Friday, September 30, 2011

Smoke Eaters 5 Centennials 3

A character win, and surely a huge confidence boost for the Smokies tonight in Merritt.

Trail rode five unanswered goals to defeat the Centennials in their home opener 5-3, and opened up this weekend's two-game mini-swing on a positive note.

The Cents jumped out in front just 15 seconds into the second period on an unassisted tally from Brandon Bruce, and Silvan Harper would add another, his second in two games against the Smokies, before the minute was up. Merritt went up 3-0 after Bill Marshall scored on a power-play.

But the Smokies fought back, and used special teams to their advantage.

Adam Boytinck and Brent Baltus would each put home power-play goals before the period was up, and Nick Wong would even the score on another power-play 53 seconds into period three.

That set the stage for Clayton Chessa, who scored 6:10 into the final frame to put Trail ahead. The 20 year-old added an empty-netter, his third goal in two games and fourth of the season, to seal the deal on the Smokies' first victory of the season.

Matt Larose collected the win between the pipes, while Lino Chimienti suffered the loss for Merritt.

In the short term, hard to argue tonight's win is a giant confidence boost for the Smoke Eaters. The veterans led by example scoring four of the five goals, while Larose's first win of the season after a tough opening weekend for the whole club is nothing to sniff at.

Looking at a longer-term view, the Smokies can put together a three-game unbeaten streak with a positive result in Penticton tomorrow. The South Okanagan Events Centre is a tough place to visit at the best of times, but Trail put themselves in the best possible position heading into tomorrow night's game with a great finish tonight.

Up Next: As mentioned, the Smokies visit Penticton tomorrow for their first taste of the Vees (7:00, South Okanagan Events Centre). I personally can't wait to hop in the car tomorrow morning to make the trip to the Okanagan, especially in light of what went down this evening in the Nicola Valley.

Out Of Town: Speaking of those Vees, former Smokie Travis St. Denis scored twice and added an assist in Penticton's 9-2 rout of Prince George tonight. It was the Vees' home opener.

KIJHL Tonight: Connor Beauchamp collected his first KIJHL shutout as Castlegar blanked Kimberley 1-0 at the Complex. Stuart Walton scored the only goal 6 minutes into the first period. Beaver Valley continued their torrid start, blasting Osoyoos 6-2 in Fruitvale. Chris Derochie and Justin Niminiken scored twice while Dallas Calvin added an assist. Nelson defeated Grand Forks 11-1.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Centennials

Trail's Clayton Chessa draws the attention of a pair of Centennials as goaltender Tyler Steel covers the puck Wednesday (Randy Emery photo)

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Merritt Centennials
When: Sept. 30, 7:30 PM
Where: Nicola Valley Arena, Merritt

The Smokies take their first regular-season trip aboard the Trail Blazer today as they conclude a home-and-home set with the Merritt Centennials. The two sides played to a 3-3 draw Wednesday at the Cominco Arena in a game that saw the Smoke Eaters pick up point number one on the season.

For me, the two sides matched up pretty well Wednesday, the only period I would have handed Trail a definite advantage was in overtime. Both Tyler Steel and Reed Vogt were forced into making some point-blank saves in what I thought was Trail's best performance of the young regular season thus far. It'll be interesting to see just how the teams adjust to playing in a different setting, and how much of a factor (if at all) nerves might be as tonight is the Centennials' home-opener.

In the Press Box: Trail will be without forwards Kyle Horsman and Adam Wheeldon for the weekend and possibly beyond. Horsman is listed as being out 4-6 weeks while Wheeldon was a late scratch Wednesday.

Broadcast Info: I am not making the trip to Merritt this evening, but Cents play-by-play man Alex Grebenyuk will have all the action live on Q101 in the Merritt area, and online here. I will have tomorrow's game in Penticton on the new Smoke Eaters Ustream channel, links will be provided once I wrap up some finishing touches and conduct a couple tests.

KIJHL Tonight: Lots of local action on the junior "B" front this evening. In Fruitvale, the high-flying Nitehawks take on the defending league champion Osoyoos Coyotes (7:30, BV Arena). I caught up with Beaver Valley head coach Terry Jones yesterday, to listen to that conversation click here. Castlegar hosts the Kimberley Dynamiters (7:30, Complex), while the Nelson Leafs begin a stretch of three home games in three nights against Grand Forks (7:00, NDCC).

But Still: The Selkirk Saints open up their 2011-12 BCIHL campaign tonight in Kelowna against Okanagan College (8:45 PM, Kelowna Memorial Arena).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Post-Merritt Audio

Trail d-man Tim Coish carries the puck while being pursued by Merritt's Regan Soquila last night (Randy Emery photo)

Some tape preceding and following last night's 3-3 tie with the Merritt Centennials.

New Smokies d-man Tim Coish and I had a chat post-game, for that interview click here.

I also talked to forward Clayton Chessa, who opened the scoring in the first period. To hear that conversation, click here.

I caught up with Cents assistant coach Joe Martin before the game, to listen click here.

Bits & Bites: The BCIHL college hockey season kicks off tomorrow with Selkirk College visiting Okanagan College in Kelowna. The Coyotes boast some new faces that have a West Kootenay connection, including two Trail products, Layne Stopanski and Kris Davis. They are both former Nitehawks of course. Former Castlegar Rebel Corey Bulach also features for Okanagan, while defenseman Branden Redschlag, whose rights were acquired by Nelson over the summer, is also listed on OC's roster.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Smoke Eaters 3 Centennials 3

Trail's Josh Roberts checks Merritt's Steve Wall during Wednesday's game at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Chad Brears tied the game midway through the third period, and Merritt goaltender Tyler Steel withstood heavy pressure in overtime as the Smokies and Centennials skated to a 3-3 draw at Cominco Arena.

Brears converted a centring feed from Jakob Reichert over the shoulder of Smokies goaltender Reed Vogt (who by the way was making his BCHL debut) to complete Merritt's second comeback of the night.

Trail jumped out in front 2-0 thanks to similarly placed goals from Clayton Chessa and Chris Romanchuk (the latter's thanks to a pretty cross-ice feed from Erik Cooper), before Merritt's Brent Fletcher waffled a backhander past Vogt to cut the lead in half 12 minutes into the opening frame.

The Cents could well have evened things up minutes later, but a puck that wound up bouncing off the end glass, the top of the net, forward Sean Maktaak and behind Vogt was waved off immediately.

Merritt would tie the game in the second period, though, thanks to an individual effort from Silvan Harper to work out of the corner and tuck in a low shot.

Trail would regain their advantage later in the frame. A J.J. Beitel slapper was tipped home by Adam Boytinck, giving the home side a 3-2 advantage heading into the third, and setting the stage for Brears' winner.

Trail held the edge in overtime, though, particularly in 3-on-3, outshooting the Cents 8-4 in the second half of extra time and spending much of the period in Merritt's zone. Steel stood tall though to prevent Trail from getting an extra point.

Did You See: Only hours after arriving in Trail this afternoon, newcomer Tim Coish played plenty of minutes on Trail's back end, including during the 3-on-3 session. I chatted with him after the game, that and more audio will be up soon.

Up Next:
The Smokies and Centennials renew hostilities Friday night (7:30 PM, Nicola Valley Arena). A programming note: I won't be making the trip to Merritt Friday, but will meet the team for the game in Penticton Saturday.

Video Update: Thanks to Darryl the Smokies tech guru, I have figured out how to get the game tape onto a flash drive after every home game. Watch for highlights from opening weekend and tonight fairly soon.

Local Look-See: Fresh off acquiring a scholly to Union College, former Smokie Matt Wilkins scored again tonight for AJHL Brooks in a 5-0 victory over the Calgary Mustangs. Former Nitehawk Colton Semenok chipped in with two assists.

Smokies/Centennials Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Merritt.

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 18 - Bissett, 19 - Chessa
20 - Schell (AP), 21 - Cooper, 4 - Romanchuk
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
12 - Heinrich (AP), 10 - Proulx, 14 - Roberts

5 - Wong, 6 - Coish
25 - Beitel, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 8 - Egli

1 - Vogt
35 - Larose

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

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

35 - Steel
31 - Chimienti

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: Sept. 28, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies get another crack at their first victory of the season this evening in the first half of a home-and-home set with Merritt.

Trail is coming off a tough opening weekend, losing 7-3 and 5-1 at home to the Westside Warriors. But there were positive signs, no doubt. The Smokies started brilliantly Saturday, holding a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes, but a four-goal second period from the Warriors proved to be the difference.

Trail's youngsters (don't forget, this club features 12 BCHL rookies) will continue to learn on the fly as tonight's game also marks the start of three games in four nights, in three different cities (culminating with a tough test Saturday night in Penticton).

Chatting with head coach Bill Birks this morning (to listen, click here), it appears as though considerable focus over the past few days has been paid to mental toughness and discipline. But despite the next two games both having Trail matched up against a Merritt squad he both played and was an assistant coach with, the skipper says it's just another night at the rink tonight, but one in which the Smokies desperately need two points.

Our Opponent: Merritt comes to town having split their first two pre-season games in Prince George over the weekend. The Cents return a veteran-laden squad this season including the likes of overage forwards Evan Stack and Chad Brears as well as d-men Brandon Pfeil and Bill Marshall. The Cents are set in goal, with overager Lino Chimienti back for another go-round with the club, though it was 18 year-old Tyler Steel who notched the victory for Merritt Saturday night at the PG Coliseum. Up front, 18 year-old Regan Soquila is off to a hot start; he and Stack are tied for the team lead with 3 points. New assistant coach Joe Martin is formerly the bench boss of Creston Valley in the KIJHL. Forward Sean Maktaak is also a former T-Cat.

In the Press Box: Trail will be without forward Kyle Horsman for four to six weeks after he was injured Saturday.

Broadcast Info: All the audio and/or video you need will be available on the BCHL scoreboard page. Our broadcast on BCHL Live starts at 7:25.

Tip o' the Hat: To former Smokie Matt Wilkins, he's committed to Union College for next season. Wilkins skated for Trail during the 2009-10 season, he is now with Brooks in the AJHL.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Weekend Audio

Trail captain Logan Proulx (10) upends a Warrior in front of goaltender Matt Larose Saturday at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Some audio reaction for your enjoyment as the Smokies prepare for a home-and-home with Merritt beginning tomorrow night (7:30, Cominco Arena).

I talked to Trail assistant coach Bob Dever before Saturday's game against Westside, his thoughts on Friday's game are here.

Trail captain Logan Proulx shared his take on the weekend after Saturday's game here.

I also spoke with Castlegar Rebels head coach Steve Junker after Sunday's 4-1 win over the Kelowna Chiefs, hear his thoughts on the Rebels' progress here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Warriors 5 Smoke Eaters 1

Westside's Connor Dempsey (far right) fires a shot toward Smokies goaltender Matt Larose during the second period of Saturday's game at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Connor Dempsey scored twice as the Warriors again used the second period to their advantage in a 5-1 victory over Trail tonight at Cominco Arena.

The Massachusetts product scored his first goal as a Warrior 5:40 into the second period to break a 1-1 tie, then added a second, coolly-placed power-play marker minutes later to increase the Warriors lead.

Trail opened the scoring tonight courtesy of 16 year-old local product Luke Bertolucci, who lifted a rebound over a prone Steve Racine four minutes into the game on a power-play.

The Smokies enjoyed the one-goal advantage until former Nelson Leaf Brayden Sherbinin equalized 3:20 into the middle frame, setting the stage for Dempsey.

Travis Blanleil put home a backhand while on a breakaway later in the second period; Westside rounded out their offensive tally midway through the third on a well-placed Tyson Witala wrister.

Once again, it was the Warriors' powerplay execution that played a pivotal role in tonight's final score. Westside went 2/3 with the man-advantage tonight after going 3/5 Friday. The Smokies I thought played a terrific first 20 minutes, outshooting their opponents 11-9 and carrying the play at times, but the two Dempsey tallies deflated everyone in the building save the very visible Warriors supporters who made the trip to the West Kootenay for the weekend.

My Three Stars: Dempsey is an obvious selection, his goals proved not only to be game-winners, but momentum-changers. He was dangerous all night. I gave the second star to Warriors goaltender Racine, who stopped 27 of 28 Smokies shots and had no chance on the one that slipped by him. Richard Vanderhoek didn't find the scoresheet, but was dangerous all night and hit the post in the second period.

Did You See: Warriors forward Tyler Krause blocked a Brandon Egli point shot with his hand during a third-period Trail power-play. The overager, who scored a hat-trick Friday, gutted it out and finished the game.

Up Next: The Smokies wrap up their three-game homestand Wednesday night against the Merritt Centennials (7:30, Cominco Arena). It's also the start of a home-and-home series against Merritt that will see Trail visit the Nicola Valley Arena Friday.

KIJHL Tonight: The Kelowna Chiefs snuck past Beaver Valley 6-5 tonight, scoring the winner with 11 seconds left on the clock to improve to 2-0 on their swing through the Neil Murdoch division. I'll have the call for the Chiefs and Castlegar Rebels tomorrow afternoon on KIJHL pay-per-view. Nelson scored three times in the first period en route to a 4-2 doubling of the Spokane Braves.

But Still: The major midget Kootenay Ice opened up their 2011-12 campaign with a 3-1 loss in Nanaimo against the North Island Silvertips. The two sides will go at it again tomorrow morning at 9:00 at the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Selkirk College dropped a pre-season tilt against Eastern Washington by a 10-3 score this afternoon in Castlegar.

Smokies/Warriors Lineups

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

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 10 - Proulx, 19 - Chessa
22 - Wheeldon, 21 - Cooper, 4 - Romanchuk
9 - Baltus, 11 - Bertolucci, 23 - Long
17 - Horsman, 18 - Bissett, 14 - Roberts

5 - Wong, 8 - Egli
7 - DelBianco, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 25 - Beitel

1- Vogt
35 - Larose

Warriors:
26 - Krause, 12 - Witala, 11 - Lloyd
18 - Blanleil, 24 - Skrbich, 20 - Clark
17 - McKinnon, 16 - Hochhausen, 23 - Simmonds
9 - Vanderhoek, 14 -Dempsey, 19 - Morrison

5 - Betker, 4 - Steinke
7 - Sherbinin, 21 - MacIntosh
3 - King, 27 - Berglund

1 - Racine
33 - Lane

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Brandon Egli and the Smokies will be gunning for more moments like this goal celebration tonight against Westside (Randy Emery photo)

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Westside Warriors
When: Sept. 24, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Trail Smoke Eaters will be looking for redemption in the back end of this weekend's double-dip against the Westside Warriors. The Warriors skated away with a 7-3 victory last night thanks to a hat-trick from Tyler Krause, while 17 year-old rookie Seb Lloyd added three points including a second-period deflection that stood up as the eventual game-winner.

With the first-game jitters now out of the Smokies' collective system, I'd expect a much closer, more complete game this evening. Trail did well last night to attempt a third-period comeback after trailing 5-1 through 40 minutes, but a pair of mid-period penalties and an ensuing Krause power-play goal swung the momentum back in the visitors' favour. As coach Bill Birks told me earlier this week, much of this year's team is still learning about life at the BCHL level, but as anyone who was at the Cominco Arena last night (or watching online) can attest, the talent is clearly there.

Our Opponent: With Krause having scored three goals last night, he's an identifiable target for defensive pressure to be sure. The Warriors' Jon Zacks spoke with the hat-trick hero as part of his post-game package last night. The line of Richard Vanderhoek, Connor Dempsey and Dru Morrison showed plenty of pace (highlighted by Morrison's second-period goal on a partial break), but Vanderhoek, the 71-point man with Surrey last year, was held off the scoresheet despite having plenty of puck possession. Izaak Berglund and Peter MacIntosh logged a ton of minutes on the back end last night (as did Colorado College-bound Michael King); all three are more than willing to jump into the play as evidenced by a late third-period chance for Westside when the captain Berglund was the lead forechecker. Rookies Lloyd, Tyson Witala and Brennan Clark all impressed last night too.

Broadcast Info: Your audio/video links will be available here tonight from both a Trail and a Westside perspective. Our pre-game coverage will usually start 5 minutes prior to the opening faceoff, though that could well be expanded as the season goes on and the broadcast becomes more refined.

Out of Town: All 16 BCHL teams are in action tonight, notably in Chilliwack where the Chiefs make their return to the league against Penticton.

KIJHL Tonight:
A pair of Neil Murdoch division games to keep tabs on this evening. The Spokane Braves and Nelson Leafs open up a home-and-home set tonight in Washington state (7:30, Eagles Ice-A-Rena), while Beaver Valley return home to face Kelowna (7:30, BV Arena).

But Still:
The Kootenay Ice major midgets get going for real this weekend. The Ice are in Nanaimo to face the North Island Silvertips this afternoon (5:15, Nanaimo Ice Centre), and again tomorrow morning at 9:00. Closer to home, the Selkirk College Saints take on BCIHL newcomers Eastern Washington this afternoon in a pre-season affair (4:15, Castlegar Complex).

Local Look-See:
Former Smokie Travis St. Denis opened his Penticton Vees account quickly last night. The 19 year-old Trail product scored once in a 5-2 Vees win at Coquitlam. Castlegar's Jesse Knowler (Prince Albert) and Nelson's Dryden Hunt (Regina) both made their WHL debuts last night, though neither found the scoresheet.

You-Tubular: I've received a couple of phone calls, emails etc. from parents and fans alike wondering if video highlights will be a fixture of my Smokies coverage this season. Short answer: yes. I am well aware of the effort put in by several other BCHL broadcasters in this regard (Eddie Gregory in Coquitlam comes to mind instantly) and that longtime Smokies play-by-play man Shawn Mullin put together fantastic highlight packages during his time here. I can't promise anything will be cobbled together with lightning speed, but when highlights, features etc. are available, they will be posted here first.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Warriors 7 Smoke Eaters 3

Trail's Clayton Chessa (left) and Westside's Izaak Berglund exchange blows in the first period Friday night at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Tyler Krause
scored three times, twice on the power-play, as the Westside Warriors defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters 7-3 in front of 981 fans at the Cominco Arena tonight.

Krause opened the scoring early in the second period on a quick centring pass from Seb Lloyd, before Trail's Brandon Egli replied on the power-play just over two minutes later on a sharp wrister from the point.

Westside scored four more times in the middle frame, including 3 goals in 3:56 from Dru Morrison, Brennan Clark and Lloyd before Reid Simmonds deflected a shot home with seven seconds remaining in the middle frame.

But the Smokies battled back. Clayton Chessa snuck a shot just over the Westside goal-line and Kyle Horsman added his first BCHL goal moments later before a pair of penalties swung the momentum in the Warriors' favour.

With Logan Proulx already in the box for boarding, rookie Adam Wheeldon was ejected for a check from behind on Warriors defenseman Brayden Sherbinin. Krause converted a pretty pass from Michael King just as Proulx stepped out of the penalty box before completing his hat-trick on a turnaround slapper in the final minutes of the third.

Despite the scoreline, there were positives from Trail's game tonight. The Smokies created several odd-man rushes (including a Josh Roberts breakaway that struck iron), and several young forwards including Luke Bertolucci had strong games. You could tell right from the start that nerves were in play tonight both on the ice and in the booth, but the Smokies settled down and benefitted I thought from a scoreless opening twenty minutes before some untimely goals set them back. You can be sure Trail will be ready for the second half of the weekend double-header.

My Three Stars: Krause was an obvious choice, given the hat-trick. He and my second star Lloyd were dangerous all night and capitalized when the Warriors needed it most. Captain Izaak Berglund logged a ton of minutes (save when he was serving a fighting major after a set-to with Chessa) and anchored a steady, sizeable Westside back end.

Did You See: The Warriors played most of the third period without head coach Rylan Ferster. He was ejected at the 4:47 mark by referee Grant Tyson after Krause was called for a slash.

Up Next: The Smokies and Warriors renew hostilities tomorrow night at the Cominco Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:30.

KIJHL Tonight: Phil Bamber scored the OT winner for Kelowna as they edged Nelson 4-3. Former Leaf Braeden Hikichi added a pair for the Chiefs. Anthony DeLong scored 5 points (1-4) in a 9-2 Rebels win at Grand Forks, while Ryan Edwards had a goal and two assists as Beaver Valley spoiled Spokane's home opener with a 7-2 win.

Smokies/Warriors Lineups

Tonight's lineups for the BCHL opener between Trail and Westside:

Smoke Eaters:
24 - Boytinck, 10 - Proulx, 23 - Long
22 - Wheeldon, 21 - Cooper, 14 - Roberts
20 - Calvin, 18 - Bissett, 9 - Baltus
17 - Horsman, 11 - Bertolucci, 19 - Chessa

5 - Wong, 8 - Egli
7 - DelBianco, 16 - Sidhu
3 - McEwan, 25 - Beitel

1 - Vogt
35 - Larose

Warriors:
26 - Krause, 12 - Witala, 11 - Lloyd
18 - Blanleil, 24 - Skrbich, 20 - Clark
17 - McKinnon, 16 - Hochhausen, 23 - Simmonds (AP)
9 - Vanderhoek, 14 - Dempsey, 19 - Morrison

5 - Betker, 4 - Steinke
7 - Sherbinin, 21 - MacIntosh
3 - King, 27 - Berglund

1 - Racine
33 - Lane

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Westside Warriors
When: Sept. 23, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It's finally here.

29 days after the start of training camp, the BCHL regular season begins tonight on seven fronts including Trail's Cominco Arena, where the Smokies open up a two-game home set against the team that has ended their season each of the past three years.

Trail's roster has a much different look than the one that fell in seven games to the Westside Warriors last season, though. Gone are the likes of Sam Mellor, Scott Jacklin, Cullen Bradshaw, Paul Mailey, Jake Baker, Eric Walker (college), Kiefer Smiley (graduated), and Travis St. Denis (Penticton). In their place, a young, energetic group that is learning the ropes of life in the BCHL and a set of veterans who are plying their trade as leaders and mentors.

Four local players will don Smokies colours this season; returnee Logan Proulx (Trail) is set to embark on his overage season, while newcomers Dallas Calvin (Trail) and Adam Wheeldon (Nelson) both spent last season in the KIJHL with Beaver Valley and Nelson respectively. 16 year-old forward Luke Bertolucci (Trail) joins his hometown side from the MML Kootenay Ice.

The strength of this Smokies squad is in its back end. Three 20 year-old defensemen (Nick Wong, Rajan Sidhu and Clayton McEwan) are set to lead by example and help teach the likes of Daniel DelBianco and Brandon Egli, both of whom spent last season playing in BC's major midget program.

19 year-old Matt Larose returns as the club's starting goaltender after serving as Smiley's backup a season ago, while Alberta import Reed Vogt will stand in as the backup this season.

I chatted with Smokies head coach Bill Birks yesterday about the excitement of opening night and a transaction made by the club earlier this week (see below), listen to that interview here.

Our Opponent: Westside, as usual, is expected to be a force this season. With five committed players in the fold already (including newly-named captain Izaak Berglund), the Warriors are clearly a talented bunch. Overager Richard Vanderhoek, who was acquired from Surrey in the off-season, will be a target up front. He scored 71 points with the Eagles last season. Fellow forwards Tyler Krause, Max French and Dru Morrison will also be expected to shoulder the brunt of the offensive load. The back end is big, with twin towers Michael King and rookie Ben Betker topping out at 6'4" each. 20 year-old Steven Racine and 19 year-old Brandon Lane are both newcomers between the pipes, the former coming from New York, the latter from Ontario. My friend and colleague Jon Zacks has a good look at the Warriors squad on his blog here.

Broadcast Info: The Smokies will cover tonight's pay-per-view angle, though the audio can also be accessed for free. For those with a Westside persuasion, Jonny will have the call from a Warriors perspective as well. All links can be accessed here.

Trade Winds: As alluded to earlier, the Smokies have made a deal with the Victoria Grizzlies, sending forward Chase Kaiser to the Island for future considerations. Kaiser was part of the four-player St. Denis trade with Cowichan Valley, but did not report to Smokies training camp.

KIJHL Tonight: All four local squads are on KIJHL ice tonight too. The Nelson Leafs take on former Smokie Josh McEwan and the Kelowna Chiefs at the NDCC (a 7:00 faceoff). Castlegar visits Grand Forks (7:30, GF Arena). I spoke with Rebels assistant Jesse Dorrans earlier this week about his role with the club and a look ahead to returning to the Boundary for the first time (he spent the past two seasons as Border Bruins head coach/GM), listen here. The high-flying Beaver Valley Nitehawks visit Spokane in the home opener for the Braves tonight (8:00, Eagles Ice-A-Rena).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Smokies Take Part in Terry Fox Run

Your 2011-12 Smoke Eaters pose with local youth before the Terry Fox Run in Trail Sunday, thanks to the Trail Times for the photo

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Smokies Tally $11k for Kolby

Great news from Trail Smoke Eaters president Tom Gawryletz, who says in total, $11,285 was raised Saturday for Kolby's Trust Fund, set up at the TD Canada Trust branch in Trail for Kolby Zanier, the daughter of Smokies assistant coach Barry Zanier.

I chatted with Tom yesterday about the news, for his take as well as a look at how the Smokies will keep helping with the cause, click here.

Thank you Trail! Now let's fill the rink for the opening weekend twin-bill against Westside, which starts Friday night at 7:30.

2011-12 Smokies Broadcast Schedule

I'm pleased to announce the 45-game broadcast schedule for this season after finalizing a few dates. As has been discussed, the Smokies will not be broadcast on Mountain FM this season, but I'd be honoured to have you join me for all 30 home games and 15 away games on the BCHL website this season, either via pay-per-view or the league's free audio-only alternative. The remaining 15 games will be broadcast by one of my partners from around the league.

Your 2011-2012 Smokies broadcast schedule (all times Pacific):

Fri. 09/23 vs. Westside Warriors, 7:30 PM
Sat. 09/24 vs. Westside Warriors, 7:30 PM
Wed. 09/28 vs. Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Sat. 10/01 at Penticton Vees, 7:00 PM
Fri. 10/07 vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:30 PM
Sat. 10/08 at Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:00 PM
Wed. 10/19 vs. Penticton Vees, 7:30 PM
Sat. 10/22 vs. Vernon Vipers, 7:30 PM
Fri. 10/28 at Chilliwack Chiefs, 7:00 PM
Sat. 10/29 at Powell River Kings, 7:30 PM
Sun. 10/30 at Cowichan Valley Capitals, 3:30 PM
Fri. 11/04 vs. Vernon Vipers, 7:30 PM
Sat. 11/05 at Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:00 PM
Sun. 11/06 at Westside Warriors, 2:30 PM
Fri. 11/11 vs. Penticton Vees, 7:30 PM
Sat. 11/12 vs. Vernon Vipers, 7:30 PM
Sun. 11/20 vs. Penticton Vees, 3:00 PM
Sat. 11/26 vs. Westside Warriors, 7:30 PM
Wed. 11/30 vs. Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Fri. 12/02 vs. Chilliwack Chiefs, 7:30 PM
Sat. 12/03 vs. Chilliwack Chiefs, 7:30 PM
Sat. 12/10 at Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Sat. 12/17 vs. Nanaimo Clippers, 7:30 PM
Wed. 01/04 vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:30 PM
Sat. 01/07 vs. Victoria Grizzlies, 7:30 PM
Fri. 01/13 vs. Coquitlam Express, 7:30 PM
Sun. 01/15 vs. Chilliwack Chiefs, 3:00 PM
Wed. 01/18 vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:30 PM
Sat. 01/21 at Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:00 PM
Fri. 01/27 at Surrey Eagles, 7:00 PM
Sat. 01/28 at Chilliwack Chiefs, 7:00 PM
Sun. 01/29 at Langley Rivermen, 2:00 PM
Thu. 02/02 vs. Alberni Valley Bulldogs, 7:30 PM
Sat. 02/04 vs. Chilliwack Chiefs, 7:30 PM
Fri. 02/10 vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 7:30 PM
Sat. 02/11 vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 7:30 PM
Thu. 02/16 vs. Westside Warriors, 7:30 PM
Fri. 02/17 vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks, 7:30 PM
Sat. 02/25 at Westside Warriors, 7:00 PM
Wed. 02/29 vs. Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Fri. 03/02 vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 7:30 PM
Sat. 03/03 vs. Prince George Spruce Kings, 7:30 PM
Fri. 03/09 vs. Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Sat. 03/10 at Merritt Centennials, 7:30 PM
Sun. 03/11 at Chilliwack Chiefs, 5:00 PM

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Audio Quick Hits

Smokies forward Brent Baltus (9) fires a shot toward the Thompson Rivers net Saturday (Randy Emery photo)

Plenty of Smokies and KIJHL audio for your enjoyment today.

For Trail forward Brent Baltus' thoughts on Saturday's 9-3 win over Thompson Rivers, click here.

A quick chat with Smokies d-man Nick Wong is available here.

Former Trail defenseman Curtis Tonello talks about his return to Cominco Arena here.

I also spoke with a pair of Nelson Leafs after their 3-0 victory Friday night at Castlegar.

For goaltender Andrew Walton, click here.

Forward Patrick Martens scored twice in the victory, hear his take on Game One here.

Kolby's Fund: The official fundraising tally from Saturday night's game should be available later today or tomorrow. Stay tuned to the blog and the Smokies website for more details.

Bits & Bites: Smokies season-ticket holders can pick up their packages starting today at Re/Max in Trail. The home opener is Friday against Westside (7:30, Cominco Arena). Congrats to 19 year-old Erik Alden on being named Castlegar Rebels captain. He'll do well in his new role I'm sure. How about the weekend numbers put up by 16 year-old Craig Martin for the Nitehawks? 2 games played, 2 goals, 9 points (yes it's early days yet but Beaver Valley players are 1-2-3 in the KIJHL in scoring after opening weekend).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Smoke Eaters 9 WolfPack 3

Former Smokie Curtis Tonello (right) presents Trail's Logan Proulx with funds donated by the TRU WolfPack before last night's game at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Trail scored early and often tonight in a 9-3 exhibition win over the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack at Cominco Arena Saturday. Newcomer Brent Baltus scored twice, as did local products Dallas Calvin and Logan Proulx, while fellow Trail native Luke Bertolucci, Rajan Sidhu and Brandon Long added singles.

Travis Herlein, Andrew Fisher and Cody Lockwood all scored third-period goals for the Kamloops visitors, who were outshot 38-22 on the night.

Reed Vogt and Mike Vlanich split goaltending duties for Trail, though the latter was credited with all three goals against. Shane Mainprize absorbed the loss for the WolfPack.

Four of Trail's goals came in the first period, including Calvin's first marker just 1:19 in. Trail saved the rest of their offense for the final frame, and also converted on 2 of 6 power-plays while the WolfPack went 1/4.

To me, the offensive outburst represented a marked departure from what we saw during the Labour Day pre-season tournament, though the fact the Smokies are down to their mandated 19 skaters is also a bonus as players are more comfortable with one another (I posed that question to defenseman Nick Wong after the game, that and other audio will be posted once I touch it up in the office tomorrow or Monday). Young players like Baltus and Adam Wheeldon are settling in to life in junior "A," and it's easy to tell the club has more structure after a busy end of August/beginning of September. Admittedly, I chatted with former Smokie Curtis Tonello after the game; he told me tonight's matchup was only the eighth ice-time for the WolfPack thus far this year.

Do It For Kolby: I'm told the unofficial attendance was north of 1,000 tonight, which is a great showing for an exhibition game. The rink was rocking, and the funds raised for Kolby Zanier will be in the thousands (I should have an official count by early next week). Big thanks to the WolfPack for making the trip, and in a very classy move Tonello presented an envelope to the Smokies at centre ice before the game full of cash the players had scrounged together on the bus trip down from Kamloops. Smokies public address announcer Tiger Milburn and his off-ice officiating crew won tonight's 50/50 and immediately decided to add it to the fund. The Smokies family is extremely grateful for all of the support, not just from fans who attended tonight's game but I understand donations have been submitted both at the TD Canada Trust branch in Trail and at Re/Max. Great to see!

Up Next: The regular season. Westside comes to Trail for a two-pack of games beginning Friday night at 7:30. I speak for many when I say I can't wait for there to be points on the line.

Out Of Town: Aaron Brewer scored the winner in the third period as Castlegar doubled up the Nelson Leafs 6-3. 4 of the Rebels' 6 goals came on the power-play. Ryan Edwards had a hat-trick for Beaver Valley in their 6-2 home victory over Grand Forks.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. WolfPack

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Thompson Rivers WolfPack
When: Sept. 17, 7:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

Hockey is secondary tonight, plain and simple. The Smokies and WolfPack are playing tonight's exhibition game to raise funds for the family of assistant coach Barry Zanier, whose daughter Kolby has been in Edmonton receiving medical treatment for several months.

Everyone involved with the Smoke Eaters organziation would love nothing more than to see a jam-packed Cominco Arena tonight (especially the players, if Twitter is any indication), and the $6 ticket price will go a long way to (hopefully) raising thousands of dollars for a member of the Smokies family in need.

As for the game itself, the Smokies will have one last pre-season crack at things before the regular season gets going next Friday night against the Westside Warriors. A 4-2 loss in Vernon saw the club start shakily but hold serve against the three-time defending national champions from minutes 10 through 60 last night at Wesbild Centre.

It's also the last chance for those bubble players (of which there aren't many) to make a final impression on the coaching staff before Trail's final roster is announced early next week.

Our Opponent: Thompson Rivers will provide a unique challenge, being a group made up of mainly non junior-aged players. They are a consistent threat in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League, but opened up their BCIHL pre-season last night with a 2-2 draw at home to Okanagan College. Former Prince George Cougar Tyler Halliday featured on TRU's squad last year, as did former Castlegar Rebel defenseman Cody Rose, but this year's recruiting class includes someone even more familiar to the Cominco faithful, d-man Curtis Tonello, who played out his junior eligibility with the Smokies last season.

Broadcast Info: no audio/video tonight, but my Twitter account will have regular updates. We begin our 45-game Smokies web broadcast schedule with the regular-season home opener next Friday.

Out Of Town: Two of our four local KIJHL teams hit the road looking to bounce back from shutouts against the teams they were shut out by. Castlegar visits Nelson (7:00, NDCC) after dropping a 3-0 decision at home last night thanks to two goals from Smokies tryout Patrick Martens. Beaver Valley plays their first regular season home game tonight as well against a Grand Forks club they defeated 13-0 in the Boundary last night.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vipers 4 Smoke Eaters 2

The Smokies fell behind early, and the comeback was too little, too late as Vernon defeated Trail 4-2 in BCHL exhibition play tonight. The Vipers got goals from four different scorers: Jedd Soleway, Adam Tambellini, Marcus Basara and Mike Zalewski all beat Smokies goaltender Matt Larose, who made 23 saves in a losing effort.

Brent Baltus and Logan Proulx replied for Trail.

I wasn't at the game tonight, but the author of the Vipers Diehard Fan Blog was, he recounts the action terrificly here.

Up Next: The Smokies return home tomorrow to face Thompson Rivers University (7:00, Cominco Arena) in a fundraiser for Kolby Zanier. I encourage all of you to come out and help fill the barn for a very good cause.

Out of Town: The KIJHL opened up tonight; I took in the Nelson Leafs' 3-0 victory over Castlegar at the Complex. Patrick Martens scored twice for the Leafs and Andrew Walton collected the shutout in his Nelson debut against his former squad. Beaver Valley's Chris Derochie had three goals and three assists in the Nitehawks' 13-0 shutout in Grand Forks.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Vernon Vipers
When: Sept. 16, 7:00 PM
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon

The Smokies begin the final weekend of the exhibition campaign tonight in Vernon against the three-time defending BCHL champion Vipers. Trail should be feeling pretty confident after a 5-2 win last Friday in Salmon Arm that saw newcomer Matt Bissett score twice and the club limit the Silverbacks' offense after falling behind early on the road.

Head coach Bill Birks says his club is down to 22 players (13F, 6D, 3G) for the weekend (to hear a full interview conducted on Wednesday, click here), with the team's final roster to come Monday or Tuesday of next week. Four faces, J.J. Beitel, Luke Bertolucci, Kyle Horsman and Brandon Long have already been added to the club's active roster, with more to come I'm sure over the next few days.

Our Opponent: Although no regular-season points are on the line, the Vipers will provide another tough test for the Smokies tonight. Two local products, Ryan Renz and Aaron Hadley attended Team Canada West's evaluation camp for the upcoming World Junior 'A' Challenge in Canmore, AB this week (along with, of course, Smokies goaltender Matt Larose). Offseason acquisition Jarryd Ten Vaanholt, who comes to Vernon from Salmon Arm via Kindersley in the SJHL, should be a leader up front for Vernon after putting up 50 points with the Silverbacks a year ago.

Broadcast Info: As far as I know, the Vipers will not be putting this one to air. Our Smoke Eaters internet broadcast coverage begins with the regular season home-opener next Friday against Westside.

KIJHL Regular Season Begins Tonight

The 2011-12 KIJHL regular season begins on two local fronts this evening, as the Castlegar Rebels host the Nelson Leafs and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks visit the Grand Forks Border Bruins.

NELSON @ CASTLEGAR (7:30, Complex)

The Rebels will hoist their 2011 Kootenay Conference championship banner to the rafters prior to tonight's puck drop. Fans in Castlegar will see a much different-looking squad tonight than the one that came within two games of a KIJHL championship six months ago.

Scott Morisseau, Anthony Delong and Tyler Robinson will anchor the forward lines as overagers (though Morisseau will miss the first few weeks of the season), while 19 year-old returnee Erik Alden is poised to have a big year on the back end.

Between the pipes, Alex Ross has been back practicing with the club for the past week, while Nanton, Alberta's Connor Beauchamp is set to embark on his first season in the KIJHL as an 18 year-old.

Fellow rookies Braydon Horcoff and Bryce Eviston are two skaters that stuck out to me during the exhibition season as well for Castlegar, watch for them to lead the youth movement up front and on the back end respectively.

I chatted with Rebels bench boss Steve Junker earlier this week, to listen, click here.

Nelson fans may already have noticed a similar amount of turnover to their roster. The Leafs' big offseason acquisition, goaltender Andrew Walton, should make his debut tonight in his home town. The twenty year-old spent last year with the Fernie Ghostriders.

A pair of Californians, Taylor Carriveau and Nik Newman will be newcomers to watch on D and up front respectively. Carriveau is a smooth skater while Newman's size is sure to strike fear in the opposition.

The Leafs' list of returnees includes the likes of snipers Colton Schell and Patrick Martens as well as overage defenseman Tyler Parfeniuk. Second-year local forward Dallon Stoddart could be in line for a breakout season as well.

BEAVER VALLEY @ GRAND FORKS (7:30, Grand Forks Arena)

The rejuvenated Border Bruins open up a new campaign with a new head coach, new players and new optimism tonight. Brent Batten has made many changes from a roster that won only 8 games last season, including two new goaltenders in 18 year-olds Ryan Bryant and Jeremy Mandoli. In fact the only three returnees from last season are defensemen Brendan Jackson and Garett McCracken, and local forward Dylan Sahara, who was set to join the BCHL's Powell River Kings at the end of last season before getting hurt.

Albertan Jacob Bergeron will don the 'C' this year in Grand Forks, Batten told me over the summer he's expecting a lot from the 19 year-old power forward. 16 year-old Austin Lee will be one to watch out of a large rookie class in the Boundary this year.

Beaver Valley meanwhile, boasts two high-profile returness in Rossland forward Chris Derochie and fellow 19 year-old Derek Lashuk. Though the Okanagan d-man will miss the first month of the season, he, Arie Postmus and Nick Perez all return from what was a stingy defence last year.

Up front, both Ryon Sookro and Tyler Collins appear to be joining former Rebel Jamie Vlanich with the SJHL's Yorkton Terriers, but Derochie should provide a wealth of offense alongside 18 year-old returnees Ryan Edwards and Keanan Patershuk. Zach Perehudoff will get a lot more playing time between the pipes for BV after serving as the backup last season.

For Nitehawks coach Terry Jones' take on the new season, click here.

Out of Town: The Spokane Braves also get things going this evening in Princeton. Mike Bay's crew features several new faces but an underrated forward corps including captain Nick Redding and offensive stalwarts Uriah Machuga, Mitch Fowler and Nick Farmer; the latter two both attended Trail's training camp this past August. Redding's younger brother Kurtis occupies one of the two 16 year-old slots this season. Zak Kroll and Brycen Fisher will anchor the blue line, while overager Branden Amatto should get the bulk of the starts in goal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Smokies Hoping For Huge Turnout Saturday

The result on the ice isn't the priority this Saturday at Cominco Arena when the Smokies play host to the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.

Smoke Eaters brass are hoping for a full house for the special exhibition fundraiser to raise funds for the family of assistant coach Barry Zanier. Zanier's daughter Kolby has been receiving medical treatment in Edmonton, a process that has forced the family to temporarily relocate to the Alberta capital and has also caused Zanier to be absent behind the Trail bench so far this season.

The Smoke Eaters website has more details here.

For fans, it's not as much about the product on the ice this weekend as it is about showing support for a member of the community. Smokies president Tom Gawryletz told me last week about his desire to see a full barn for the game (the interview is available here), a sentiment which I know is equally felt throughout the organization. Being a college team, the WolfPack are also set to provide a unique type of competition for the Smokies as both squads prepare for their 2011-12 seasons. And for a $6 ticket, it's a cheap, fun way to spend a Saturday night, all while supporting an important cause.

Hope to see each and every one of you at the rink!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Smoke Eaters 5 Silverbacks 2

I'm sure a happy group of Smokies are at this hour rolling back toward the Cominco Arena aboard the Trail Blazer after a 5-2 pre-season victory in Salmon Arm.

All but one of Trail's goals were scored by players who didn't feature in last weekend's exhibition series, including a pair from Matt Bissett. John Saunders, Dallas Calvin and Chris Romanchuk rounded out the scoring for Trail, who next play next Friday night at Vernon in another pre-season affair.

Thanks to Scott Campbell, the 'Backs new play-by-play guy for keeping the Twitter-verse sated with updates, he has posted a more comprehensive recap on his Silverbacks blog (link to the right).

I should also mention the KIJHL final from Fruitvale, as the Nitehawks shut out Fernie 7-0 this evening in what I understand was a penalty-filled game.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend everybody!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Larose Invited To Canada West Camp, Joined By Three Locals

Smokies goaltender Matt Larose stops Wenatchee forward Matt Cope in close as defenseman Brandon Egli looks on (Randy Emery photo)

Trail's starting goaltender, Matt Larose, has been named to Team Canada West's evaluation camp roster for the 2011 World Junior "A" Challenge, being held in Langley this upcoming November. The Nanaimo native is entering his second season with the Smokies after joining the club from the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, and posted an 8-5 record, a 2.67 GAA and .924 save percentage in 15 games while backing up graduated netminder Kiefer Smiley.

Larose will be joined at next week's camp in Canmore, Alberta by four other players with a Kootenay connection. Former Smokie Travis St. Denis, who represented Canada West at last year's event in Penticton and now plays for the Vees, will get a second crack at a gold medal, while Castlegar products Ryan Renz and Aaron Hadley, who both play for the Vernon Vipers, have been invited as well. Former Nelson Leaf Gus Correale, who skates with the AJHL's Grande Prairie Storm, has also received an invite.

The camp begins September 12th with the challenge itself running November 7th through 11th at the Langley Events Centre.

Congrats guys, and good luck!

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Silverbacks

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

The Smokies hit the road for the first time in 2011-12 with an exhibition date in Salmon Arm against the Silverbacks tonight. Trail has not played since Saturday's 3-2 home loss to the Wenatchee Wild, but have had almost a full week of valuable practice time to work on systems and for forward lines and defense pairings to become even more familiar with each other.

I chatted with Smokies head coach and GM Bill Birks late yesterday afternoon about the trip, the week of preparation, and the benefits of having a later-than-usual start to the season. To listen, click here.

Our Opponent: Salmon Arm, like Trail has experienced a fair amount of turnover over last season. Of their returning forwards, overager Brett Knowles will be expected to lead by example. He scored 58 points (30-28) last season with the 'Backs. 17 year-old Morgan Zulinick is poised to have a breakout year as well, he tallied twelve times as a rookie in 2010-11. 20 year-old James Friedel and recently-acquired overager Klay Kachur will anchor Salmon Arm's blue line. Overager Kurt Williams appears to be the go-to guy between the pipes this year as well. The Minnesota product has appeared in only 32 games over the past two seasons backing up the likes of Tony Ierfino and Kris Moore. The 'Backs were one of several teams (including Trail) to undergo a coaching change over the summer. Colin O'Hara takes over from former Smokies coach Tim Kehler.

Broadcast Info: I will not be making the trip with the team today, but new Salmon Arm broadcaster Scott Campbell will be calling tonight's action online. Check the Silverbacks' website, Scott's new blog, or his Twitter account for more information.

Out of Town: Local hockey fans can get their fix in Fruitvale tonight. Beaver Valley hosts the Fernie Ghostriders in KIJHL exhibition play this evening at 7:30. The Rebels and Leafs concluded a home-and-home set last night in Nelson that saw Castlegar victories of 6-3 and 8-2. I chatted with Rebels defenseman Erik Alden after Wednesday's game, hear that conversation here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sidhu Audio & More

Smokies defenceman Rajan Sidhu during the club's training camp in August (Randy Emery photo)

Smokies blueliner Rajan Sidhu is off to RIT next fall, as per the previous post this morning. I caught up with the Surrey product on Friday night during Trail's pre-season game against Powell River. To take a listen to Sidhu's thoughts on college, the season ahead and even a foray into social media, click here.

I also chatted with Trail assistant coach Bob Dever following the Saturday loss to the Wenatchee Wild. To hear his thoughts on the exhibition tournament, click here.

KIJHL Pre-Season: Two fixtures on local ice tonight see the Castlegar Rebels host the Nelson Leafs (7:30, Complex) while Beaver Valley entertains Creston Valley (7:00, Beaver Valley Arena). I took in Rebels practice early this morning and chatted with returning forward Arthur Andrews afterwards. To hear that chat, click here.

Bits & Bites: Former Smoke Eater Mike Betz has been suspended by Salmon Arm for failure to report, as per the club roster page. He had been trying out with the WHL's Vancouver Giants. Betz played for Trail during the 2009-10 season. Speaking of the Silverbacks, new play-by-play voice Scott Campbell tells me he intends to call Friday's exhibition game at the Sunwave Centre against Trail. I will be travelling to the Lower Mainland while the game is being played but all the necessary links will be included in Friday's gameday package here on the blog.

Sidhu to RIT

The Trail Smoke Eaters have announced their first college commitment of the 2011-12 season, as defenseman Rajan Sidhu has accepted an offer from the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers.

The Surrey product played in only 40 games with Trail last season after coming to the Smokies from Cowichan Valley, but picked up 23 points (1-22) during the 2010-11 season.

The official release from the BCHL is posted here.

I chatted with Rajan on Friday night during the Powell River game about all things college, Smokies and even a foray into social media. I'll post that tape as well as some other local hockey bits later this afternoon.

Congrats Sid!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Calvin To Trail?

Jon Keen, the radio voice of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, is reporting on his blog that local forward Dallas Calvin has been re-assigned by the Blazers to the Smoke Eaters.

Calvin spent last season with Beaver Valley in the KIJHL, where he put up 40 points (17-23) in 40 games as a 16 year-old, and was a thorn in the side of opposing defensemen (and goaltenders) during the season and in the playoffs against Nelson and Castlegar. Calvin also spent time with the Smokies as an AP.

I haven't yet had time to chat with anyone from the Smoke Eaters, but watch for that soon if in fact Dallas is coming back to play in Trail this season.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

MML Kootenay Ice 2011-12 Schedule

They're already off to a flying start with a pair of pre-season victories over the Thompson Blazers, and the regular season for our local major midget program is drawing ever-nearer. The Ice will be coached this year by Mario DiBella, who replaces former Nelson Leafs bench boss Simon Wheeldon.

The Ice will play two more pre-season games against the Vancouver NE Chiefs September 17th and 18th in Princeton.

As for the regular season:

Sat. Sep. 24 @ North Island, 5:15 PM
Sun. Sep. 25 @ North Island, 9:00 AM
Sat. Oct. 8 vs. Okanagan, 6:30 PM (at Nelson)
Sun. Oct. 9 vs. Okanagan, 9:15 AM (at Nelson)
Sat. Oct. 15 @ Thompson, 4:00 PM
Sun. Oct. 16 @ Thompson, 11:00 AM
Sat. Oct. 22 vs. Cariboo, 4:00 PM (at Castlegar)
Sun. Oct. 23 vs. Cariboo, 9:30 AM (at Castlegar)
Sat. Oct. 29 @ South Island, 6:30 PM
Sun. Oct. 30 @ South Island, 9:30 AM
Sat. Nov. 5 vs. Vancouver NE, 4:00 PM (at Trail)
Sun. Nov. 6 vs. Vancouver NE, 9:45 AM (at Trail)
Sat. Nov. 12 @ Vancouver NW, 7:45 PM
Sun. Nov. 13 @ Vancouver NW, 9:30 AM
Sat. Nov. 19 vs. Fraser Valley, 7:00 PM (at Castlegar)
Sun. Nov. 20 vs. Fraser Valley, 9:30 AM (at Castlegar)
Sat. Nov. 26 @ Valley West, 8:00 PM
Sun. Nov. 27 @ Valley West, 10:30 AM
Sat. Dec. 3 vs. Greater Vancouver, 4:00 PM (at Castlegar)
Sun. Dec. 4 vs. Greater Vancouver, 9:30 AM (at Castlegar)
Sat. Dec. 10 vs. North Island, 4:00 PM (at Grand Forks)
Sun. Dec. 11 vs. North Island, 10:00 AM (at Grand Forks)
Sat. Jan. 7 @ Okanagan, 3:00 PM
Sun. Jan. 8 @ Okanagan, 10:00 AM
Sat. Jan. 14 @ Greater Vancouver, 12:15 PM
Sun. Jan. 15 @ Greater Vancouver, 10:15 AM
Sat. Jan. 21 @ Cariboo, 7:15 PM
Sun. Jan. 22 @ Cariboo, 9:45 AM
Sat. Jan. 28 vs. South Island, 6:30 PM (at Nelson)
Sun. Jan. 29 vs. South Island, 10:00 AM (at Nelson)
Sat. Feb. 4 @ Vancouver NE, 2:45 PM
Sun. Feb. 5 @ Vancouver NE, 12:00 PM
Sat. Feb. 11 vs. Vancouver NW, 3:30 PM (at Nelson)
Sun. Feb. 12 vs. Vancouver NW, 9:45 AM (at Trail)
Sat. Feb. 18 @ Fraser Valley, 3:30 PM
Sun. Feb. 19 @ Fraser Valley, 10:00 AM
Sat. Feb. 25 vs. Valley West, 7:00 PM (at Castlegar)
Sun. Feb. 26 vs. Valley West, 9:30 AM (at Castlegar)
Sat. Mar. 3 vs. Thompson, 4:00 PM (at Trail)
Sun. Mar. 4 vs. Thompson, 9:45 AM (at Trail)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wild 3 Smoke Eaters 2

Trail's Logan Proulx (standing) celebrates as Josh Roberts (25) pokes the puck into the Wenatchee net during the second period of the Wild's 3-2 win at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

A third-period comeback fell just short this afternoon as the Wenatchee Wild edged the Smoke Eaters 3-2 in pre-season action at Cominco Arena.

Wenatchee jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the game was nine minutes old on goals by Shawn Pauly and Kyle Huson, outshooting the Smokies 15-7 in the opening frame.

But Trail found the back of the net for the first time in the tournament in the second. Josh Roberts capped off a wild scramble in the Wild goalmouth on a Trail power-play to cut the lead in half.

Wenatchee would find a winner, though, in the third period, as Air Force commit Ben Carey wired a snapshot over the shoulder of Smokies goaltender Matt Larose with just over six minutes remaining in the final stanza.

Calgarian J.J. Beitel floated home a long wrister of his own through traffic 3:50 after Carey's goal to complete the scoring.

Greg Lewis made 20 saves for Wenatchee while Larose stopped 35 of 38 Wild shots.

After three games, it's evident this year's Smokies are a work in progress. The penalty-kill was much improved today, denying the Wild on all six opportunities they enjoyed this afternoon. Even though Trail's shot total decreased with each game played (to a tourney-low 22 today), the club still dressed 12 rookies. Smokies assistant Bob Dever told me after the game the club's next week of practice will have an emphasis on systems, and once the main squad becomes more familiar with each other (let's not forget, more than half of the club's 21-man roster this season will be new to Trail), I'm sure the communication and execution will round into form.

Up Next: The Smokies play only once over the next 13 days, that being an exhibition tilt Friday night in Salmon Arm. Their next home game is the newly-announced matchup with Thompson Rivers University on September 17th. As I've stated before, more details will be available on that game in the next few days.

Out Of Town: The early game today featured Powell River pick up their second straight shutout of the tourney, defeating Brooks 3-0.

Dixon Out: I received word yesterday that returning Smoke Eaters defenseman Ryan Dixon has elected to leave the team in order to focus on his studies. I'm told the 17 year-old has educational aspirations that may not have been conducive to the demands placed on him by life in the BCHL, and that he is likely to return to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, with whom he spent half of last season. Everyone I've spoken to with the club is fully supportive of Ryan's decision and although I've never had the chance to meet/interview him during my time here thus far, I too wish him all the best.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Wild

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Wenatchee Wild
When: Sept. 3, 1:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

Trail will try to close out the pre-season tournament with a bang this afternoon against another unfamiliar opponent in the NAHL's Wenatchee Wild. The Smokies opened the tourney Thursday with a 5-0 loss to the Brooks Bandits, and were shut out again 6-0 last night by the Powell River Kings.

But at the end of the day, it's difficult to take stock in pre-season results. For instance, the Smokies dressed 13 rookies last night against the Kings, 11 of whom have never played in a BCHL regular-season game (Daniel DelBianco and Chris Derochie were called up as APs last year). As this group starts to become more familiar with each other, and the younger players on the squad gain more experience and confidence at the Junior A level, I'm sure the results will come.

Looking at today's matchup though, I'll be interested in seeing what, if any adjustments are made with regards to special teams. Trail has had good pressure at times on the power-play through the first two games but find themselves 0/15 thus far this weekend. Conversely, the Smokies have allowed 7 power-play goals through the first two games. The Kings I thought did a great job of blocking shooting lanes last night while short-handed, and although the Smokies were victimized while a man down through the first 120 minutes of the tourney there were a few players (Erik Cooper for one) whose tenacity on the PK impressed me.

Our Opponent: Admittedly I haven't gotten to see Wenatchee play either of their first two games this weekend, but from the looks of things they can definitely score. Matt Cope has a goal in each of the Wild's first two games, while Trevor Stewart added a pair in the club's 6-5 overtime loss to Powell River. Both games from the Wild have seen multiple lead changes with Wenatchee scoring two late goals yesterday afternoon to defeat Brooks 6-4. Trail fans may be familiar with Chris Kerr, who also scored last night. He's spent the past two seasons with the Quesnel Millionaires.

Broadcast Info: no audio again today (as will likely be the case from our end for all Smokies pre-season games, I will have a 45-game regular season broadcast schedule up soon). Follow either myself or the Wild on Twitter for game updates.

Out of Town: For those of you into the Junior B scene, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks tourney continues today in Fruitvale, and also involves the Border Bruins and Leafs. First game is at noon. The early game in the Trail tourney today gets underway at 10:30 between Powell River and Brooks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Kings 6 Smoke Eaters 0

Powell River's Steven Schmidt goes up and over Smokies defenseman J.J. Beitel during the second period of the Kings' 6-0 pre-season win at Cominco Arena (Randy Emery photo)

Carter Shinkaruk
scored a pair of second-period special teams goals as the Powell River Kings defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters 6-0 in exhibition play at the Cominco Arena tonight. The 20 year-old winger converted a pretty 2-on-1 pass from Teagan Waugh 5:11 into the middle frame, then scored an unassisted, short-handed tally 3:37 later.

Waugh also set up a short-handed goal by linemate Brenden Forbes in the second, which was sandwiched between the two goals by Shinkaruk.

Defenseman Jordan Benton opened the scoring for the Kings 6:20 into the first period.

Former Golden Rocket tough guy Tanner Cochrane put away an early third-period marker, and 16 year-old James Neil deflected home a Taylor Carmola point shot midway through the third to round out the scoring.

Sean Maguire made 27 saves to collect the shutout in goal for Powell River, while Reed Vogt stopped 24 of 30 shots in goal for Trail.

A tough night to be sure for the Smokies, who were shut out for the second straight game. But there were some positives. This team will hit anything that moves; the likes of Clayton Chessa, Clayton McEwan and Adam Wheeldon were throwing hits all game long. Trail, despite putting 27 shots on goal, attempted many more that were either blocked or deflected out of play by a smart, organized Kings defence. Erik Cooper again worked hard at both ends of the ice, while Wheeldon was robbed by Maguire late in the game as Trail pushed to break the Powell River netminder's shutout.

It's also well worth pointing out the fact that Trail had eleven players (including Vogt in goal) in tonight's lineup who have never played a BCHL regular-season game. Even though there may well be "irons in the fire" with regards to bringing in more scoring depth (as head coach Bill Birks pointed out last weekend), that fact alone indicates it's hardly time to over-react now with just two games elapsed in the pre-season.

Up Next: The Smokies will try to end their pre-season tournament on a positive tomorrow afternoon against the NAHL's Wenatchee Wild (who defeated Brooks 6-4 in today's matinee at Cominco Arena). Faceoff is at 1:30, while the Kings and Bandits start their tourney finale at 10:30.

Tonello to TRU

Former Smokies defenceman Curtis Tonello has committed to the BCIHL's Thompson Rivers University Wolf Pack for the upcoming season. Tonello, who played out his junior eligibility last season, took part in 82 games with Trail over two seasons, scoring 25 points (2-23) and adding 49 penalty minutes. The Vancouver product also spent a season and a half with Alberni Valley.

The university was kind enough to put together this release.

Tonello and the Wolf Pack will be in Trail September 17th for a special exhibition game against the Smokies at Cominco Arena. Final details are being sorted out but we will have much more information next week.

Congrats Curtis!

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Powell River Kings
When: Sept. 2, 7:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies get right back to work tonight against the Powell River Kings as the pre-season tournament continues. As I mentioned last night, Trail were neck-and-neck with Brooks in last night's 5-0 loss, outside of a four-minute stretch in the second period when the Bandits popped in four power-play goals. Head coach Bill Birks told me last weekend his primary concern with the club was goal-scoring, but if Trail continues to create offensive chances as they did last night (including a hit post by Erik Cooper in the first period), the goals will come.

I'm sure there will be a few changes in the lineup from last night. Birks mentioned every player remaining in camp would play in two of the three games this weekend. Veterans Beau Blanaru and Clayton McEwan both did not play yesterday.

I chatted with former Smokie Ryan Luiten after last night's game, have a listen here.

Our Opponent: The Kings come in to tonight's game having edged the Wenatchee Wild in a 6-5 overtime thriller yesterday. Teagan Waugh scored twice including the deciding goal, while new acquisition Evan Richardson added a pair of goals and an assist (Richardson, by the way, was Swift Current's first-round WHL bantam draft pick in 2009). The Kings split goaltending duties last night between returner Sean Maguire and newcomer (and RBC Cup winner) Jamie Phillips. Overage d-man Jon Jutzi did not play last night; he, Richardson, Craig Dalrymple and Daniel Schuler all have college commitments in their back pockets. The Kings are three-time defending BCHL Coastal Conference champs, and are sure to provide another challenge for the Smokies this evening.

Broadcast Info: no radio/audio for this one, but I will be posting regular Twitter updates as was the case last night.

Out of Town: The early game this afternoon at the Cominco Arena features Brooks and Wenatchee in what should be another fast-paced tilt. Puck drop is at 3:00. The Beaver Valley Nitehawks launch their pre-season tournament this afternoon as well at the BV Arena. Here's a look at the schedule:

FRIDAY
12:00 PM -- Beaver Valley 1 vs. Beaver Valley 2
2:00 PM -- Grand Forks vs. Nelson
5:00 PM -- Grand Forks vs. Beaver Valley 1
7:00 PM -- Beaver Valley 2 vs. Nelson

SATURDAY
12:00 PM -- Grand Forks vs. Beaver Valley 2
2:00 PM -- Nelson vs. Beaver Valley 1
5:00 PM -- Grand Forks vs. Beaver Valley 1
7:00 PM -- Nelson vs. Beaver Valley 2

SUNDAY
9:00 AM -- first vs. fourth
11:00 AM -- second vs. third
1:00 PM -- consolation
3:00 PM -- final

Nitehawks coach Terry Jones was standing at the bottom of the broadcast booth ladder as I was walking out of the rink last night, I had a quick conversation with him which you can listen to here.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bandits 5 Smoke Eaters 0

Smokies goalie Matt Larose makes a save as defenceman Chris McDonald and Brooks forward Ryan Luiten look on. (Randy Emery photo)

Former Smoke Eater Ryan Luiten scored one of the four Brooks second-period power-play goals as the Bandits defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-0 in pre-season tournament play tonight at the Cominco Arena. The 19 year-old Alaskan skated from his own blue line to the Trail goal line before putting the puck past Smokies goaltender Matt Larose to give the Alberta visitors (at that juncture) a 2-0 lead.

Brooks opened the scoring 2:01 into the first period after Cam Maclise found himself alone on the near side with a wide open net. Both teams traded chances, including a hit post each until Trail's Josh Roberts was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging Bandits goaltender Jan Obernesser 8:33 into the middle frame.

Luiten's goal was one of four the Bandits scored during the major power-play, as Maclise, Dakota Mason, David Watt and Anthony Petruzzelli added tallies in quick succession.

Despite the scoreline, I thought Trail played relatively well outside of the five-minute penalty (which to give Brooks credit, also included 1:18 of four-on-four play). Up front, Clayton Chessa hit everything in his path as did Daniel DelBianco on the back end. Trail was not short of chances either, going 0/9 on the power-play, though Obernesser was strong, if not flashy in the Brooks goal.

Up Next: The Smokies get right back to work tomorrow against the three-time defending Coastal Conference champion Powell River Kings, who snuck past the Wenatchee Wild 6-5 in overtime in the tournament opener that can be aptly described as a see-saw battle.

Out of Town: The KIJHL pre-season began tonight as well, with North Vancouver doubling the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-2 in the Boundary. I chatted with Beaver Valley coach Terry Jones at the rink tonight about his club's camp and the tournament taking place this weekend in Fruitvale involving the Border Bruins and Nelson Leafs. Watch for that as part of tomorrow's pre-game package. The major midget Kootenay Ice also opened their exhibition schedule with a 5-2 win in Chase against the Thompson Blazers.

Batten Talks Bruins Camp

A quick hit before I jump in the car and head to Cominco Arena.

As mentioned, I chatted with Grand Forks head coach and GM Brent Batten yesterday in advance of his club's pre-season opener tonight against North Vancouver.

To take a listen, click here.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Bandits

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Brooks Bandits
When: Sept. 1, 7:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Trail Smoke Eaters kick off their pre-season tonight against the AJHL's Brooks Bandits as the annual exhibition tourney at Cominco Arena gets underway on two fronts.

For the remaining 25 or so players left with the club, it's the first opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff in a game situation. For the coaches, it's a chance to see how players react in different situations when not facing potential teammates. For fans, it's the first look at a new squad that has a markedly different look than the one that graced the Cominco ice six months ago.

Gone are the likes of Travis St. Denis, Sam Mellor, Scott Jacklin, Jake Baker and Kiefer Smiley. In their place, a mix of young and old as players like Clayton Chessa, Nick Wong, Josh Roberts and Brandon Egli are just a few names expected to make their (unofficial) Trail debuts this weekend.

Head coach and GM Bill Birks says his squad will be fast and will work hard, I chatted with him yesterday about the club and the announcement that former Smokie Nic DeSousa is off to college, listen to that conversation here.

Our Opponent: Brooks comes into the weekend with a few familiar faces. Forwards Ryan Luiten and Matt Wilkins are former Smokies, while defenseman Colton Semenok played in Beaver Valley. Fellow blueliner Matt Tyson is also familiar with our area, having spent time here as a Spokane Brave. The Bandits appear to be making a movement to challenge in the AJHL, and with off-season pickups like Dawson Creek Rage sniper Dakota Mason and American Anthony Petruzelli, who put up 101 points with Helena in the NORPAC league last season, why not? 19 year-old Cam Maclise is a former teammate of Smokies overager Logan Proulx with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored 51 points in Brooks last season.

Broadcast Info: To my knowledge, Brooks is not bringing a radio crew, and our broadcast season will not begin until the regular-season home opener against Westside. Check for frequent updates through the weekend on Twitter.

Out of Town: Of course the Smokies and Bandits aren't the only teams playing tonight. Powell River and Wenatchee play the first half of the Thursday double-header at 3:00.

KIJHL: The exhibition season for our local Junior B loop begins tonight as well, with the Grand Forks Border Bruins hosting the PIJHL's North Vancouver Wolfpack (7:30 PM, Grand Forks Arena). I chatted with Border Bruins head coach Brent Batten yesterday, watch for that tape on Mountain FM and here on the blog in short order. I'm interested in seeing Batten's approach to the Border Bruins this season, it seems as though he and the new faces on the team's board are bringing a fresh approach and lots of energy.