Sunday, August 26, 2012

Main Camp Wrap

Smokies main camp is done and dusted, after Team Blue avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of Team White in this morning's final at Cominco Arena.

After 5-4 and 10-2 losses Saturday, 2012-13 captain Garrett McMullen fired home a pair of third period goals to lift Blue to a 5-2 win Sunday. Matt Reed, Bryce Knapp and Mike Rand also tallied for Blue while White got goals from Alex Holland and Dallas Flockhart. All the scoring came in the second half of the game, as for the second time in three outings returning goaltender Lyndon Stanwood did not surrender a goal.

Of the three scrimmages, Saturday night's 10-2 affair was easily the most heated, and after a busy weekend (almost week for some players), it wasn't all that surprising to see the physicality toned down somewhat Sunday. One thing is for certain, this year's group is talented and should put on an exciting, hard-working show night in, night out this season.

Returning forward Brent Baltus' name popped up time and time again all week long. The Vancouver Island product seems bigger, faster, and much more aggressive in the offensive end. Main camp linemate Scott Davidson didn't look at all out of place either, despite missing most of 2011-12. The Trail product created a lot of space for his line as they attacked and was just as tenacious in the other two zones of the ice. Fellow Trail native Jake Lucchini scored a hat-trick Saturday night and skated well too.

White's Alex Holland (acquired from Victoria via Penticton in the Sam Mellor deal) brought a younger, smaller doppelganger to camp in younger brother Dan. The Massachusetts natives both have great acceleration and can pick corners on the rush. Speaking of picking corners, Tanner Clarkson has arrived in the West Kootenay with a lot more confidence. The 19 year-old had one of, if not the best shot on the team last year and used it a fair amount this week.

I liked Tyler Berkholtz's game all week too. In addition to his vision, I was impressed by the 20 year-old's commitment to the defensive zone. Oddly enough, the former Alberni Valley Bulldog has never played a BCHL game in Trail through three years in the league, but seemed to be working out the unique characteristics of the Cominco Arena as the week progressed. He worked really well with returnee Adam Wheeldon too, and wasn't shy about standing up for his teammates, scrapping twice through the weekend.

Returning defensemen Shane Poulsen, Joren Johnson and Brandon Egli are all back a year older and wiser. Poulsen's size and reach serve him well, while Johnson showed he can have a bit of a nasty side to him when confronted physically. Egli is as speedy and scrappy as ever and played as a forward for half of Sunday's intrasquad game.

So too did newcomer Matt Alexander. The 6-foot-3 Ontario product (acquired in a trade last week) tried to put his stamp on the team early by taking a run at Wheeldon during a drill, but also showed some creative vision on the power-play, from point shots to nifty deflections (I'm told he was a forward until bantam). Fellow new arrival Braeden Jones is also sure to ruffle feathers this season in the BCHL, if this week (and spring camp in April) is any indication.

Stanwood was sharp between the pipes, allowing only two goals in three appearances (as mentioned earlier). Some of his best work came while short-handed, and he demonstrated much of the same quickness and compete level that impressed Smokies brass last season. The West Vancouverite has changed up his look as well with a sharp-looking set of new pads and mask.

What's Next?: After 40-odd players took part in main camp this weekend, we'll see a roster of 25 or 26 hop on the bus Tuesday morning for a four-day road trip. Trail will face Prince George twice in Chase Tuesday and Wednesday night before a date with the Centennials in Merritt Friday. The pre-season concludes Saturday night with a return engagement against the Cents at Cominco Arena. Trail's early schedule includes lots of travel with trips to Chilliwack and Prince George on tap for September, to me the time away will serve as a great opportunity for all the new faces to gel ahead of the grind of the BCHL season.

Bits n' Bites: Two of Trail's three alternate captains have been decided: Berkholtz and Wheeldon will don the "A" alongside newly-minted captain McMullen. A third alternate will be voted on by the players. Broadcast details in Chase will be more available Tuesday afternoon, as I'm told Prince George play-caller Ron Gallo will be making the trip to the Shuswap as well. Stay tuned to Off the Wahl and my Twitter account (@wahlsy) for more details.

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