Friday, September 14, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Spruce Kings

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Prince George Spruce Kings
When: Friday, Sept. 14, 7:00 PM
Where: Coliseum, Prince George

Life on the road continues for the Smokies on a sunny Friday morning here in Prince George. The team travelled yesterday in an all-day bus marathon from the West Kootenay, arriving in PG at 11:00 last night.

The Smokies had one new face on board the bus after a pair of mid-week transactions, too. 19 year-old forward Connor Collett was picked up from the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers in exchange for the rights to holdout defenseman Max Mowat. The Calgary native has two full seasons of junior "A" experience under his belt, scoring 26 points with the Oilers last season. Collett should draw into the lineup tonight for Trail pending inter-league paperwork.

Another move made this week sees 20 year-old forward Alex Holland moved to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for 19 year-old Travis Stephens. Holland did not score a point in two appearances over the weekend, while Stephens had 34 points last season split between Cowichan Valley and the Silverbacks.

No doubt with new bodies in the dressing room, the message could well be one of simplicity tonight for Trail. And after a weekend that saw the Smokies surrender 6 power-play goals on 12 opportunities, discipline will no doubt be imperative if Trail wants to walk out of the Castle with 2 points.

Last Meeting: The Spruce Kings swept the 7-game season series last year, their most recent triumph being a 4-3 overtime victory in Trail on March 3rd. Myles Fitzgerald scored the winner for PG while Garrett McMullen had a pair of goals for the Smokies.

Our Opponent: Much like the Smokies, the Spruce Kings made quite a few changes over the summer. Gone are the likes of Paul De Jersey, Michael Colantone and Oilers draftee Jujhar Khaira (all college), as well as the pesky Fitzgerald triplets (Victoria), hulking former Smokie blueliner Ben Matthews (college) and starting goaltender Ty Swabb (AJHL). In all, Prince George's top ten scorers from 2011-12 are in different cities, but the Spruce Kings have done well in replacing them (if a 2-0 showing at the Showcase is any indication). Ex-WHLer Lyndon Martell (who scored twice last weekend) headlines a cast of newcomers that includes offensively-minded Ontario defenseman Mitch Eden and Bradley Ryan. Returnee Kirk Thompson has jumped out to a great start to the season between the pipes with a pair of victories, he posted a 38-save shutout against Trail during exhibition play August 29th in Chase.

In The Press Box: Trail will be without newcomer Stephens as well as injured forward Bryce Knapp, who is on the injured list after picking up a knock during pre-season play. Defenseman Braeden Jones will serve the second of his two-game suspension tonight. Prince George defenseman David London is also on the injured list, the Spruce Kings have recalled affiliate forward Justin Rai from the PJHL's Richmond Sockeyes.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game can be seen on pay-per-view via FastHockey beginning at 7:00 PM. My broadcast on FastHockey and Smokies Ustream will begin at 6:55, though given that tonight's game is Prince George's home opener I've been told the opening faceoff may not take place until about 7:10.

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