When: Nov. 25, 7:00 PM
Where: Royal Lepage Place, West Kelowna
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.