Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: Feb. 29, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

A rested Trail lineup will get the benefit of home ice for their second matchup with Merritt in less than a week. The Smokies had only 13 healthy skaters Friday night at the Nicola Valley Arena in a 7-2 loss, but have matched up against the second-place Centennials much better on home ice than in the cramped confines in Merritt (Trail holds a 1-2 record away in the season series compared to 1-0-1 at home).

One hopes the time off since Saturday's 5-4 loss at Westside has given Trail's aching bodies a chance to heal ahead of a busy week of home games. The end of the season is well in sight and tonight marks the start of a final push for a Trail roster looking to make one last impression before the summer.

I chatted to Smokies forward Erik Cooper following Saturday's game, hear that conversation here.

Leap Year Madness: All tickets tonight will be only FOUR dollars. Hope to see you at Cominco tonight for one of the last home games of the season.

Last Meeting: Silvan Harper and Chad Brears each scored twice against 13-skater Trail as the Cents won 7-2 in Merritt last Friday night. The season series is even at 2-2-1, with Trail having collected 3 of 4 points in the two prior meetings at Cominco Arena.

Our Opponent: The Cents came ever so close to ending Penticton's streak in their last game before Trail product Travis St. Denis potted a winner in the final minute of overtime. The six-game losing streak from earlier this year though, has created a neck-and-neck battle for second place in the Interior Conference, with the Cents leading Prince George by 2 points (68-66) entering play tonight. Harper has been a Smokie-killer with 4 of his ten goals coming against Trail this season, while leading scorer Regan Soquila can make a case for being one of the best players in the league without a college commitment. Merritt is a big, physical team with a surprisingly mobile defence corps (D Brandon Pfeil sits fourth on the team in scoring with 34 points), and given the Merritt connection on the Smokies bench its no surprise to see these teams play such a similar style.

Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action on pay-per-view beginning at 7:25 here; Alex Grebenyuk has your away audio call on Q101 Merritt.

KIJHL Update: Both Castlegar and Beaver Valley are on the brink of the second round, albeit in different circumstances. The Rebels outgunned the Nelson Leafs 7-6 in OT on a Scott Morisseau tip-in; nine goals were scored in the first period alone. Spokane, meanwhile avoided a sweep at the hands of the Nitehawks with a 3-2 win on the strength of a Dylan Tappe winner. Both BV and Castlegar return to home ice tomorrow holding 3-1 series leads.

Saints Snag Sniper: Selkirk College have announced the commitment of former Express, Centennial and Millionaire Thomas Hardy for the 2012-13 season. The Surrey product led the PIJHL in scoring (33-40-73) with Aldergrove. In a release Hardy says he's "excited to go back to the small-town feeling [he] had throughout his years of junior hockey." Selkirk wraps up their season Saturday at Eastern Washington.

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