When: Feb. 23, 7:00 PM
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton
Penticton might well be the Valley of Death for BCHL opposition this season, but the Smokies have their heads held high as they kick off a three-game swing tonight against the top-ranked Vees. After a nasty flu bug made its way through the dressing room, the club is ready to get back to work after a pair of disappointing results over the weekend that stretched the current winless skid to five games.
Speaking of streaks, no doubt the Smokies have their eye on ending Penticton's league-record 34-gamer. The Vees haven't lost since an overtime setback against Merritt in early November, and have already clinched first place in the BCHL's Interior Conference.
But the Vees are beatable, as evidenced by Trail's 4-3 win October 19th at the Cominco Arena. No doubt the Smokies will try to hearken back on the little things (physicality, shots from everywhere, persistent forecheck) that made them successful in that game, tonight.
Special teams will no doubt be a factor tonight as well, specifically the Smokies' need to stay out of the penalty box. Penticton leads the BCHL in both power-play percentage (~32%) and PK percentage (~85%), but Trail's man-advantage stats have also improved dramatically over the last two months, to the point the Smokies possess the league's 7th best power-play.
Last Meeting: The Vees posted an 8-5 win in Trail November 20th in a game that saw a wild third-period rally by Trail to close a 6-1 deficit to 6-4. Two goals in 10 seconds following the mid-period timeout cemented Penticton's fourth win over the Smokies this year.
Our Opponent: With 7 of the league's top ten scorers on their roster, no doubt the Vees pack an offensive punch, especially on home ice. Overager Connor Reilly leads the attack with 84 points, but fellow Minnesotan, and St. Cloud commit Joey Benik has been on fire of late, with 10 points in his last five games including a hat-trick February 11th vs. Westside. The Vees' inner circle has indicated backup goaltender Chad Katunar will see more action as the regular season winds down, don't be surprised to see the 6'4" former Creston Valley Thunder Cat between the pipes tonight.
In the Press Box: Trail is without forwards Adam Fares and Riley McDougall, while defensemen Joren Johnson, Marley Keca and rookie forward Luke Bertolucci are all likely to return. The Vees dressed a full lineup (save D Kyle Beaulieu) for their 4-1 win in Salmon Arm Saturday.
Broadcast Info: There will be no Trail broadcast for tonight's game or for tomorrow's fixture in Merritt. Fraser Rodgers has your PPV and audio call tonight at 7, both available here.
Stick Tap: To Smokies president Tom Gawryletz, assistant coach Barry Zanier, and all of the recipients of Trail's Community Sport Hero awards, presented last night at the Best Western Terra Nova, for their dedication and volunteerism toward local sports in the Greater Trail area. Keep up the great work!