Saturday, September 15, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Merritt Centennials
When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 7:30 PM
Where: Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, Merritt

Good morning from Williams Lake, where the Smoke Eaters enjoyed a good night's rest after last night's comeback win in Prince George. Garrett McMullen played OT hero as Trail won for the first time this season.

Tonight, the Smokies will take part in another home opener as they wrap up a stretch of four straight games away from home in Merritt. No doubt the team is full of confidence after last night's win, the key will be to continue building momentum through tonight's game.

Trail's penalty-killing, identified as an area of concern after the BCHL Showcase, was much scrappier and much-improved last night, denying the Spruce Kings on each of their 6 power-plays including a long two-man advantage that stretched from the end of the second period into the third and, looking back, proved to be a turning point in the game. That trend will need to continue if the Smokies are to collect points tonight in what's sure to be a rowdy atmosphere in Merritt. Trail could get some reinforcements on the blue line tonight as well, as defenseman Braeden Jones is eligible to play after serving the back end of a two-game suspension last night.

Last Meeting: The Centennials broke open a tight game in the third period on power-play goals by Sean Maktaak and Sebastien Pare to upend Trail 4-1 last Sunday at the Showcase in Chilliwack. Shane Poulsen, who had last night's equalizer in Prince George, scored the only goal despite the Smokies putting 20 shots on Cents goaltender Tyler Steel in the third period. Tonight's game marks the fourth meeting already this year between these two sides, including pre-season play.

Our Opponent: The Centennials have been idle since Sunday's victory in the Fraser Valley, and are in the midst of a two-game in seventeen-day stretch after a busy opening weekend. Nonetheless, we can expect Luke Pierce's squad to bring their work boots tonight, and to be motivated too given the pageantry scheduled for tonight's game. Not only is it Merritt's home opener, it's also the celebration of the team's 40th anniversary in the BCHL, with a host of dignitaries expected in-house. On the ice, Trail will need to be cautious of last weekend's two-goal man Pare, while 30 goal-scorer Derek Huisman is also a constant threat. Former Smokies affiliate Dane Birks had three assists against Trail in his Centennials debut.

In the Press Box: As mentioned, Jones is eligible to slot back into Trail's back end after serving his suspension. Forward Bryce Knapp is on the injured list and did not make the trip this weekend. The Centennials have no listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FastHockey pay-per-view, you can also listen live on Smokies Ustream beginning at 7:25. As was the case last night, the opening faceoff will be delayed because of home-opener ceremonies.

Bits 'n Bites: Former Smokies captain Logan Proulx scored in Selkirk College's 4-3 pre-season win over Thompson Rivers University last night in Castlegar. All signs point to Jeff Dubois' team making a lot more noise in the BC college circuit this year, and for fans in the West Kootenay the Saints offer a different brand of hockey than do the Smokies or our local junior "B" teams. Best of luck to Selkirk as they build toward the regular season.

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