When: Feb. 2, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
The Smokies welcome back two old friends to Trail tonight in the only meeting of the season against Alberni Valley.
Goaltender Matt Larose and defenseman Daniel DelBianco were both shipped westward in mid-October in a deal that saw the Smokies acquire the since-departed Tanner Hicks, Marley Keca and Taylor House.
But more importantly, tonight's game serves as a chance for Trail to rid the memories of two tough weekend losses in Chilliwack and Langley; games that saw the Smokies enjoy second-period leads only to fall away from home.
I chatted about the weekend and tonight's game with Smoke Eaters assistant coach Bob Dever, who suggests Trail's recent play (in the big picture) is emblematic of a noticeable improvement over the pre-holiday portion of the schedule. Have a listen by clicking here.
Our Opponent: The Bulldogs, like Trail, are looking to the future as well. AV shipped leading scorer Dylan Nowakowski to Alberta at the Jan. 10 deadline, and the team now features only three overage players (leading scorer Josh Mitchell, d-man Walker Hyland and forward Trent Dorais). The 'Dogs hung in tough over the weekend with a pair of one-goal defeats at Powell River, but remain three points behind Langley for seventh in the Coastal Conference (albeit with two games in hand). There are a few Kootenay connections in addition to former Smokies DelBianco and Larose. Forward Tryg Strand once plied his trade with the major midget Kootenay Ice, while brothers Artsiom and Yan Kalashnikov were offensive sparkplugs with the Grand Forks Border Bruins last season.
In the Press Box: For Trail, Shane Poulsen is nearing a return to the lineup, while Adam Fares has missed the last five games. Alberni Valley have called up forward Austin Evans from the KIJHL's Fernie Ghostriders.
Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action on pay-per-view (and free audio) here, beginning at 7:20. Evan Hammond has your away feed covered on The Peak.
Local Hockey Tonight: One game on the KIJHL docket tonight in Grand Forks as the Border Bruins and Leafs open a home-and-home set (7:30, Grand Forks Arena). Nelson, of course, split a weekend set with Castlegar while the Border Bruins' last action was a 7-6 OT loss to Kelowna last Friday night.
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