When: Jan. 20, 7:00 PM
Where: Wesbild Centre, Vernon
The first of five straight on the road goes tonight in Vernon as the Smokies pay a visit to a rink that has given them fits this season. While all three visits by the Vipers to Cominco Arena hung in the balance until late in the third period or overtime, the change in venue has not served Trail well, losing in their prior two visits by scores of 8-3 and 10-1.
That said, this is a much more confident, and more focused Smoke Eaters team than the one that struggled through December. I'll go as far as to suggest Trail was unlucky to collect only five of ten points at home, as they competed through each of the five games.
No question the Smokies have struggled on the road; Trail's last victory away from home was that dramatic overtime win in Westside November 6th. I've contended though, that this team would start to win games at about this point of the season since very early on. I think finally we might be starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Last Meeting: As mentioned, December 16th in Vernon, a 10-1 Vipers victory which could well have been the low point of Trail's December. Vernon leads the season series 5-0 with one of the victories coming in overtime.
Our Opponent: Let's not understate the importance of these (and all subsequent games) to the Vipers. Vernon finds themselves in the unfamiliar situation of being on the outside of the playoff picture, five points behind fourth-place Chilliwack (with an even number of games played) entering tonight's action (Chilliwack, by the way, are in Prince George tonight for the second half of a twin-bill at the Coliseum). one player in particular has eaten the Smoke Eaters alive offensively this season, that being Californian Darren Nowick, who also drew the attention of Trail players in another fashion during the last meeting. Both Nowick and Mike Zalewski have 10 points (5-5) in the season series.
In the Press Box: Trail's Shane Poulsen remains out, while forward Adam Fares is doubtful. Castlegar Rebels d-man Riley Henderson was a healthy scratch in his KIJHL squad's 10-2 win over Grand Forks last night, he's expected to draw into the lineup for both weekend games with the added possibility of an AP forward making the trip as well. Vernon were without Nowick, fellow forwards John Knisley and Jedd Soleway, and d-men Luke Juha and Max Mowat for their 5-1 loss to PG Sunday.
Broadcast Info: There will be no Trail broadcast this evening, I'm planning to join the team tomorrow in Salmon Arm barring un-navigable, snowy roads. Todd Miller has your call on the pay-per-view side here, audio here on Vernon's KISS-FM.
Local Hockey Tonight: A noticeably slim Friday on local rinks. Only Beaver Valley and Nelson are in action in the KIJHL, both away. The Nitehawks visit Alex Ross and the Summerland Steam, while the Leafs are in Golden tonight. Of note, KIJHL president Bill Ohlhausen told The Nelson Daily he's expecting a decision regarding former Osoyoos player Josh Gray sometime today. For a backgrounder on that situation click here, I'm hoping to have thoughts from Leafs bench boss Frank Maida here and on Mountain FM soon but unfortunately he proves a difficult interview to get a hold of, at least for our office.