Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Chilliwack Chiefs
When: Feb. 4, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail
After a tough loss seven days ago, the Smokies get another crack at the Chilliwack Chiefs on their home turf (ice) tonight. Trail raced out to a 3-0 lead seven days ago at Prospera Centre only to see the Chiefs score four unanswered goals to win 4-3.
The Smokies are coming off their largest margin of victory this season, 6-2 over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Thursday night. 19 year-old forward Brent Baltus is on fire, having scored 4 times in the last three games; he put home a pair including the game-winner against old friend Matt Larose two nights ago.
Trail might well be at a season-high, confidence-wise. Tonight, they face a short-benched Chiefs side in search of their third straight home-ice win, and a 2-0 start to February.
Last Meeting: It's been touched on above, but Shay Laurent's third-period slapper proved the difference Jan. 28 at Prospera. Tonight marks the seventh of eight meetings between Chilliwack and Trail this season, with the Smokies holding an 0-5-0-1 record in the season series.
Our Opponent: The Chiefs come into play tonight needing two points to widen the gap between themselves and fifth-place Vernon. Chilliwack has dropped to fourth in the Interior after last night's 5-1 setback in Penticton and Prince George's victory on home-ice, but trail the Spruce Kings (who again host Salmon Arm tonight) by only a point. Chilliwack's top line of Derek Huisman, Malcolm Gould and David Bondra have been positively deadly against Trail, combining for 19 points in the six-game season series (one might argue Bondra's penalty shot last Saturday night was a turning point as well). David Thompson has scored 5 of his 22 points against Trail and leads all blueliners in scoring through six meetings. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mitch Gillam go in net tonight. He's played 4 of the 6 games, and partner-in-crime Bryton Udy got the start last night.
In the Press Box: The Smokies are without defenseman Shane Poulsen as well as forwards Adam Fares and Adam Wheeldon. Both Poulsen and Wheeldon could return next weekend while Fares is out for the year. Chilliwack dressed only 16 skaters last night and were without captain Tyler Miller as well as forwards Jeremy Gossard and Mathieu Tibbet. All three were absent last Saturday too.
Broadcast Info: Join me for the pay-per-view tonight beginning at 7:25, by clicking here. Marc Fitzgerald has your away audio here.
Local Hockey Tonight: One game of KIJHL significance could see Beaver Valley clinch their first division title in six years at Castlegar (7:30, Castlegar Complex). The 'Hawks need one point, or a dropped point by the Rebels. The major midget Kootenay Ice will look to keep their red-hot 2012 going this weekend in the Lower Mainland against the Vancouver NE Chiefs, while Selkirk College complete a weekend trip tonight at Simon Fraser. The Saints scored 4 times on the power-play but dropped a 6-5 decision to Trinity Western in Langley last night.
Movin' On Up: I mentioned this one on Twitter last week, but neglected to touch on it here. Former Smoke Eater Josh Roberts (EJHL Apple Core) has committed to Army. The Southport, CT product appeared to be rounding into form with Trail before suffering a nasty injury in a collision on the end boards in Westside in early November. Way to go Josh!