Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Penticton Vees
When: Mar. 6, 7:00 PM
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton

Trail gets another crack at ending the vaunted Vees streak tonight in the South Okanagan, but will again be short-staffed thanks to a rash of injuries.

The Smokies are coming off solid efforts in two of three home games last week, despite having only 13 skaters in the lineup Trail scrounged their way to two overtime points and held third-period leads in both games.

With only four games left in the regular season, tonight's game can be, like October's victory over Penticton, a real jewel in what has otherwise been a season of growth, learning and frustration.

The Vees should get their first look at Lyndon Stanwood tonight. The 18 year-old was tagged with both OT losses last week and has been the goaltender of record in 7 of Trail's 11 victories this season.

Garrett McMullen has been red-hot for Trail. The Rochester product scored a natural hat-trick Wednesday night against Merritt, then put up two goals against Prince George Saturday. McMullen came within a crossbar of registering his second HT of the week and has showed plenty of chemistry with Erik Cooper and Connor Tiechko since mid-January.

Tonight also marks the final meeting for Vees forward Travis St. Denis against his former, and hometown team. The 19 year-old is off to university next season after leaving a lasting impression on Smokies and Vees fans over his four seasons in the BCHL. Look for a big night out of him.

Last Meeting: Trail came ever-so-close to ending Penticton's win streak (currently sitting at 40 games), when the two sides met February 23rd in Penticton. Tied 1-1 well into the third, the Vees counted 2 goals in under a minute en route to a 4-2 victory. Trail has a 1-5 record in six meetings with Penticton this season.

Our Opponent: If the win streak wasn't captivating Penticton's players, one might suggest the final week of the season could be an opportunity to rest key cogs in the lineup in advance of the playoffs. A win tonight, though, would set a new North American record for consecutive victories for the Vees, having already set a BCHL record last month. No question the Vees can light the lamp; 9 of the league's top 14 scorers wear white, blue and black including Minnesotans Joey Benik & Mario Lucia and former Grizzly Wade Murphy, who sit 2-3-4 with a combined 265 points. Penticton has plenty of speed to burn both up front and on the back end, prompting Trail's coaching staff to reinforce the need to keep things simple up and down the ice (particularly in light of the staff shortages for the orange and black). Don't be surprised to see Chad Katunar between the pipes tonight for Penticton after Mike Garteig missed the weekend with a knock.

In the Press Box: Trail are again without D Marley Keca, and forwards Luke Bertolucci, Adam Fares and Brandon Long. D Joren Johnson has missed the last six games but told me he's close to coming back. Penticton F Connor Reilly is out for the season, while D Kyle Beaulieu and G Garteig have both been MIA in recent games with injuries.

Broadcast Info: Tonight marks the final game of the season with no Trail broadcast. Consequently, Fraser Rodgers has your call tonight both on pay-per-view and free audio, available here.

KIJHL Tonight: Round Two begins tonight in Fruitvale, as the Nitehawks and Rebels tangle for Neil Murdoch supremacy for the second consecutive year. Castlegar won last year's series in five games, but head into the 2012 edition as the number two seed. BV took care of Spokane in five games in Round One, while the Rebels dispatched Nelson in as many games. Both teams are deep, with a combined 25 players having scored goals in the first round. The Rebels collected the W in 5 of the 8 regular-season meetings with BV, despite finishing nine points behind the Nitehawks through the 52-game schedule. Games One and Two go tonight and tomorrow at the Beaver Valley Arena, faceoff both nights is at 7.

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