into today's game searching for their second win at home against Penticton this season.

The Vees posted a comprehensive 9-3 decision at home over Trail on Wednesday night. Local product Travis St. Denis put home a goal and four assists in his return to the BCHL after time away at the World Junior "A" Challenge in Langley. Minnesota Wild pick Mario Lucia scored a second-period natural hat-trick.

Trail will have to deal with another thorny forward tonight in the form of Bryce Gervais. The former Silverback scored twice and was named first star in Penticton's win over Merritt last night. The Saskatchewan product scored 4 times in the last meeting between Trail and Salmon Arm on November 9th.

The short-handed Smokies continue to face tough tests recently against the Interior Conference, but have showed well at home including a 2-1 overtime loss to Vernon last Saturday that could well have gone the other way. The keyword for the Smoke Eaters: consistency. If this team can continue to work hard, with consistent efforts from all 20 players on the roster, they can give every team in the league a run for their money, especially in the unique confines of the Cominco Arena.

Last Meeting: Penticton posted their third win of the season series on Wednesday, a 9-3 decision at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Our Opponent: The Vees are stacked, no question. In addition to the likes of St. Denis, Lucia, and Gervais, Penticton's Connor Reilly and Joey Benik both sit within the top twelve in BCHL scoring. Troy Stecher and Mike Reilly are quick, mobile defensemen who can provide significant offensive punch as well. Chad Katunar has started 3 of the 4 games against Trail this season, but was not the goaltender of record in the Smokies' 4-3 home victory on October 19th despite allowing three of the four Trail goals.

In the Press Box: Trail is without forwards Kyle Horsman, Josh Roberts, Adam Fares, and defenseman Brandon Egli. Fellow blueliner Tim Coish did not play Wednesday. The Vees are minus captain Logan Johnston, whose suspension is almost complete, and rearguard Nick Amies.

Broadcast Info: Join me for the webcast or free audio this afternoon here beginning at 3:00. Fraser Rodgers has Penticton's call on EZ Rock Penticton.

Local Hockey Today: Three KIJHL games involving all four local teams on the slate today. Castlegar hosts the Penticton Lakers (2:00, Complex), while Nelson and Beaver Valley tangle in Fruitvale (6:00, Beaver Valley Arena). Grand Forks is at Spokane.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Former Smokie Walker To The WHL

Former Smoke Eaters defenseman Eric Walker has joined the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Giants, the team is reporting.

The Castlegar native played the last two seasons with Trail, putting up 22 points in 112 appearances in the BCHL, adding 114 penalty minutes as a 16 and 17 year-old. He secured a scholarship to Northern Michigan University during his BCHL career, but had not seen any game action to this point in the season.

Walker's BCHL rights were traded to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in October in a six-player trade that saw defensemen Marley Keca, Tanner Hicks and forward Taylor House land in Trail.

The full release from the Western Hockey League is available here, it states Walker will make his debut tomorrow when the Giants host the Kootenay Ice.

Best of luck Eric with your new team!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Border Bruins Make Coaching Change

After 20 games, the Brent Batten era in Grand Forks appears to have come to an end.

Batten was reportedly relieved of his duties before last night's Border Bruins home game against the Castlegar Rebels after being signed on as the team's new bench boss in July.

Assistant Matt Zamec has been named the team's new head coach and general manager, reportedly on an interim basis.

I haven't been able yet to track down anyone from the Border Bruins to speak to the decision, but when I do all the pertinent details will be available on Mountain FM and on this blog.

I can only assume this news has come as a bit of a surprise, given Batten told me in an interview earlier this week he felt as though the team was starting to come together after admitting the pace of the KIJHL may have taken some of the new Border Bruins by surprise at the start of the season. Every time I've asked Batten to lend me some time for conversation he's always been more than willing to chat, and I am sure he'll land somewhere in hockey very soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Former Smokie Tappe Back In The KIJHL

I received word from a source in Spokane last night indicating former Smokies forward Dylan Tappe could well be on his way back to the KIJHL.

That seems to indeed be the case, since as of this morning Tappe's name appears on the Spokane Braves' active roster.

The 19 year-old put up 103 points in 96 games as a 16 and 17 year-old with the Braves, and was positively deadly in a playoff series against the Castlegar Rebels in 2010, notably a Game 5 hat-trick away from home that included a short-handed breakaway goal on then-Rebels goaltender Andrew Walton.

Tappe spent last season as a BCHL rookie with Trail (though he did AP with the Westside Warriors in 2009-10), scoring 17 points (5-12). He made 11 appearances with the Prince George Spruce Kings this season, scoring once and adding an assist.

Tappe could well make his return to the Braves Saturday when they host the Rebels. If so, I'm sure he'll be a welcome addition to Mike Bay's young squad, (who sit fourth in the Neil Murdoch division with an 8-13-1-0 record), and should be able to provide some real scoring punch alongside the likes of another former Smokie Uriah Machuga, Mitch Fowler and Nick Farmer. Only three Kootenay Conference teams (Golden, Columbia Valley and Grand Forks) have scored fewer goals than the Braves' tally of 81 to this point in the season. Considering Tappe put up over a point per game during his first two years of junior hockey eligibility with Spokane, it stands to reason that his apparent return to the Braves gives fans stateside a reason to get excited, and teams in the rest of the Neil Murdoch division reason to take notice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vees 9 Smoke Eaters 3

Another tough night at the South Okanagan Events Centre as the Smoke Eaters fell 9-3 to the Penticton Vees Wednesday.

Travis St. Denis marked his return from the World Junior "A" Challenge with a 5-point night, while Mario Lucia's natural hat-trick in the second period put the game out of reach as the Vees connected for a half-dozen special teams goals.

With five regulars out of the lineup and no fewer than four Castlegar Rebels dressed, the Smoke Eaters were short-handed from the outset against a Vees team relishing in the success of their Junior "A" Challenge stars. Curtis Loik and St. Denis scored early before a Brent Baltus slapper beat Vees starter Chad Katunar from distance to narrow the gap to 2-1. Loik and Connor Reilly rounded out the first period scoring with power-play goals.

Lucia's trio of goals was augmented by tallies from Mike Reilly and Zach Urban before 16 year-old Luke Bertolucci put Trail back on the board shortly before the second intermission.

A pair of fights and Adam Wheeldon's first BCHL goal were the lone highlights of the third as a frustrated Smokies side held Penticton off the scoreboard over the final 20 minutes. Tanner Hicks and Grant Nicholson each landed several right hands in a set-to in front of the Trail goal, before Clayton Chessa handily won a scrap with Urban after the Trail forward was checked from an awkward angle into the end boards.

But despite carrying the play out of the gate, the Smokies could not solve the mystique of the SOEC, a daunting building to win in to be sure. Penticton's home record stands at 9-0-0-1, with the Vees having put nine goals on the board three times this year at home, twice against Trail.

James D'Andrea went the distance in goal for the Smokies, stopping 27 shots.

Up Next: Trail returns home to close a string of three dates with Penticton in a stretch of nine days Sunday afternoon (3:00, Cominco Arena). As of yet nobody has confirmed whether new Penticton acquisition Bryce Gervais (late of Salmon Arm) will be in the lineup (the trade announced by Vees voice Fraser Rodgers on Twitter tonight). Heading to the Silverbacks is defenceman Shane Hanna. To add to the mystery, the Vees and Silverbacks play each other Friday.

Audio, Audio and More Audio

Time for a much needed update to the audio bank, beginning with a couple of conversations with injured Smokies I had over the weekend:

For Kyle Horsman, click here, while my chat with Josh Roberts can be listened to here.

I spoke with Vipers assistant (and former Nelson coach) Chris Shaw before Saturday's game (listen here), and Trail forward Garrett McMullen after the 2-1 overtime loss (listen here).

I caught up with Grand Forks Border Bruins head coach Brent Batten last night before their game in Castlegar (click here), Arthur Andrews of the Rebels took time to chat afterwards (click here).

Nelson Leafs voice Adam Kamara talked to former Smokies defenseman J.J. Beitel following his five-point performance against Grand Forks Saturday (click here).

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Penticton Vees
When: Nov. 16, 7:00 PM
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton

The Smokies hit the road this afternoon for the second of three meetings with the Penticton Vees in a stretch of nine days. But unlike last Friday's contest at the Cominco Arena that saw the visitors score 6 times in the first period en route to a 7-2 win, Trail's opponents will have all of their firepower back in the lineup.

The short-handed Smokies will again be missing four regulars from the lineup (for a total of six players from the current roster unavailable for selection), and again will rely on affiliate call-ups to bridge the gap against the Interior Conference leaders.

Both teams are coming off impressive performances too: the Smokies were unlucky not to secure two points against Vernon on Saturday night, while Penticton's Connor Reilly put five goals past Westside netminders in a 7-4 victory Saturday.

Last Meeting: Ryan Reilly and Joey Benik each scored twice in the 7-2 Vees win on Remembrance Day, as Penticton stormed out of the gate with 6 first-period goals. The season series stands at 2-1 Vees, with the home team having won two of the three encounters.

Our Opponent: As alluded to earlier, the Vees get all their horses back in the lineup tonight following the World Junior "A" Challenge in Langley. Trail's Travis St. Denis, along with fellow Canada West stars Curtis Loik and Troy Stecher, and Americans Mario Lucia and Mike Reilly have all returned to the Peach City following a near two-week absence. Connor Reilly sits third in the BCHL with 34 points (15-19), but all four lines (and judging from Friday's game, affiliate callups) are dangerous. Former Powell River netminder Mike Garteig has been the goaltender of record for 12 of Penticton's league-best 14 wins, which includes a sterling 8-0-0-1 record at the South Okanagan Events Centre. I chatted with St. Denis yesterday about his gold-medal experience, to listen to that conversation (my apologies for the fluctuation in audio levels, my new work PC is in need of re-calibration), click here.

In the Press Box: Trail remains without forwards Kyle Horsman, Adam Fares and Josh Roberts while d-man Brandon Egli is also on the shelf. Penticton have yet to enjoy the services of blueliner Nick Amies (injury) or captain Logan Johnston (suspension). Both will be out tonight. Among Trail's callups, a trio of Castlegar Rebels: forwards Stuart Walton and Arthur Andrews, and defenseman Joren Johnson all told me yesterday they are making the trip.

Broadcast Info: Fraser Rodgers has your pay-per-view call beginning at 7:00, fans in the South Okanagan can also catch the game on EZ Rock Penticton.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vipers 2 Smoke Eaters 1 (OT)

Darren Nowick continued his mastery of the Trail Smoke Eaters with a wrist shot from the slot 15 seconds into the second overtime to help Vernon to a 2-1 extra-time win.

Nowick, who scored twice in a 6-3 Vipers victory at the Cominco Arena on October 22nd, cut across the high slot from left to right before firing a low shot past Smokies goaltender James D'Andrea after the Vipers had killed a too many men penalty in the four-on-four session.

Colton Sparrow put the visitors ahead on a breakaway late in the first period, as he streaked down the left wing away from a Smokies defenseman after a long clearance from Connor Hartley.

Trail tied the game late in the second period on the power-play, as Garrett McMullen caught Vipers goaltender Kirby Halcrow out of position, snapping a wrister home from the right circle.

Trail played perhaps their most disciplined game of the season, allowing the Vipers only one power-play while scoring once on seven opportunities. Four of Vernon's penalties (all to defensemen) were for high hits or checks from behind.

Vernon did a terrific job preventing shots from the point from reaching the net. I counted at least ten blocked shots, including a stretch of three in short succession during the overtime power-play. Trail outshot the Vipers 32-29 on the night, which counts as only the fourth time this season the Smokies have held a shots on goal advantage at the end of 60, or in this case 65 minutes and 15 seconds.

In all, despite the overtime setback, a terrific bounce-back effort by a short Smokies bench after an extremely frustrating two games against Salmon Arm and Penticton. The Vipers were missing bodies, admittedly, but were beatable tonight, and Trail was full marks for the point they received in the standings.

Did You See: Smokies forward Brent Baltus and Vernon forward Sparrow went toe to toe at the side of the Trail net in the third period. Sparrow landed a few early right hands but Baltus stood his ground and reciprocated as the bout went on. He told me after the game it was his first fight.

Family Ties: Nice to meet a few of the Smokies parents after the game tonight, as the team celebrated Parents Weekend. For those of you who visited from out of town, I hope you enjoyed your time in the West Kootenay, for the local parents, see you at the rink again soon!

Tip O' The Hat: To local hurler Chris Kissock, who dropped the puck for tonight's ceremonial faceoff. He was a member of Team Canada's gold medal-winning squad at the recent Pan Am Games in Mexico, notching the save in the semi-final. Kissock, a former Nitehawk and Smokie, has spent the last season and a half with Reading, the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Up Next
: Trail travels to Penticton to begin a home-and-home with the Vees Wednesday night. The two sides play a return engagement at Cominco Arena next Sunday afternoon.

Local Hockey Tonight: Former Smokies d-man J.J. Beitel put up five points in a 14-0 Nelson Leafs victory over Grand Forks. Linden Horswill and Brett Norman both had hat-tricks. The Castlegar Rebels were shut out 2-0 in Penticton, while Craig Martin and Chris Derochie both scored twice in Beaver Valley's 6-4 victory at Princeton. In BC college action, Selkirk were defeated 5-3 by Trinity Western University at the Complex in Castlegar. The Spartans pulled out a win thanks to three goals in the third period.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Smokies/Vipers Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between the Smoke Eaters and Vipers.

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
22 - Wheeldon, 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
24 - Schell (AP)

2 - Hicks, 5 - Birks (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
3 - McEwan, 4 - Poulsen

1 - Vogt
35 - D'Andrea

15 - Zalewski, 16 - Nowick, 12 - Knisley
22 - Sparrow, 8 - Hartley, 17 - Basara
7 - McMullen, 21 - Hagen, 27 - Soleway
10 - Hunt, 26 - Sanford (AP), 11 - Roberts (AP)

25 - Crisfield, 29 - Renz
5 - Hetnik, 4 - Mowat
28 - Lawson

30 - Halcrow
1 - Todosychuk

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Vernon Vipers
When: Nov. 12, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

After a pair of consecutive lop-sided defeats, the road doesn't get any easier for the Smoke Eaters as they host Vernon for the third (and final) time this season.

After a shaky first period against the Vees last night, Trail ramped up their game thanks to a string of power-plays that saw the team generate some offense, and more importantly confidence. The Smokies' man advantage has improved to the point that it now sits in the top half of the BCHL standings (8th) with an efficiency rating of 20.59%.

It's quite obvious, though, the Smoke Eaters need the kind of start tonight that propelled them to an early 2-0 lead on Sunday in Westside. When put behind the 8-ball, the Cominco Arena can be a difficult place to play for visiting squads with the square corners, lively end boards and odd stanchion bounces. It's up to the home team to assert themselves right out of the gate (which I thought Trail did last night until the string of three quick goals midway through the first) and make their home sheet an imposing place to play.

As always, the Viper DieHardFan blog has a comprehensive statistical breakdown ahead of tonight's game. To soothe your mathematical yearnings click here.

Last Meeting: These two clubs last met last Friday at Cominco, Vernon rode the strength of three first-period goals (and a dynamite performance I might add from the line of Michael Zalewski, John Knisley and Darren Nowick) to a 4-2 victory. The Vipers lead the season series 2-0 with all four subsequent meetings after tonight to be held at the Wesbild Centre.

Our Opponent: Despite WJAC absences (see below), the Vipers remain within striking distance of the division leaders from Penticton. Vernon, though, has gone only 5-5 in their past ten games after roaring out of the gate with 7 straight wins. Zalewski, one of eight college commits on the Vipers, leads the charge offensively with 23 points, while Castlegar's Ryan Renz is the top scoring d-man thus far with 8 assists. The Vipers D are good puck movers, and very physical (a thundering check by Renz on Adam Fares the exclamation point on last Friday's victory). Former Quesnel standout Kirby Halcrow has played the bulk of the minutes between the pipes for Vernon, both he and rookie Danny Todosychuk have recorded one victory against the Smoke Eaters this season. Vernon has been idle since a 2-1 victory at home against the Westside Warriors after splitting weekend games against Trail and Chilliwack.

In the Press Box: Four regulars are out injured for Trail, with forward Kyle Horsman being the closest to return (about 10 days away). Josh Roberts, Fares and Brandon Egli are out with various afflictions. Vernon is missing the same three players from last week due to the World Junior "A" Challenge: Castlegar's Aaron Hadley, along with defensemen Luke Juha and Brett Corkey are all unavailable, while fellow d-man Patrick McGillis has been sidelined with an injury.

Broadcast Info: Join me for the call on the pay-per-view/free audio end beginning at 7:30. Vipers voice Todd Miller has all the action from a Vernon perspective on 107.5 KISS-FM.

Local Hockey Tonight: All four local KIJHL teams are in action tonight, beginning with a matchup between Nelson and Grand Forks in the Queen City (7:00, NDCC Arena). The Leafs are returning home after collecting only one win in six consecutive away games, while the Bruins have yet to win this season. Castlegar and Beaver Valley switch places on the road, the Rebels visit the Penticton Lakers while the Nitehawks are in Princeton. BV defeated the Lakers last night while the Rebels were victorious against the Posse. The major midget Kootenay Ice face a tough test in Burnaby this weekend as they play a two-game set with the Vancouver NW Giants beginning tonight. Selkirk College will gun for a third straight victory in BC College play, they host Trinity Western University tonight (7:30, Castlegar Complex), and tomorrow afternoon.

Better Late Than Never: I mentioned this in the broadcast but neglected to acknowledge it here in the post-game write-up, but former Smokies and players with West Kootenay connections were all over the BCHL scoreboard last night. Defenseman Rajan Sidhu made his first Coquitlam Express goal a game-winner against former teammate Matt Larose and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Trail's Steve Koshey had a three-point night (1-2) in an 8-5 Surrey Eagles win against Victoria. Another former Smokie, Darnell Dyck, had a goal in his Langley Rivermen's 5-3 loss at Chilliwack, but new teammate Patrick Martens, late of the Nelson Leafs, had two assists in his debut.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Vees 7 Smoke Eaters 2

Trail's Marley Keca sends Penticton forward Ryan Gropp to the ice during Friday's third period; Gropp scored the game-winning goal in his BCHL debut. (Randy Emery photo)

Six first-period goals from the Penticton Vees were the difference in a 7-2 victory at Cominco Arena tonight.

Joey Benik and Ryan Reilly each scored twice, while Steven Fogarty, Jordan McCallum and 15 year-old Ryan Gropp added singles for Penticton.

Clayton Chessa and Connor Tiechko scored for Trail, who lost for the first time in regulation at home to the Vees since November of 2009.

After Benik and Chessa exchanged special-teams markers (Benik's a short-handed breakaway, Chessa's through a screen on a Trail power-play), Reilly, Gropp and McCallum all scored within a period of 3:10, chasing Smokies starting goaltender Reed Vogt.

A Fogarty shot from the right circle and a pretty Benik tally on a give and go with Connor Reilly rounded out a busy first period that saw a frustrated Smokies side outshot 17-5. A Ryan Reilly wrister from the slot served as the only second-period goal, while Tiechko's backhander (his first goal as a Smoke Eater) completed the scoring for the evening.

Trail did well on special teams tonight, preventing the Vees from scoring on four power-plays while converting on two of their own opportunities and maintaining possession on the others. Penticton's penalty-kill was far from aggressive tonight, though the Vees (particularly the likes of Zach Urban and Kyle Beaulieu) did a good job getting in front of Trail shots. I liked what 16 year-old AP Dane Birks brought to the table on the defensive end. He positioned himself well, played a physical game and didn't seem overly overwhelmed by the prospect of facing one of Canada's best Junior "A" teams. Tiechko showed a lot of pace up front, moreso after his goal.

Outside of a first period dominated by Penticton, the Smoke Eaters held their own against the Vees. Penticton was missing 7 players and had six affiliates in the lineup, but the likes of Gropp, McCallum, Dexter Dancs, Zach Lindsay, Cam Marks and Alex Jewell showed they can play at this level, and didn't detract from the Vees' ability to move the puck efficiently, even if the intensity in tonight's game dropped off by a country mile by the time the scoreline was out of reach. No question the Smokies are frustrated after a second successive blowout loss, and will need to regroup ahead of another challenge Saturday at home.

Lest We Forget: As part of Remembrance Day commemorations, the 44th Field Squadron and Trail chapter of the Royal Canadian Legion put on a classy show of colours prior to puck drop tonight, including a ceremonial faceoff between Benik and Trail's captain Clayton McEwan. A classy moment to be sure, and a reminder that the freedoms enjoyed today came at a great cost.

Up Next: Trail returns to Cominco Arena ice for a date with the Vernon Vipers Saturday (7:30, Cominco Arena). Vernon leads the season series 2-0 after a pair of wins in Trail by scores of 6-3 and 4-2, and have been idle since a victory over Westside Tuesday.

Local Hockey Tonight: Both local KIJHL teams in action Friday were winners away from home. Tyler Collins scored twice in a 6-3 Beaver Valley victory at Penticton, while the Castlegar Rebels scored 4 unanswered goals in a 4-1 win at Princeton. Castlegar's Aaron Hadley scored once in Team Canada West's 2-1 overtime victory over Sweden in the semi-final of the World Junior "A" Challenge in Langley. Canada West goes up against Canada East in Sunday's final.

Smokies/Vees Lineups

The line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Penticton are as follows:

Smoke Eaters:
16- Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
22 - Wheeldon, 12 - McMullen, 18 - House
24 - Schell (AP)

2 - Hicks, 5 - Birks (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
3 - McEwan, 4 - Poulsen

1 - Vogt
35 - D'Andrea

9 - Benik, 91 - Fogarty, 20 - C. Reilly
12 - Jewell (AP), 8 - R. Reilly, 19 - DePourcq
17 - Gropp (AP), 10 - Nicholson, 18 - McLellan
27 - Dancs (AP), 13 - McCallum (AP), 22 - Lindsay (AP)

4 - Buchanan, 6 - Urban
28 - Beaulieu, 7 - Marks (AP)
51 - Hanna, 11 - Bannor

1 - Garteig
33 - Katunar

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Penticton Vees
When: Nov. 11, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies return home for Parents Weekend after undoubtedly the most disappointing result of the season Wednesday night in Salmon Arm. Faced with a rash of injuries, a new departure and three call-ups, the Smokies fell 11-2 to the Silverbacks in a game that was the mirror opposite to Sunday's gritty 3-2 win in West Kelowna.

But as Trail begins a stretch of eight games that include five contests at the Cominco Arena, it's time to look forward. Tonight's opponent, the Penticton Vees, have brought out some of the best performances by the Smokies on Cominco Arena ice over the past three seasons. In fact, Trail boasts an incredible 8-1-0-2 record on home ice against the Vees since the start of the 2008-09 season, the only regulation time win for the Okanagan side coming November 29, 2009.

Let's not kid ourselves, though, this Smoke Eaters club is vastly different from the one that defeated the Vees 4-3 just under a month ago. In fact, no fewer than 10 players from Trail's opening-day roster are no longer with the team, with three more on the sidelines. What that means though, is the players that remain, as well as new faces (both from trades and call-ups) will have plenty of opportunities to make positive impressions on management as this season continues.

Last Meeting: The 4-3 Smokies victory on October 19th was a full team effort, though Vees brass will admit their side was far from their best. Rajan Sidhu's second-period tally served as the game winner. Reed Vogt collected his first BCHL win in that contest at Cominco Arena, while Connor Reilly had a pair of goals for Penticton. The difference in that game, to me, was Trail's willingness to hit, put pressure on the Vees defensemen in the offensive zone, and some stellar goaltending by Vogt. To this point, the last meeting between these two sides serves as the only home win of the season for Trail.

Our Opponent: The Vees, understandably, have slipped a bit since losing five players to the World Junior "A" Challenge (see "In The Press Box" below). Penticton's last action was a 3-2 home loss (in overtime) to the Merritt Centennials last Saturday, as the Vees have lost two of their last three games. That said, this club is still extremely dangerous up front, with the likes of Connor and Ryan Reilly, New York Rangers draftee Steven Fogarty, and fellow Minnesotan Joey Benik. The Vees swung a deal with Salmon Arm yesterday to get down to the mandated 21-player roster, shipping forwards Garrett Hendrickson and Myles McCauley to the Silverbacks for futures. Former Creston Valley Thunder Cat Chad Katunar was given the start during the last meeting between these sides, but was replaced by Mike Garteig after giving up three goals.

In The Press Box: Trail is without forwards Kyle Horsman and Josh Roberts as well as defenseman Brandon Egli. Of the three, Horsman is the closest to returning (10-14 days) while Roberts is out for about two months with an upper body injury. Penticton's list of absentees is longer, but moreso due to the World Junior "A" Challenge in the Lower Mainland. Trail's Travis St. Denis is out, as are forwards Mario Lucia, Curtis Loik and defensemen Mike Reilly and Troy Stecher. D-man Nick Amies remains out with an injury while captain Logan Johnston still has eight games to serve on his mammoth 25-game suspension.

Broadcast Info: Join me for the pay-per-view or its accompanying free audio option (both available here) beginning at 7:25. Vees broadcaster Fraser Rodgers has his usual radio call available here.

KIJHL Tonight: Absolutely no reason for Cominco not to be packed tonight, with the only two local KIJHL teams playing this evening on the road in the Okanagan-Similkameen. Fresh off a 14-2 win over Grand Forks last night, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks visit the Penticton Lakers, who are easily the league's most improved team this year. After missing the playoffs last year, Robert Dirk's club sits first in their division with a record of 11-4-0-2. The Castlegar Rebels are in Princeton tonight for a date with the Posse. Former Smokie J.J. Beitel put up an assist in his Nelson Leafs debut last night in a 3-2 overtime loss at Fernie.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beitel to Nelson

The Nelson Leafs have signed former Smoke Eaters defenseman J.J. Beitel after the Calgary product was let go by Trail earlier this week.

Beitel put up 3 points in 14 games from the back end for the Smoke Eaters, but was released following the signing of Shane Poulsen prior to Wednesday's game in Salmon Arm.

Beitel will do well in some of the smaller rinks in the KIJHL (the likes of Grand Forks and Beaver Valley come to mind). He's not afraid to hit and when given the opportunity can direct pucks to the net from the point on the power-play.

With as many as five defenseman on the sidelines in Nelson, Beitel could very well make his debut tonight when the Leafs travel to Fernie to face the Ghostriders (6:30 Pacific, Fernie Memorial Arena).

KIJHL Tonight: There's local action closer to home tonight as well, as Beaver Valley hosts Grand Forks (7:00, Beaver Valley Arena). The Nitehawks are coming off a pair of weekend losses against Creston Valley and Castlegar, while new goaltender Cole Buckley and the Border Bruins are searching for their first victory of the season. Grand Forks forward Cody Robertson has seen what was originally posted on the league website as a three-game suspension (incurred against the Nitehawks on October 27th) increased to nine games for a checking-to-the-head match penalty.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Silverbacks 11 Smoke Eaters 2

Bryce Gervais and Kody Dhaliwal combined for 7 goals as the Salmon Arm Silverbacks scored their 4th victory over the Smoke Eaters this season at the Sunwave Centre.

After Gervais opened the scoring, Trail enjoyed a flurry of pressure in the offensive zone before a series of lapses allowed the Silverbacks to tack on three more goals (two of which came from the Battlefords product) before the period was out.

James D'Andrea came on to replace goaltender Reed Vogt at the outset of the second period, but a Brock Balson howitzer quickly extended the Salmon Arm lead as the 'Backs went on to score 6 more goals over the course of the final 39:49.

Marley Keca and Craig Martin both scored third-period power-play goals from in close to put Trail on the board, for Martin his third tally in as many games as he continues to impress the Smoke Eaters brass.

Surely a frustrating result for a Trail team with a lot of new faces, three of whom (Martin, Stuart Walton and Dane Birks) dressed as APs. Adam Fares played sparingly after missing Sunday's game in Westside, and Tanner Hicks did dress despite earlier speculation that he could miss time. The intensity and physicality that was prevalent from both sides on Saturday night simply wasn't there this evening, save a spirited second-period bout that saw Trail forward Erik Cooper score a takedown on Silverbacks rookie Mak Barden.

Is this a tired hockey team? No doubt. 7 games in 10 days with a total of 3,300 kilometres logged on the Trail Blazer would exhaust even the most hardy athlete, and no question everyone associated with this team understands the urgency of getting points yesterday. Trail now plays five of their next seven games on home ice after 7 of the past 8 on the road, I don't doubt this group will be very motivated to perform well in front of family and friends this weekend (it is "Parents Weekend" after all) against Penticton and Vernon clubs currently short-handed thanks to the World Junior "A" Challenge.

Up Next: Trail hosts the Penticton Vees Friday (7:30, Cominco Arena). The season series is split 1-1 following a 4-3 Trail win on October 19th, and three of the next four for the Smokies are against the Vees.

Beitel To The Leafs?: The Nelson Daily is now reporting former Smokie J.J. Beitel is practicing with the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, who are missing no fewer than five defensemen due to injury. Beitel was released to make room on Trail's 21-man roster for new blueliner Shane Poulsen. He scored 3 points in 14 games with Trail this season.

WJAC Update: Castlegar's Aaron Hadley (Vernon Vipers) scored the only Team Canada West goal in a 6-1 loss to the United States tonight in Langley. It is, to this point, Canada West's only goal of the tournament through two games played. Canada West faces the Czech Republic Thursday.

Martens to Langley

Nelson Leafs forward Patrick Martens is moving on up.

Word came out today the 19 year-old winger has signed with the BCHL's Langley Rivermen, and is on his way to the Lower Mainland to join his new squad.

The Maple Ridge product scored 22 goals in 21 games for the Leafs, including a game-winner Sunday at Osoyoos. He was also named the KIJHL's Player of the Month for the Kootenay Conference earlier this week.

No doubt the Leafs will feel a significant loss up front, but with Junior "A" cuts still being made at a much higher rate thanks to the 21-man rosters in the BCHL, it's not too late either for Nelson to scoop up a new sniper or for someone else on the squad to step up to the plate and fill the void left by the 39-point man. In hearing Martens speak earlier this morning it sounds as though he feels there are several current Leafs who are relishing the opportunity.

Martens by the way did appear in one game for Trail earlier this season as an AP.

Best of luck in Langley Patrick!

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Silverbacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Salmon Arm Silverbacks
When: Nov. 9, 7:00 PM
Where: Sunwave Centre, Salmon Arm

For the second time in five days, the Smokies and Silverbacks go toe to toe at the Sunwave Centre. It will be a much different lineup tonight for Trail than the one that dropped a 7-4 decision in Salmon Arm on Saturday, as the dreaded injury bug has hit with force following a two-game road swing through the Okanagan/Shuswap over the weekend (more below in the "In the Press Box" segment).

What it means for Trail, is that potential Smokies of the future will get a chance to strut their stuff tonight. Two confirmed callups are Craig Martin (KIJHL Beaver Valley), who of course scored twice on the weekend, and 16 year-old defenseman Dane Birks (KIJHL Creston Valley), the son of Smokies bench boss Bill.

Reed Vogt is expected to get the start between the pipes as well after a sensational outing Sunday in Westside. The 18 year-old Lethbridge native stopped 33 shots in the 3-2 overtime win to collect his second victory of the season.

I chatted with head coach Bill Birks on Monday in advance of tonight's game, for that conversation click here. I also spoke with Sunday's OT hero, Clayton Chessa, following the game in Westside. To listen, click here.

New Face: Trail has added defenseman Shane Poulsen to the team's active roster. In 19 games this season with the KIJHL's Kamloops Storm, Poulsen scored 2 goals and totalled 16 points. The 17 year-old's 6-3 frame will add size to the back end. He's played 1 game in the BCHL this season, as an AP with Prince George.

Last Meeting: Devin Muller's four-point night paced the Silverbacks to a 7-4 win last Saturday at the Sunwave Centre. A wild first period saw Salmon Arm lead 4-3 after twenty minutes, but goals from Graham McBain and Alex Gillies early in the second period proved insurmountable, despite a 50-shot effort from Trail.

Our Opponent: The Silverbacks are hoping Saturday's win will provide some momentum to what has otherwise been a slow start. Three of Salmon Arm's four victories have come against Trail, and the Backs sit only three points up on the Smokies in the Interior Conference standings. Despite the likes of Morgan Zulinick, Bryce Gervais and Muller leading the charge offensively for Salmon Arm, bottom-six players like Mak Barden, Gillies, McBain and Kyle Oleniuk have been just as dangerous against Trail. The Silverbacks are a speedy bunch with a mobile defence, and on paper are better than their 4-9-0-4 record.

In the Press Box: Trail will be without forwards Kyle Horsman, Josh Roberts and Adam Fares as well as defencemen Brandon Egli and Tanner Hicks tonight. All are out injured. The Silverbacks will welcome back forward Jeff Kennedy after he served a one-game suspension Saturday night.

Broadcast Info: Scott Campbell will have your pay-per-view call this evening, as well as the free audio option. Both are available here.

Bits & Bites: Congrats to Nelson Leafs forward Patrick Martens. The 19 year-old was named the KIJHL Kootenay Conference Player of the Month earlier this week. I spoke with Martens Monday, to listen, click here. The Selkirk Saints picked up a pair of honours following a weekend sweep of Eastern Washington University. Goaltender Spenser Wong was named BCIHL Player of the Week, while forward Jordan Wood picked up Rookie of the Month honours. I chatted with Selkirk GM Jamie Friess earlier this week, listen here. Westside forward Shawn Hochhausen served the first of his two game suspension yesterday at Vernon. That penalty was incurred for the checking from behind major on Trail defenseman Nick Wong Sunday. Trail's Travis St. Denis and Castlegar's Aaron Hadley, along with their Team Canada West mates were shut out 2-0 by Sweden last night at the World Junior "A" Challenge in Langley. Canada West continues the tourney tonight against St. Denis' Penticton teammates, Mario Lucia and Mike Reilly, and the United States.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Smoke Eaters 3 Warriors 2 (OT)

Clayton Chessa fired a wrist shot past Westside goaltender Steve Racine late in the first overtime to lift Trail past the Warriors 3-2.

It was the 20 year-old's team-leading ninth goal of the campaign. Chessa found himself in the hugh slot with just enough time to shoot after receiving an entry pass from d-man Nick Wong.

The Smokies started brightly. Craig Martin opened things with a hot wrist shot on an early first-period power play, before Josh Roberts put the visitors up 2-0 minutes later.

Shawn Hochhausen brought Westside back to within one late in the first period after he converted a pretty 2-on-1 feed from Travis Blanleil, before a second period power-play tip-in from Richard Vanderhoek leveled the score 8 minutes into the middle frame.

Then things got interesting. Hochhausen was tossed for a check from behind major on Wong that resulted in a pileup in the corner. Trail failed to convert on the five-minute power-play, which also brought about a Westside goaltending change at its outset, with James Leonard being replaced by Racine.

The teams traded chances through the third, with the edge going to the Warriors, before Smokies goaltender Reed Vogt made the save of the year (so far) on a Dru Morrison breakaway in the final two minutes of regulation time.

Morrison found himself alone in front, and tried to beat Vogt with a backhander, but the Trail netminder stuck out the right leg to knock the puck away.

Chessa's overtime goal was his second game-winner away from home this season. He put home the winner September 30th at Merritt.

Up Next: Trail hits the road again Wednesday in Salmon Arm (7:00, Sunwave Centre) before returning home for a pair of games against Penticton and Vernon Friday and Saturday at Cominco Arena.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Smokies/Warriors Lineups

The line combinations for this afternoon's game between Trail and Westside are presented below.

Smoke Eaters:
16 - Tiechko, 21 - Cooper, 19 - Chessa
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
25 - Beitel, 12 - McMullen, 14 - Roberts
22 - Wheeldon, 18 - House, 24 - Martin (AP)

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

35 - D'Andrea
1 - Vogt

15 - Fauchoux, 25 - French, 19 - Morrison
17 - McKinnon, 16 - Hochhausen, 18 - Blanleil
9 - Vanderhoek, 10 - Dumonceaux (AP), 26 - Krause
23 - Simmonds, 24 - Skrbich, 20 - Clark

27 - Berglund, 21 - MacIntosh
28 - Monk, 5 - Betker
4 - Steinke, 22 - Cave

33 - Leonard
1 - Racine

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Westside Warriors
When: Nov. 6, 2:30 PM
Where: Royal Lepage Place, West Kelowna

The weekend concludes for the Smoke Eaters with an afternoon affair in West Kelowna. After a pair of frustrating losses against Vernon and Salmon Arm, Trail will try to turn things around this afternoon against a Warriors club that has lost three straight games.

The Smoke Eaters had no shortage of chances last night, at least according to the shot counter in Salmon Arm. For the first time this season, Trail broke the 50-shot mark, but were foiled by Silverbacks goaltender Kurt Williams. Trail's power-play converted on a pair of opportunities, but once again the team found themselves in trouble short-handed during the first period, allowing two Silverback goals on three man-disadvantages.

Last Meeting: Trail and Westside haven't faced each other since opening weekend, which resulted in a pair of Warrior victories (7-3 and 5-1) at the Cominco Arena. In the latter game, Trail got on the board first courtesy Luke Bertolucci, only to have the Warriors storm back with five unanswered goals.

Our Opponent: The Warriors find themselves in an unfamiliar position, sixth in the Interior Conference. Westside has the tools to put the puck in the net, but have had trouble finding consistency between the pipes. Number one Steve Racine looked good the only two times I've seen the Warriors, and new backup James Leonard has KIJHL pedigree with the Golden Rockets. New college commit Tyler Krause leads the Warriors in scoring (9-13-22), followed closely by Connor Dempsey (8-13-21), who was possibly Westside's most dangerous forward on those two September evenings in Trail (not withstanding Krause's hat-trick on opening night). The towers of defense loom large as well, with Izaak Berglund, Michael King and Ben Betker all checking in at 6'4" or taller.

Broadcast Info: Jon Zacks has this afternoon's pay-per-view call, beginning at 2:30 here. Catch my broadcast at that same time here.

Local Hockey Today: The Grand Forks Border Bruins have one of the more curious road trips this weekend, after playing in Kimberley last night they face the Penticton Lakers this afternoon. Just down the road, Nelson is at Osoyoos while Castlegar visits Spokane. Former Coquitlam Express netminder Billy McGladrey served as the Rebels' backup last night in a 6-5 victory over Beaver Valley. After dropping a 7-5 decision in the opener, the major midget Kootenay Ice conclude a two-game set with the Vancouver NE Chiefs this morning at Cominco Arena. Faceoff is at 9:45.