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.