Friday, December 30, 2011

Spruce Kings 5 Smoke Eaters 2

Prince George's top guns combined for three goals as the Spruce Kings upended the Smokies 5-2 at the Coliseum Friday.

Jujhar Khaira led the way with 3 points (1-2), while fellow forwards Michael Colantone and BCHL scoring leader Paul DeJersey also tallied as Prince George handed Trail its 8th straight loss.

Goaltender Lyndon Stanwood was named the game's first star, making 43 saves as Trail was outshot by a wide margin, 48-17.

Connor Tiechko and Brent Baltus ended a seven-period goal-less drought with early third-period tallies for Trail to cut the game to 3-2, but the home side added two late insurance markers to seal their third victory in as many tries against Trail.

Adam Fares made his long anticipated return to the Smokies lineup Friday, though forwards Luke Bertolucci and Clayton Chessa were both out of action.

Trail's current skid leaves them without a single point to show for the month of December, but an extended period at home could (hopefully) prove to be just the tonic this team needs.

For Prince George, the victory means they remain two points up on Vernon for the final playoff spot in the Interior Conference, as the chase for the BCHL post-season heats up in both divisions.

Tip o' the Hat: to Spruce Kings "Mr. Everything" Ron Gallo, who fired up a twitter-storm Friday to keep me (and hopefully some of you) updated on the goings-on in Prince George. I had every intention of making the trip to the Coliseum as part of my holiday time, but circumstance prevented that from happening. Thanks Ron!

Up Next: The Smokies begin a five-game homestand Wednesday against Salmon Arm. I took in the Silverbacks' 6-4 loss in Vernon Friday (a game SA led 3-0 twelve minutes into the first period). It was a fast-paced affair that really swung Vernon's way after an opening twenty minutes that saw the Silverbacks come out flying. Former BV Nitehawk Taylor Love picked up a kneeing penalty in his Salmon Arm debut that saw Vipers forward Ben Gamache leave the game in the second period.

KIJHL Tonight: Tyler Jones scored twice, including the overtime winner as Castlegar swept a two-game home-and-home set from Beaver Valley with a 4-3 win at Fruitvale. Kudos to the 600+ fans who packed the BV Arena tonight, a marked improvement from some very unfortunate attendance trends I've noticed in our local rinks this season. New Rebels defenseman (and Smokies AP) Riley Henderson didn't figure in the scoring in his Castlegar debut: he was acquired Thursday from Golden for future considerations and of course spent last year and the first three months of 2011-12 with the Nelson Leafs. Henderson appears to be the top-4 d-man the Rebels (and others) have been seeking in advance of the Jan. 10 deadline.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Dec. 30, 7:00 PM
Where: Coliseum, Prince George

Been awhile, hasn't it!

The Smokies return from a much-needed holiday break for a one-off in Prince George tonight as the team look for their first points of the month in the 2011 curtain-closer. The team made the fourteen-hour bus trek to PG Thursday and should be plenty rested for tonight's matchup, the third of seven between the two sides and the final one (this season) away from the Cominco Arena.

The Smokies' goal for the second half of the season is to play .500 hockey, which I think is doable, despite the team's record. 15 of Trail's final 28 games are at home (including a five-game homestand through the first half of January), and given the right mix of hard work and the odd bounce, this club could take advantage of the remaining games on the schedule to build a solid foundation for next season. The batteries have been recharged, and tonight's game in Prince George will serve as a good first indication for what fans in Trail can expect for the first three months of 2012.

Last Meeting: Prince George won both ends of a weekend two-step October 14th and 15th at the Coliseum, by scores of 8-0 and 5-2. They lead the season series 2-0.

Our Opponent: The Spruce Kings are right in the mix for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Interior Conference. PG (37 points), sit two points up on Vernon (who lost the front end of a home-and-home with Salmon Arm last night) for fourth place, and are coming off a big 4-2 victory in Chilliwack on Wednesday. Up front, Paul DeJersey continues to enjoy a remarkable season, with 61 points (which entering play tonight was tied for first in the BCHL with Penticton's Connor Reilly); fellow forwards Jujhar Khaira and Michael Colantone offer plenty of spark to the Spruce King arsenal too. In fact the bulk of PG's scoring comes from the forwards, no d-man on the roster has more than three goals this season. Two former Smokies should figure prominently tonight; blueliner Ben Matthews is one of the aforementioned defensemen with three goals, while new pickup Mike Betz has scored only 4 points in 9 games, but was more than a point-per-game player as a 17 year-old in Trail in 2009-10.

In the Press Box: Smokies are without forward Josh Roberts and defenseman Shane Poulsen, while forwards Adam Fares and Luke Bertolucci could be back sooner rather than later. The Spruce Kings have no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: I haven't made the trip north so no Trail broadcast this evening. Matt Soper has your PPV (and free audio), available here.

Local Hockey Tonight: Beaver Valley and Castlegar renew hostilities again tonight (7:00, Beaver Valley Arena). The Rebels rode goals from Arthur Andrews, Tyler Robinson and Tyler Jones to a 3-1 win over the 'Hawks Thursday in Castlegar. Nelson returns from the holiday break to open up a home-and-home in Spokane tonight.

Bits & Bites: Had the pleasure of meeting Powell River Kings play-caller Alex Rawnsley last night in Coquitlam as the Express eked out a 2-1 home ice victory. Former Smokie Rajan Sidhu was held off the scoresheet but played a lot of minutes. "Sid" and the Express are in Trail January 13th.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Clippers 5 Smoke Eaters 0

Clippers goalie Billy Faust makes a save through heavy traffic (Randy Emery photo)

Another tough outing for the Smoke Eaters as they wind up the pre-holiday break portion of the schedule.

After a scoreless first period that saw few grade-A chances from either side, Dan Correale broke a 0-0 deadlock early in period two. The 20 year-old darted down the right wing before stopping at the top of the circle and slotting home his first goal of the season while short-handed.

Ryan Wells scored on a wrap-around later in the frame, before Mike Sones, and a pair from Andrew Gladiuk rounded things out at the Cominco Arena.

Trail started slowly (leading to a time-out just 2:20 into the first period) and never seemed to get the breakthrough they needed to take an early lead or climb back into proceedings once they fell behind. The line of Garrett McMullen, Connor Tiechko and AP Craig Martin had the most jump for the Smoke Eaters, while the likes of Adam Wheeldon and former Clipper Tanner Clarkson did well to provide a bit of energy as well.

The Clippers seemed to be constantly looking for long, stretch passes, and frequently had forwards waiting at the Trail blue line for feeds (aerial or otherwise). Two of the goals (Correale and Gladiuk's first) were a direct result of this strategy.

For the Smoke Eaters, who were missing five regulars with various knocks, the 12-day break should provide some opportunity to heal, both physically and mentally. Speaking with one player after the game I get the sense the team is looking forward to some time to recharge their batteries, and to come back in the new year with the goal of playing .500 hockey over the final 28 games of the regular season.

Up Next: The Smokies will enjoy a five-game homestand over the first half of January, but not before a trip to Prince George December 30th.

Local Hockey Update: Trail's Logan Proulx scored the winner last night (short-handed to boot) as Cowichan Valley upended Victoria 4-2. In the KIJHL, Scott Morisseau had a hat-trick, while Smokies AP Brenden Heinrich added a pair in Castlegar's 6-4 victory over Nelson. Former Smokie J.J. Beitel scored for Nelson. Kelowna defeated Grand Forks 11-1.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smokies/Clippers Lineups

Apologies again for the lack of blog coverage over the past two days, it's been rather hectic shuttling back between the Kootenays and Lower Mainland but here goes with tonight's line combinations..

Smoke Eaters:
12 - McMullen, 16 - Tiechko, 9 - Baltus
24 - Santini, 25 - Clarkson, 23 - Long
21 - Cooper, 22 - Wheeldon, 18 - House
17 - Horsman, 10 - Martin (AP), 8 - Egli

2 - Hicks, 5 - Johnson
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
3 - McEwan

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

17 - Chinn (AP), 19 - Fitzgerald, 22 - Kramer
9 - Gladiuk, 18 - Gordon, 8 - Correale
14 - Neher, 23 - Blacklock, 25 - Taylor
21 - Sones, 11 - Cyr, 24 - Lowenberger

5 - Wells, 10 - McCormack
7 - Dahlen, 3 - Phillips
4 - Bryan, 15 - Iacono

30 - Faust
41 - Eiserman

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jacklin Audio and More

Lots to talk about in advance of the final weekend of the pre-holiday schedule that sees the Smokies in Vernon tomorrow and home to Nanaimo Saturday.

First, as pictured above, a good contingent of the team helped out the local Salvation Army this week in advance of what certainly is their busiest time of year. Good work fellas!

Some audio for your enjoyment that I've neglected to post over the past few days:

I talked with former Smoke Eater Scott Jacklin following news he'd been named Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week for a second consecutive week. To listen, click here.

I chatted with a pair of Castlegar Rebels as well following their 6-0 shutout win over Spokane Tuesday.

For forward Diego Bartlett, click here.

For goaltender Jordan Gluck, click here.

Beesley on the Move: Former Nelson goaltender Marcus Beesley has been traded in the KIJHL to the Kamloops Storm for a player to be named later and cash. Beesley posted a 14-19 record last season with the Leafs, but was signed by the Prince George Spruce Kings at the beginning of this season. He even posted a shutout over the Smokies on October 14th. Beesley will get plenty of playing time in Kamloops, who of course were in the market for a veteran goaltender after Lyndon Stanwood joined Trail last month.

Personal Note: I'm off to Vancouver tonight for family reasons, and as such your typical gameday and post-game packages for tomorrow's game against the Vipers and Saturday's game against the Clippers may not be of its usual ilk. There will be no Trail broadcast tomorrow evening but I will be back Saturday for the pay-per-view against Nanaimo.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mid-Season Poll Results

The results are in!

After compiling all the votes from broadcasters from across the BCHL, here are your unofficial mid-season awards. Big thanks to Silverbacks play-caller Scott Campbell for putting all of this together.

Best Goaltender:
Interior: Mike Garteig (Penticton, 100% of votes received)
Coastal: Billy Faust (Nanaimo), Derek Dun (Cowichan Valley), Jamie Phillips (Powell River, each with 33%)

Best Goaltending Duo:
Interior: Lino Chimienti/Tyler Steel (Merritt, 35%)
Coastal: Sean Maguire/Jamie Phillips (Powell River, 60%)

Coach of the Year:
Interior: Luke Pierce (Merritt, 85%)
Coastal: Jim Ingram/Dale Purinton (Cowichan Valley, 90%)

Most Sportsmanlike:
Interior: Regan Soquila (Merritt, 46%)
Coastal: Andrew Gladiuk (Nanaimo), Wesley Myron (Victoria, both with 28%)

Rookie of the Year:
Interior: Mario Lucia (Penticton, 86%)
Coastal: Alex Kerfoot (Coquitlam, 100%)

Best Defenseman:
Interior: Mike Reilly (Penticton, 84%)
Coastal: Craig Dalrymple (Powell River, 87%)

Interior: Paul DeJersey (Prince George, 41%)
Coastal: Wade Murphy (Victoria, 50%)

Most Improved Player:
Interior: Paul DeJersey (Prince George, 80%)
Coastal: Alex Petan (Coquitlam, 62%)

Best 16 Year-Old:
Interior: Luke Bertolucci (Trail, 33%)
Coastal: Bo Pellah (Langley, 88%)

Franchise Player:
Interior: Mike Reilly (Penticton, 45%)
Coastal: Craig Dalrymple (Powell River, 37%)

Pest Award:
Interior: Adam Wheeldon (Trail), Tyson Witala (Prince George), Geoff Crisfield, Riley Hunt (Vernon), Jakob Reichert, Sean Maktaak, Silvan Harper (Merritt), Max French (Westside), Ben Woodley (Prince George), Travis St. Denis (Penticton, each with one vote)
Coastal: Brandon and Tyler Morley (Surrey, 50%)

Best Import:
Interior: Mario Lucia (Penticton, 40%)
Coastal: Mike Moran (Victoria, 57%)

Best 20 Year-Old:
Interior: Connor Reilly (Penticton, 66%)
Coastal: Craig Dalrymple (Powell River, 42%)

Best Defensive Forward:
Interior: Darren Nowick (Vernon), Kody Dhaliwal (Salmon Arm, both with 20%)
Coastal: Brendan Forbes (Powell River, 33%)

Player Most Deserving Of Scholarship:
Interior: Regan Soquila (Merritt, 45%)
Coastal: Khaleed Devji (Coquitlam, 28%)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Centennials 3 Smoke Eaters 0

A quick line from Kelowna before calling it a night..

The Centennials scored in the first minute, and put more than 40 pucks at Lyndon Stanwood in a 3-0 shutout win tonight in Merritt.

Tyler Steel made 27 saves to collect the goose-egg, leaving the Smokies without a point to show for their three-game trip, and at the same time securing Merritt's first victory against Trail.

The opening goal was the result of some hard work from Silvan Harper, who made his way from the left-wing corner to the side of the net before a streaking Brandon Pfeil came through the slot and fired home a rebound.

Pfeil would factor in the second goal too. After Trail was caught with too many men, his point shot was deflected in by Merritt captain Evan Stack at 6:40 of the middle frame.

Veteran Chad Brears rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter.

The game featured some heavy hits, and a spirited bout between Adam Wheeldon and Sean Maktaak at centre-ice 10 seconds into the third.

The difference, from my angle was Merritt's ability to have sustained pressure in the Smokies' zone, exhausting an already short bench. The Cents have a few undersized, shifty forwards (Dustin Lebrun and Brendan Lamont come to mind) that are buzzsaws on the puck and can take a hit. I thought Garrett McMullen and Connor Tiechko both showed a fair amount of pace for Trail, who were knocked down to 15 skaters when Shane Poulsen and Luke Bertolucci left in the second period.

Up Next: two more games before the holiday break, beginning Friday night at Vernon.

KIJHL Tonight: Anthony Delong had 6 points in Castlegar's 10-1 win over Summerland. Montrose's Alex Ross surprisingly did not start in goal against his former club. Osoyoos shut out Grand Forks 11-0.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Merritt Centennials
When: Dec. 10, 7:30 PM
Where: Nicola Valley Arena, Merritt

Trail gets one last chance to take some points from this three-game swing tonight in Merritt, after 3 third-period goals paced Chilliwack to a 4-1 victory in the Fraser Valley.

The Smokies were again minus leading scorer Clayton Chessa, who evidently picked up a knock during last weekend's home series against the Chiefs, but by all accounts had a stellar performance put in by goaltender James D'Andrea in last night's 4-1 loss. D'Andrea was named the game's second star.

We could well see two tired hockey teams this evening in the Nicola Valley, the Cents had a long trip to Prince George yesterday (where they eked out a 4-3 victory) and now return home to face a Smokies team playing for the third consecutive night.

Last Meeting: Trail and Merritt locked horns last Wednesday at the Cominco Arena, with the Smokies coming away with a 4-3 victory on a Marley Keca winner. Trail leads the season series 2-0-1.

Our Opponent: Merritt continues to enjoy life in second place in the Interior division, three points ahead of Chilliwack (38 vs. 35). The Cents are rock-solid at home with only two regulation-time losses (one of which happened to be against Trail), and the combination of Lino Chimienti and Tyler Steel have allowed only 95 goals through the first half of the season. 18 year-old Regan Soquila leads things offensively with 35 points (9-26), while I'd expect we'll see Team Canada West standout Reece Willcox tonight on the back end after he was held out of the Centennials' lineup last Wednesday. Willcox was named to the 2012 NHL Draft Watch List along with 7 other BCHLers earlier this week.

In the Press Box: Trail's list of absentees includes Brandon Egli, Josh Roberts and Adam Fares, while Chessa (as mentioned earlier) has missed the last two games. Merritt does not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Join me on Ustream this evening for all the action from Merritt beginning at 7:20. Alex Grebenyuk has your pay-per-view feed here.

Local Hockey Tonight: Longtime Castlegar Rebels goaltender Alex Ross makes his return to the Complex tonight as part of a busy KIJHL Saturday. The Rebels host the Summerland Steam (7:30, Complex). Grand Forks is at Osoyoos in the other game involving a local side. The major midget Kootenay Ice are in action in the Boundary against the North Island Silvertips today. The first of a two-game set goes this afternoon (4:00, Grand Forks Arena), with the capper tomorrow morning at 10.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chiefs 4 Smoke Eaters 1

David Bondra broke a 1-1 tie in the opening minute of the third period to help Chilliwack to a 4-1 victory over the Smokies tonight at Prospera Centre.

David Thompson and Malcolm Gould also tallied in a three-goal third for the Chiefs, who improve their record to 4-0 against Trail this season.

Josh Hansen helped Chilliwack's teddy bears make their way to the ice by opening the scoring in the opening frame, before Tanner Clarkson scored his second goal in as many appearances with the Smoke Eaters before the opening frame was out.

Up Next: The Smokies wrap up the trip tomorrow in Merritt. Join me on the Smokies ustream channel for all the action from the Nicola Valley Arena beginning at 6:55.

Local Hockey Tonight: Beaver Valley served notice again tonight in the KIJHL with their tenth straight victory. The Hawks beat Spokane 5-1. Nelson upended Castlegar 5-2 while Grand Forks fell 10-2 at Princeton.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Chiefs

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Chilliwack Chiefs
When: Dec. 9, 7:00 PM
Where: Prospera Centre, Chilliwack

The Smokies and Chiefs face-off for the third time in eight days tonight in the Fraser Valley. Trail will try for their first win against a suddenly streaking Chilliwack team that has won four straight games, most recently a 2-1 decision Wednesday against Merritt.

The Smoke Eaters, meanwhile, will hope for some better luck tonight after an 8-3 loss to Vernon yesterday that could well have been quite different had Trail been able to capitalize on some early momentum. They matched up well with the Chiefs in a pair of games last weekend at Cominco Arena and were unlucky to secure points against a big, bruising Chilliwack squad that likes to take away time, space and shooting lanes in their defensive zone.

Trail will welcome back sparkplug Adam Wheeldon tonight after his two-game suspension (ironically, incurred against Chilliwack) elapsed.

Last Meeting: Josh Hansen's goal late in the second period secured a 2-1 Chilliwack victory last Saturday at Cominco Arena. The Chiefs lead the season series 3-0, though the only meeting so far in the Fraser Valley went to overtime.

Our Opponent: Chilliwack lives and breathes through the strength of their first line. David Bondra, Derek Huisman and Malcolm Gould have been very effective against the Smokies this season (the highlight being a Huisman hat-trick last Friday in Trail) and will be given the task of penetrating the Trail defense again this evening. Captain Tyler Miller anchors a defensive corps that is big on size and big on physicality. David Thompson and Matthew Hutchinson provide an effective shut-down pairing. Mitch Gillam has been great in goal, and after an early bobble Saturday backup Bryton Udy proved he can be counted upon when called upon as well.

In the Press Box: Trail were without five regulars last night, and at least three won't be back tonight (those being Brandon Egli, Adam Fares and Josh Roberts). Clayton Chessa did not play yesterday while the aforementioned Wheeldon will draw back in. Chilliwack will welcome back overtime hero Trevor Hills from a two-game suspension assessed after a blow to the head on Chessa last Friday, while Alex Perron-Fontaine and Jeremy Gossard both missed Wednesday's win over Merritt.

Broadcast Info: As was the case last night, there will not be a Trail broadcast this evening. Join me on Ustream tomorrow against the Centennials. Tonight's pay-per-view and free audio are both available here from Chiefs broadcaster Marc Fitzgerald.

KIJHL Tonight: Plenty afoot on the local junior "B" front including a grudge match in Nelson between the Leafs and Rebels. Nelson has been idle since a 15-0 win over Grand Forks last Thursday while the Rebels have had a few days to reflect on Saturday's 2-2 tie versus Golden. Beaver Valley will try to stretch their win streak to 10 games when they host Spokane. Grand Forks is at Princeton.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Vipers 8 Smoke Eaters 3

Michael Zalewski snapped a nine-game goal-less drought, and the Vernon Vipers snapped a nine-game winless streak with an 8-3 win over the Smokies at Wesbild Centre Thursday.

Trail started brightly, outchancing the Vipers until Zalewski potted two quick goals late in the frame to send the home side up 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Vernon got their swagger back in the second, as Ben Gamache, Adam Tambellini and Castlegar's Aaron Hadley all scored in the first eight minutes to widen the lead to 5-0 before a screen shot from the left point 2:55 later from Shane Poulsen put Trail on the board. For the 17 year-old blueliner, it was his first BCHL goal.

Marley Keca added a similar strike from the right point later in the period before Jedd Soleway and Brendan Persley rounded out a 7-goal middle frame.

Smokies newcomer Tanner Clarkson finished Trail's offensive output late in the third with a terrific individual effort, before a John Knisley wrister in the final minute of the game punctuated a busy offensive night for the Vipers.

The two quick goals in the first period really put a stop to any offensive momentum Trail had going. Moments before Zalewski opened the scoring, Vipers goaltender Kirby Halcrow made a fine save off Smokies forward Connor Tiechko from the low slot on a Trail power-play. And once Vernon's top-liner found his stride, there was no looking back.

Lyndon Stanwood was tagged with the loss for Trail; he and James D'Andrea split duties between the pipes for the Smoke Eaters.

Tonight's game was a physical affair, with the likes of Castlegar's Ryan Renz and South Slocan's Joren Johnson both throwing their weight around on their respective blue lines. Clarkson's hit on Zalewski in the second period drew the attention of Renz, who drew an instigator for dropping the mitts with the new Trail forward. Kyle Horsman and Turner Lawson had exchanged blows moments earlier.

Trail missed leading scorer Clayton Chessa tonight. He was scratched from the Smokies' lineup leaving them with only 16 skaters once again. We'll see if the 20 year-old draws back in tomorrow in Chilliwack.

Clarkson and fellow newcomer Brendan Santini played together on a line with Brandon Long. Clarkson looked impressive from his first shift when he created a quality scoring chance, while Santini earned an assist on Keca's goal.

Former Grand Forks Border Bruin defenseman Lucas Hildebrand appeared as an AP for Vernon. It was only his second career BCHL game.

Up Next: The Smokies visit the Chilliwack Chiefs Friday night for the two sides' third meeting in 8 days.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vipers

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Vernon Vipers
When: Dec. 8, 7:00 PM
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon

A pair of new faces make their Smoke Eaters debut tonight in Vernon against a Vipers squad looking to find their way back into the top four of the Interior Conference.

It's the first of a three-game road trip for Trail, and our first look at new forwards Tanner Clarkson and Brendan Santini, who were acquired in separate deals from Nanaimo and AJHL St. Albert respectively.

Trail didn't have much puck luck over the weekend in two losses against the Chilliwack Chiefs, but can go into Wesbild Centre with the confidence of knowing they've showed well in three prior games against Vernon this season. In fact, the Smokies might count themselves unlucky to only have earned one point out of the three meetings at Cominco Arena (losses of 6-3 and 4-2, and a 2-1 overtime setback).

I chatted to Clarkson Tuesday afternoon, to listen click here.

Head coach Bill Birks also shared his thoughts on the Santini trade with me yesterday, for that tape click here.

Last Meeting: After Trail earned a power-play in overtime on November 12th at Cominco, the Vipers came back to win on a 3 on 3 goal from Darren Nowick, who has 4 goals (two game-winners) in the three game season series.

Our Opponent: The Vipers have won only once in their past ten, but can't be taken lightly. Vernon has made changes since the two teams last met, most notably acquiring Albertan sniper Ben Gamache from the Okotoks Oilers. The line of Michael Zalewski, Nowick and John Knisley has been Vernon's most effective against the Smokies this season, despite the fact Knisley has only 3 goals to show from 26 games played. Castlegar's Ryan Renz was a physical force during the most recent encounter between the Vipers and Smokies, and Brett Corkey will also make his return to the blue line after missing the last two meetings. Kirby Halcrow has two of the three victories for Vernon against the Smokies, but sits with a 10-12-1 record through 23 games played.

In the Press Box: Trail is minus defenseman Brandon Egli as well as forwards Josh Roberts and Adam Fares. Of the three, Egli is the closest to returning. Forward Adam Wheeldon serves the second of his two-game suspension tonight. Defenseman Joren Johnson will draw in tonight for Trail as well, though for the time being he remains on an AP card. Defensemen Patrick McGillis and Luke Juha are out for Vernon.

Broadcast Info: Todd Miller has your pay-per-view and audio feed tonight, both are available here. Unfortunately there will be no Trail broadcast for either tonight's matchup or tomorrow's game in Chilliwack.

For another perspective on tonight's game, the Vipers blog has all your pertinent numbers here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Smokies Swing Deal For Santini

Another trade to report on for the Smoke Eaters, as they've acquired forward Brendan Santini from the AJHL's St. Albert Steel for futures.

The full release is available here.

Santini has played with three different AJHL squads (Olds, Spruce Grove, Calgary Canucks), and put up 18 points so far this season (all with the Calgary Canucks). He was traded to Brooks and then to St. Albert December 1st in a three-team swap, but now is on his way to the West Kootenay and the BCHL to slot in on Trail's top two forward lines. He scored 8 points as a WHL rookie during the 2010-11 season with the Calgary Hitmen.

To me the acquisition is the latest in a line of deals that see Trail get bigger up front, as well as younger. Needless to say Santini could be a big part of this team over the next two-and-a-half years, and I'm excited to see what he'll bring to the table (beginning tomorrow night in Vernon).

Fans in Trail will get their first look at Santini in live game action next Saturday when the Smokies host Nanaimo.

Welcome to Trail Brendan!

Derochie Earns Player Of The Month Nod

Beaver Valley forward Chris Derochie has been named the KIJHL's Kootenay Conference Player of the Month for November.

The 19 year-old from Rossland put up 21 points (10-11) last month, helping the 'Hawks to a five-point advantage atop the Neil Murdoch division. Through 28 games he sits second in the league in scoring with 59 points, two behind linemate Ryan Edwards.

He's also appeared in two games in the BCHL this year as an affiliate with the Vernon Vipers.

"Chris has been one of the KIJHL's best all-round players for the past couple of years, and is enjoying a breakout offensive season as one of the top scorers in the league," said head coach/GM Terry Jones.

Derochie is the third Neil Murdoch division player to win monthly honours this season, joining Anthony Delong (Castlegar) and Patrick Martens (Nelson).

The 'Hawks are back on home ice Friday against Spokane.

Congrats Chris!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weekend + Monday Audio

Some tape for your listening pleasure after a busy weekend in the West Kootenay.

I chatted with Smokies captain Clayton McEwan following Saturday's 2-1 loss to Chilliwack, take a listen here.

I talked with a pair of KIJHL coaches about their weekends as well:

For Steve Junker of the Rebels click here.

For Beaver Valley's Terry Jones click here.

The Smoke Eaters hit the road this week for games in Vernon, Chilliwack and Merritt on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. I'll have the call from Merritt on Ustream Saturday, your requisite audio links for all three games will be posted here as part of the regular gameday offering.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chiefs 2 Smoke Eaters 1

Chilliwack's Malcolm Gould has his shot deflected away by Smokies defenseman Tanner Hicks (2) during third period action Saturday (Randy Emery photo)

Josh Hansen snuck a backhander through the legs of Smokies goaltender Lyndon Stanwood late in the second period to give the Chilliwack Chiefs the only lead they'd need in a 2-1 win at Cominco Arena.

Hansen charged through the neutral zone and received an entry feed from Mathieu Tibbet, allowing him to break in alone and tuck home his second goal of the weekend.

Trail opened the scoring on an oddball goal midway through period one. A Brent Baltus wrister was bobbled by Chiefs goaltender Bryton Udy from glove to glove, before it bounced into the net off the forehead of Smokies captain Clayton McEwan.

Chilliwack tied the game later in the frame after Malcolm Gould was sprung in alone by David Bondra, allowing him to slip a forehand shot behind Stanwood.

After Friday night's game that saw a number of heavy (and some illegal) hits, Saturday's affair was relatively tame. The teams combined for only four penalties tonight (three by Chilliwack), and the big hits were few and far between.

Trail's effort was better than Friday night, as for the sixth straight game the Smoke Eaters opened the scoring, but had difficulty penetrating a stingy Chilliwack defense. Udy wasn't forced to be especially spectacular tonight, with most of the Smokies' success on the weekend coming from hard work below the goal-line and in the corners.

It was a bit disappointing not to see new acquisition Tanner Clarkson in the lineup for Trail this weekend. The 18 year-old was traded to the Smokies earlier this week, but did not suit up for either game against the Chiefs. Trail was also missing forward Adam Wheeldon who was slapped with a two-game suspension for a check on Chiefs forward Alex Perron-Fontaine in the second period of Friday's game. Chiefs forward Trevor Hills was given a similar ban for a check to the head major incurred Friday.

Up Next: The Smokies play the first of four straight away from home Thursday when they visit Vernon.

Local Hockey Tonight: Diego Bartlett scored the tying goal with 1:36 to play as Castlegar and Golden skated to a 2-2 saw-off in the KIJHL. Former Rebels AP goaltender Jarrod Schamerhorn made 38 saves for the Rockets. Christian Johnson had four goals for Beaver Valley in a 7-1 drubbing of the Fernie Ghostriders. The major midget Kootenay Ice got a pair of goals from Jake Lucchini but fell 6-3 to the Greater Vancouver Canadians (those two squads play a breakfast special at 9:30 tomorrow morning in Castlegar). Selkirk College lost 12-2 at Thompson Rivers University.

Smokies/Chiefs Lineups

Here are the line combinations for tonight's game between Trail and Chilliwack:

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

2 - Hicks, 3 - McEwan
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

12 - Bondra, 9 - Huisman, 14 - Gould
20 - Tibbet, 28 - Forster, 16 - Ethier
27 - Sitterley, 15 - Hansen, 17 - Spring
18 - Graboski, 24 - Babych

4 - Laurent, 3 - Miller
8 - Hutchinson, 5 - Thompson
6 - Berry

35 - Udy
1 - Gillam

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Chiefs

Trail will need to generate more traffic in front of goaltender Mitch Gillam to earn a split tonight (Randy Emery photo)

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Chilliwack Chiefs
When: Dec. 3, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies go for a weekend split tonight against the Chiefs after a third-period offensive explosion helped Chilliwack to a 6-3 victory Friday.

At one point, the Smoke Eaters enjoyed a 2-0 lead thanks to rebound goals by Erik Cooper and Taylor House, but a workmanlike penalty-kill and a pair of odd-man rushes in quick succession split the game wide open in the visitors' favour.

Last Meeting: Not much to go over here, a Derek Huisman hat-trick and 36 saves from Mitch Gillam helped the Chiefs to their second straight win over Trail, 6-3 last night.

Our Opponent: Last night's game showed the importance of Chilliwack's top line (Huisman, Malcolm Gould and David Bondra), but I was also impressed by former Nelson Leaf Michael Spring, who scored the go-ahead goal on a two-on-one. Chilliwack's defense is big. The likes of Matthew Hutchinson, David Thompson and captain Tyler Miller prevented any easy access to the slot, with plenty of active sticks and blocked shots.

In the Press Box: As was the case last night, Brandon Egli, Adam Fares and Josh Roberts are all in sick bay tonight for Trail. Chilliwack defenseman Alex Perron-Fontaine went down with an injury in the second period after a big collision in the corner, and did not return.

Broadcast Info: Join me once again for the pay-per-view tonight beginning at 7:30. Chilliwack's crew has the call on 89.5 the Hawk.

Local Hockey Tonight: A doozy on tap in Fruitvale tonight. The Nitehawks edged Fernie 6-5 in overtime last night (Chris Derochie with the winner), the two sides meet again at the Beaver Valley Arena (7:30 faceoff), with a fan celebration set for the Fruitvale Pub following the game. Castlegar faces off against the Golden Rockets (7:30, Complex) in the only other KIJHL game involving local teams. The Complex is set for a double-header though, with the major midget Kootenay Ice taking on the Greater Vancouver Canadians at 4:00. Selkirk College opens a weekend double-header at Thompson Rivers University tonight.

Chiefs 6 Smoke Eaters 3

Far from a classic, but the Chilliwack Chiefs will surely savor the two points.

Five unanswered goals paced Chilliwack to a 6-3 victory over the Smokies Friday at the Cominco Arena.

Trail took a 2-0 lead after one period of play following a pair of rebound goals from Erik Cooper and Taylor House.

Chilliwack evened the score after fourty minutes. Derek Huisman scored the first of his three goals on a five-minute power-play midway through the period, before Mathieu Tibbet tied things on (you guessed it), a rebound goal with just under three minutes left in the middle frame.

Chilliwack gave up a major of their own at the end of the second after Trevor Hills took Smokies forward Clayton Chessa into the end boards and was tossed for a blow to the head.

The Smoke Eaters though, failed to capitalize on the man-advantage, and the score remained level until Michael Spring snapped a shot through the legs of Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood 11 minutes into the third.

Huisman would add a second moments later on a 3-on-1 rush, before Josh Hansen added a fifth Chiefs goal on a wrap-around.

House brought Trail back to within two with just over three minutes left, but a Huisman empty-netter sealed not only a Chiefs win, but also a hat-trick for the Chilliwack centreman.

Up Next: The Smokies and Chiefs go at it again tomorrow (later tonight?) at 7:30.

Local Hockey Tonight
: Two more goals for Scott Morisseau in a 6-2 Castlegar Rebels victory over Princeton at the Complex. Attendance was only 184. Beaver Valley won a thriller, 6-5 over Fernie thanks to a winner from Chris Derochie. Golden defeated Grand Forks 10-1. Former Bruins captain Jacob Bergeron scored twice for the Rockets.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Smokies/Chiefs Lineups

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

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 - Birks (AP)
6 - Coish, 7 - Keca
4 - Poulsen

33 - Stanwood
35 - D'Andrea

12 - Bondra, 9 - Huisman, 14 - Gould
23- Hills, 28 - Forster, 16 - Ethier
27 - Sitterley, 15 - Hansen, 17 - Spring
20 - Tibbet, 18 - Graboski, 24 - Babych

4 - Laurent, 3 - Miller
8 - Hutchinson, 5 - Thompson
6 - Berry, 19 - Perron-Fontaine

1 - Gillam
35 - Udy

Smokies Swing Deal With Nanaimo, Grande Prairie

A three-team trade between the Smokies, Nanaimo Clippers and Grande Prairie Storm of the AJHL.

Trail sent forward Adam Boytinck and defenseman Nick Wong to the Clippers for 18 year-old forward Tanner Clarkson and future considerations. Boytinck and Wong were then sent by Nanaimo to Grande Prairie for forwards Mike Sones and Dan Correale.

In Clarkson, the Smokies get a player who could well develop into a sniper. He's scored 8 points in the BCHL this season, but put up 42 points (24-18) in 49 games as a 17 year-old with the KIJHL's Kelowna Chiefs last year, including one of the nicest goals I saw all last season in a game at Castlegar. He also spent 37 games with the Williams Lake Timberwolves as a 16 year-old.

All the best to Adam and Nick with their new team, and welcome to Trail Tanner!

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Chiefs

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Chilliwack Chiefs
When: Dec. 2, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

An admittedly short gameday package today because of the breaking trade involving the Smokies that was announced this morning. Watch for that in a separate post later today.

Trail will try for a third straight win tonight when they open a 2-game home series against the Chilliwack Chiefs.

The Smokies are coming off a 4-3 thriller against Merritt Wednesday that had just about everything: 2 breakaway goals, a penalty shot, and a 21-save third period from Lyndon Stanwood.

Tonight they face another hard-working, and physical squad in the form of the Chiefs, who are coming off a 3-2 victory in Prince George Wednesday night. And like the Merritt matchup, I'd expect another close encounter if the Smoke Eaters are able to match the consistency displayed over the last two games.

I chatted with a pair of Smokies after Wednesday's game. To hear Marley Keca's thoughts click here, and for Erik Cooper click here.
Last Meeting: A back and forth affair in Chilliwack on October 28th was capped off by a Trevor Hills OT winner to give the Chiefs a 4-3 victory. Adam Fares, Taylor House and Cooper scored for Trail.

Our Opponent: Chilliwack comes in having lost two of three games (both against Penticton), but bring a hard-nosed style of play to the rink every night. David Bondra, whose father Peter is best known for his years with the Washington Capitals, leads the charge offensively with 27 points while Malcolm Gould and Derek Huisman are both at or over a point-per-game pace. Ontario import Mitch Gillam has gotten the bulk of the starts in goal and has posted an impressive 2.95 GAA. He was the goaltender of record in Chilliwack's 4-3 victory in late October.

In the Press Box: The Smokies are again without forwards Fares, Josh Roberts and defenseman Brandon Egli. Forward Clayton Chessa missed Wednesday's game but is hoping to draw back in tonight. Chilliwack does not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Join me for the pay-per-view and/or free audio beginning at 7:30 here, while the Chiefs broadcast will be live on 89.5 the Hawk.

Local Hockey Tonight: Three KIJHL teams in action this evening, two on local fronts. Beaver Valley is at Fernie in a clash of first-place teams (that's part of a home-and-home set that sees the two sides in Fruitvale tomorrow). Castlegar hosts the Princeton Posse (7:30, Complex) while Grand Forks entertains the Golden Rockets (7:30, Grand Forks Arena).