Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Cowichan Valley Capitals
When: Saturday, September 8, 6:30 PM
Where: Prospera Centre (Secondary), Chilliwack
Nearly six months ago, the Smoke Eaters' 2011-12 season ended at Prospera Centre ice. A new beginning gets underway tonight at the inaugural BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack as Trail takes on former head coach Jim Ingram and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. The Smokies cut the long trip west in half Friday, spending the night in Princeton before an anticipated early-afternoon arrival in the Fraser Valley later today.
The Smokies will ice a much different roster than the one that closed out last season: only 8 returnees from 2011-12 will sport the orange and black tonight. This year's group is hungry for early success, and there is an expectation amongst the players and staff that Trail collect points both this weekend and on a two-game swing next weekend in advance of the home opener against West Kelowna September 21st.
Last Meeting: The Smokies and Caps met only once last year, a 7-1 Cowichan Valley win on October 30, 2011. The game marked the tail end of an arduous coastal road trip for Trail that was precipitated by an early departure from the Sunshine Coast and punctuated by bus problems on the way home.
Our Opponent: The Capitals are gunning for another playoff run in the Island division this season, after a 7-game thriller against the Surrey Eagles last year that featured ups and downs before the Eagles eventually advanced to the Coastal final. Cowichan Valley have brought in several new faces to help them along their way, including former Kamloops Blazers forward Ryan Hanes and U-Mass Lowell commit Corey Scammon. Returnee Derek Dun is expected to shoulder the load in goal for the Capitals, while ex-WHL'er Matt Grant and Mikael Jung have proven their ability to be dangerous on every shift and will lead a new-look forward group that lost the likes of former Smokie Logan Proulx over the off-season.
In the Press Box: The Smoke Eaters will start the season with an affiliate in the lineup. Forward Matti Jmaeff has been recalled from the KIJHL's Nelson Leafs, he will slot in for rookie Bryce Knapp who is out with a slight knock. The Smokies have also added 6'4" 17 year-old Michael Bell to the roster. The Maple Ridge native split last season between the WHL's Everett Silvertips and the major midget Vancouver NE Chiefs. He could well draw in tonight.
Broadcast Info: As will be the case for every game this season, tonight's contest is available on FastHockey pay-per-view, as well as a free audio feed on the Smokies' Ustream channel. Join me for all the action beginning at 6:20.