When: Jan. 18, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Smokies have a chance to finish the five-game homestand with a .500 record as they host Salmon Arm for the second time in 14 days this evening. Since returning home from the holiday break, Trail has been playing much more inspired hockey, but third periods proved to be their nemesis in losses over the weekend against Coquitlam and Chilliwack.
I've been impressed with a new-look second line for Trail featuring Tanner Clarkson, Brandon Long and Riley McDougall over the past three games. Clarkson now leads the Smokies in goals with 9 (admittedly 4 were scored while he was a Nanaimo Clipper), and it's apparent a more prominent role for the West Kelowna product is paying dividends.
To be successful tonight, Trail's d-corps need to continue to be physical. 18 year-old Marley Keca has taken the lead of late in the hit department, and with only five (regular) healthy bodies on the back end I'm sure he'll play a lot of minutes again tonight.
I spoke with Smoke Eaters assistant Bob Dever yesterday in advance of tonight's game, listen to what he had to say here.
Last Meeting: The Smokies battled back from a 4-2 third-period deficit on January 4th at home but an OT winner from Shane Hanna after successive two-on-one rushes by both teams in the three-on-three portion of extra time. The Smokies now have an 0-4-0-1 record against the Silverbacks this season.
Our Opponent: Salmon Arm remains ten points out of a playoff position with only 19 games remaining in their schedule, and made moves since the last meeting two weeks ago. In is former Chilliwack Chiefs blueliner Mike Berry, while faceoff specialist Kody Dhaliwal was dispatched to the SJHL but wound up back with the Chiefs at the January 10th deadline. Morgan Zulinick and Devin Muller continue to be the focal points of Salmon Arm's offense, and the likes of Sean Flanagan and Hanna contribute as part of a mobile defense corps. After facing the gigantic Adam Clark during the last meeting, it's likely the Smokies will again see Kurt Williams this evening between the pipes.
In the Press Box: Trail remains without d-man Shane Poulsen, meaning AP Riley Henderson again gets the call from the KIJHL's Castlegar Rebels. Salmon Arm gets both Berry and Muller back from two-game suspensions tonight, while Kimberley's Bennett Hambrook and forward Graham McBain have both been out of the lineup of late.
Broadcast Info: All the action gets underway at 7:30, join me for the pay-per-view beginning at 7:25 here.