Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Baltus, Stanwood Earn Honourable Mentions

Stanwood had to deal with traffic jams in his crease all weekend long (Randy Emery photo)

The BCHL named two Smoke Eaters to its list of honourable mentions for Player of the Week Monday, tabbing goaltender Lyndon Stanwood and forward Brent Baltus for their exceptional performances in wins over Victoria and Salmon Arm.

Stanwood stopped 72 of 76 pucks in the two victories, with a combined 30 third-period saves against Grizzlies and Silverbacks teams who bombarded the Smokies with late pressure Friday and Saturday, while Baltus enjoyed a 4-point weekend (including a game-winning goal Saturday) to up his team-leading goal total to 12. Baltus needs just two more goals to match his 2011-12 total.

The league chose Langley forward Mario Puskarich as this week's Player of the Week after he tallied 7 points in 3 games. The Rivermen went 1-2 over the weekend.

Way to go Lyndon and Brent!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Smoke Eaters 5 Silverbacks 2

Brent Baltus upped his team-leading goal total to 12, and Lyndon Stanwood made 33 saves as the Smokies upended the Silverbacks 5-2 in Salmon Arm Saturday.

Trail got going early after Luke Sandler deflected a point shot through Silverback goaltender Colin Dzijacky, then two minutes later Connor Collett wristed home his second goal in three games.

The hosts replied midway through the opening frame on a hot slapshot from Harlan Orr from right wing, but 2 minutes after that on a 2 on 1 Baltus roofed a puck after a crisp feed from linemate Garrett McMullen to up Trail's lead to 3-1.

Baltus would return the favour for the only goal of period two. McMullen stepped out of the penalty box and was sprung in alone, wristing a shot past Dzijacky into the top corner to give the Smokies a 4-1 lead thru two periods.

Blake Box would score on a third-period power-play as Salmon Arm applied near-constant pressure on Stanwood, but the 19 year-old stood tall, stopping 14 third-period shots before Baltus iced the game with an empty-netter in the dying seconds.

Trail got the early goal they needed, and did a terrific job of frustrating the Silverbacks' offense. The PK was again strong, killing 5 of 6 Salmon Arm power-plays.

My Three Stars:
1. Brent Baltus, Trail
2. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
3. Garrett McMullen, Trail

Up Next: the Smokies are back on home ice for two games starting with a matchup against Chilliwack on Friday. Game time is 7:30.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Silverbacks

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Salmon Arm Silverbacks
When: Oct. 27, 7:00 pm
Where: Shaw Centre, Salmon Arm

Good morning from the cozy confines of the Trail Blazer. The mood is good as we roll northwest toward the Shuswap for a pivotal matchup with the Silverbacks.

Trail and Salmon Arm come into tonight's game having both won Friday (albeit in different circumstances), and both are vying for the 4th seed in the Interior as well as trying to distance themselves from the last-place Vernon Vipers.

The Smokies rode the strength of a very successful power-play in last night's 4-2 win over Victoria. (The PK was strong too and also found the scoresheet courtesy Jake Lucchini). After an early struggle to contain the Fitzgerald triplets, Trail switched strategies at even strength and this morning, head coach Bill Birks was glowing over the effort of his third line of Connor Collett, Ryan Edwards and Adam Wheeldon in containing the Grizzlies' top line.

The Smokies gave up 41 shots, but I thought former Silverback Braden Pears and Shane Poulsen were sensational on the back end. Both were rewarded with goals, and both were steady in their own zone, blocking shots, being assertive physically and making smart decisions with the puck.

Newcomer Valik Chichkin will meet us for the pre-game meal in Kelowna. The 18 year-old ex-Langley blueliner will make his debut tonight amidst great anticipation. All indications are that he will be a big (figuratively and literally) part of the Smokies' defense going forward, and if social media is any indication, he's excited to join his new club and settle into life as a Smoke Eater which is always encouraging.

Last Meeting: The two teams haven't met since February 17th, a Silverbacks win in Trail. The Smoke Eaters won on their last visit to Salmon Arm in January on the strength of an Erik Cooper overtime penalty shot.

Our Opponent: The Silverbacks are rounding into form after a slow start, and last night's 2-1 OT win in Vernon will only bolster their confidence. The new-look 'Backs are without the likes of Devin Muller and Morgan Zulinick, but are starting to get scoring up and down the lineup, notably by former Portland WHLer Jason Trott. Buzzsaws Jeff and Brendan Kennedy are back for their sophomore seasons, Jeff had 10 points against Trail in the 2011-12 season series.

In the Press Box: The Smokies remain without defenseman Braeden Jones as well as forwards Jesse Knowler and Bryce Knapp. Defenseman Matt Carr (Fernie KIJHL) has made the trip after a strong AP performance last night.

Broadcast Info: Join me for all the action on FASTHockey pay-per-view or listen live on Smokies Ustream. The pregame show begins at 6:55 (watch this space for links later this afternoon).

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Smoke Eaters 4 Grizzlies 2

Trail scored three times on the power-play, and Lyndon Stanwood made 39 saves as the Smokies doubled the Victoria Grizzlies 4-2 at Cominco Arena Friday.

Stanwood was the man of the hour, holding the Grizzlies, in particular the line of Myles, Leo and Gerry Fitzgerald at bay as the Smokies, despite being outshot 41-16, snapped a 7-game winless skid in front of more than 1,100 fans in Trail.

Victoria jumped out to the early advantage territorially, and possession-wise, but the Smokies went ahead 1-0 on a power-play just shy of the 12-minute mark when Braden Pears' point shot went in through traffic. For Pears, it was his first goal as a Smoke Eater, and gave the home side a boost after the Grizzlies had a couple of close calls early on.

It would be Victoria's discipline that would cost them tonight. Needless penalties for cross-checks, interfering with the goaltender and checking Smokies captain Garrett McMullen after the whistle turned into two more goals, and a potential Victoria 5-on-3 squandered.

Trail took advantage on a two-man powerplay of their own early in period two, as Shane Poulsen calmly snapped a puck into the top corner for his fourth of the season.

After Myles Fitzgerald brought the visitors back to within one, Trail would score another power-play goal off a point bomb from Djordje Leposavic. The 20 year-old's first BCHL goal stood up as the eventual game-winner.

Jake Lucchini would add to Trail's lead in the third, putting a wrister through Victoria goaltender Brady Rouleau's legs after a terrific individual effort from Tyler Berkholtz to win a puck race in the offensive zone. Victoria would round out the scoring with just over three minutes left in the game, as Brett Hartskamp banged a rebound past Stanwood on a Grizzlies power-play.

The Smokies have put in a lot of work on special teams over the last couple of weeks, and tonight it paid off. Trail went 3/4 with the man-advantage and killed 5 of 6 Victoria opportunities. The pairing of Pears and Poulsen were terrific on the night in all situations and both were rewarded with a goal.

My Three Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Shane Poulsen, Trail
3. Myles Fitzgerald, Victoria

Up Next: The Smokies visit Salmon Arm Saturday in a battle for fourth place in the Interior division. The season-series opener is set for 7:00 at the Shaw Centre (pregame at 6:55).

Smokies Acquire Chichkin From Langley

Valik Chichkin will join the Smokies tomorrow in Salmon Arm (thanks to the Rivermen and Garrett James for the photo)

A trade involving the Smoke Eaters that was finalized last night, but made public this morning. Trail has acquired hulking defenseman Valik Chichkin (94) from the Langley Rivermen in exchange for the rights to 19 year-old forward Tanner Clarkson. Chichkin, a 6-3 rearguard from Burnaby, tallied 2 points in 9 appearances with Langley this season, adding 14 points as a 17 year-old rookie last year. Clarkson last appeared in a Smoke Eaters uniform September 22nd in Vernon, and scored 1 goal in 6 games this season after 19 points in 33 games with Trail last year.

The full release from the team is here.

From the outset, this deal to me looks like a win-win for both teams. Chichkin joins a Smoke Eaters blueline in need of more size (and healthy bodies with Braeden Jones now out for several weeks). We only got to see the Rivermen once last season (a nailbiting 5-4 Langley win in the Lower Mainland in late January), but Chichkin struck me then as a guy who can have a bit of a mean streak too, which will only serve to better Trail's back end.

On the other side, Clarkson gets a fresh start with a Langley team right in the thick of a razor-tight Mainland division. Smokies fans know full well the West Kelowna kid has oodles of talent (with size and reach to boot), and he should do well with the Rivermen.

Chichkin is en route to Kelowna where he will meet the Smokies tomorrow ahead of a crucial Interior matchup in Salmon Arm. Rivermen play-caller Brandon Astle writes on his blog that Clarkson will not dress tonight as Langley visits Surrey.
All the best to Tanner as he continues his hockey journey, and welcome to Trail Valik!

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Grizzlies

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Victoria Grizzlies
When: October 26, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies enter a must-win weekend tonight with the second matchup in as many weeks against the Victoria Grizzlies. Trail’s offense found its groove in a trio of away games last weekend; Brent Baltus and Luke Sandler led the charge with goals in all three games as Trail scored an average of four times per game against the Grizzlies, Cowichan Valley Capitals and Surrey Eagles.

And despite coming away with only one point last weekend, the defensive effort has shown considerable improvement. All five Surrey goals last Sunday were scored by defensemen, and last Friday’s matchup in Victoria against the Island Division-leading Grizzlies went right down to the wire.

The Smokies ran into the much-maligned injury bug over the weekend, too. Defenseman Braeden Jones and forward Jesse Knowler both left Friday’s game in Victoria and haven’t played since, and forward Bryce Knapp missed Sunday’s game in Surrey and is on the injured list too. Trail has recalled defenseman (and South Slocan native) Matt Carr from the KIJHL’s Fernie Ghostriders as well as 16 year-old Moose Jaw Warriors prospect Colton McCarthy, who has 11 goals in 15 games with the Nelson Leafs.

Last Meeting: Zach Urban’s power-play goal late in the second period lifted Victoria to a 4-3 victory last Friday night at Bear Mountain Arena.

Our Opponent: Victoria (10-4-0-1) comes into tonights game on a 4-game win streak, and a four point lead atop the Island division over Alberni Valley. The Grizzlies made a slough of changes over the summer, notably picking up triplets Leo, Gerry and Myles Fitzgerald from Prince George. The trio combined for 5 points last Friday, with Gerry scoring two second-period goals. 17 year-old defenseman Nolan DeJong committed to Michigan this week. Both he and forward Dante Hahn have been invited to Team Canada West’s evaluation camp in Calgary next week in advance of the 2012 World Junior “A” Challenge in Nova Scotia. Tonight marks the start of a three-game Interior swing for Victoria that also includes stops in Penticton and Merritt.

In the Press Box: Jones and Knapp are week-to-week, while Knowler is also out tonight. The Grizzlies do not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view or listen live at Smokies Ustream. Pre-game is set for 7:25 with the opening faceoff at 7:30.

Special Guests: Trail and the Cominco Arena have been proud to host Canada's national sledge hockey team this week for a training camp. The entire squad, including local head coach Mike Mondin, will be on hand tonight and will take part in a special pre-game ceremony. Tonight's game is also kid-oriented, as all children under 12 get in the door free tonight if accompanied by an adult.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eagles 5 Smoke Eaters 4 (OT)

Devon Toews scored a hat-trick, including the overtime winner as the Surrey Eagles edged the Smokies 5-4 Sunday.

Toews leaped off the Surrey bench, strode into the play and snapped a wrister past Smokies starter Lyndon Stanwood 1:03 into 3-on-3 overtime, putting an end to an exciting, back-and-forth game that thrilled the more than 1,000 fans at the South Surrey Arena.

The Smoke Eaters opened the scoring early in period one, when Connor Collett put a wrist shot upstairs on Surrey starter Glenn Ferguson, but the Eagles' Craig Wyszomirski answered back on a two-man advantage two minutes later.

The Smokies took another lead early in period two, off a bungled clearing attempt that fell to affiliate Chandler Bruyckere. The 17 year-old hammered a slap shot into the top corner for his first BCHL goal.

Toews leveled the scoring to even the game at 2-2 heading into period three, then scored again 52 seconds into the third period on a Trail double minor.

The Smokies would fight back, and tie things at 3-3 when a bouncing puck made its way to Luke Sandler in the low slot, only for him to roof a backhander over Ferguson for his third goal in as many games.

Brent Baltus would score his tenth of the season moments later, banging home a loose puck on a Trail power-play, before Eric Chevrier's point blast tied the game at 4-4 with just under 3 minutes left.

The two teams traded chances in overtime, including a Surrey power-play during the first five-minute frame, but Toews was not to be denied, giving the Eagles back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

It was a real tough result for the Smokies, who despite having a short bench and being fatigued hung right in with an energized Surrey squad. Stanwood made 42 saves in the Trail goal, while Ferguson stopped 34 of 38 shots.

My Three Stars:
1. Devon Toews, Surrey
2. Brent Baltus, Trail
3. Luke Sandler, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies return to home ice Friday against Victoria, game time is 7:30 pm.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Eagles

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters at Surrey Eagles
When: Oct. 21, 4:00 PM
Where: South Surrey Arena, Surrey

A quick post as we roll on toward Swartz Bay, as Trail winds down the three-game swing this afternoon against the Eagles.

Last night's 9-5 loss in Duncan was far from resplendent, and the Smokies to a man seem motivated to finish this trip on a positive note. Brent Baltus has enjoyed a fruitful weekend with three goals, and is the high goal-scorer heading into today's game with nine on the year. His line with Garrett McMullen and Scott Davidson has been dangerous on every shift.

Defensively, Trail needs to simplify things. Clearances need to be harder, assignments need to be given more scrutiny, and the Eagles can't be given nearly the amount of time with possession in the offensive zone as were the Capitals on Saturday. Trail has surrendered 6 or more goals 7 times on the road already this season, but Friday's performance in Victoria and the efforts this team has put in at home must serve as proof positive that the club can lock things down when necessary.

Last Meeting: Brandon Long's OT winner, moments after Eagles d-man Brandon Tanev hit the post, proved the deciding moment as Trail won 5-4 on January 27th in Surrey. The Smokies have won on their last 3 visits to the South Surrey Arena.

Our Opponent: The Eagles shook things up mid-week, sending captain Brandon Morley to Coquitlam for 33 goal man Brady Shaw (who is out of the lineup tonight on a college visit to the US). That move paid immediate dividends as Shaw scored twice Friday, helping Surrey overcome a 4-1 deficit to nip Vernon 5-4. Surrey is a quick, puck-moving team that uses the big ice in their home rink to their advantage, but have had an inconsistent start, sitting in 5th in the iron-tight Mainland Division.

In the Press Box: Trail's Jesse Knowler and Braeden Jones are out. AP defenseman Chandler Bruyckere (VIJHL Oceanside) is on the trip and will play his second BCHL game today.

Broadcast Info: Watch today's game on FASTHockey, or listen live on Smokies Ustream. Vancouver-area listeners can also tune in to TEAM 1040. My show gets underway at 3:55.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Capitals 9 Smoke Eaters 5

Teal Burns scored a second-period hat-trick, and Ryan Hanes had five points as Cowichan Valley defeated the Smokies 9-5 in Duncan Saturday.

The Smoke Eaters scored a season-high 5 goals, but were denied points by a Caps squad whose goal-scoring methodology ranged from the sublime to the bizarre.

Cowichan's Matt Grant opened proceedings 1:05 in with a wrister from the slot, before Trail captain banged home his own rebound 3:33 later for his first goal in nine games.

The Caps would take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission after Mikael Jung put home his own rebound on a power-play with 2:08 left.

The home side exploded for five goals in the second, as Burns beat starter Adam Todd for his first as a Capital. Trail would answer back and level the score with a pair of goals in a 14-second span courtesy of a Brent Baltus breakaway and Adam Wheeldon, before Burns completed his hat-trick with two of his own, chasing Todd in favor of Lyndon Stanwood.

It took all of 32 seconds for Cowichan to solve Stanwood on a tic-tac-toe passing play that found Grant at the side of the goal for his second. Hanes would score his only goal of the night short-handed at 16:37, floating a shot off a Trail stick, over Stanwood's head, and in before Shane Poulsen put a point shot post-and-in on the same power-play.

Jarrett Brown and former Cap Luke Sandler would trade third-period goals (Sandler's on a 5-on-3) before Hayden Berra picked a Smokie defenseman's pocket and snapped home the Capitals' 9th of the game.

The Smokies were good offensively tonight, tallying a season high 5 times and outshooting Cowichan Valley 43-35 on the night. The defensive zone was altogether a different story, as the Capitals had simply too much time to control the puck in the Trail zone, coverages were missed, and rebounds and clearing attempts were flailed at with little success.

Trail only had five regular defensemen in the lineup with Oceanside Generals (VIJHL) blueliner Chandler Bruyckere pressed into AP duty. He will likely be back in tomorrow.

Todd struggled at times in his Smokies debut, but did make a number of highlight saves, including a pair of larcenies off Keyler Bruce and Adam Smith from point-blank range in the first period. He and Stanwood didn't get much help, though, as Trail surrendered 7 or more goals to the Capitals for the third consecutive meeting, and pushed their winless skid at "The Stick" past the decade mark.

Tomorrow, in Surrey, it's a new day, and I'd expect this group to be positively famished for points in a building (South Surrey Arena) that has yielded happy results each of the last four years.

My Three Stars:
1. Ryan Hanes, Cowichan Valley
2. Teal Burns, Cowichan Valley
3. Matt Grant, Cowichan Valley

Up Next: The Smokies wrap up the trip Sunday in Surrey. Game time is 4:00.

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Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Capitals

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Cowichan Valley Capitals
When: October 20th, 7:00 PM
Where: Island Savings Centre, Duncan

Two teams in need in need of points collide tonight in Duncan as the Smokies face former coach Jim Ingram and the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Trail's winless skid hit five games after a tough 4-3 setback in Victoria yesterday, and as has been the case in recent home outings, the Smokies deserved better but were unable to find an equalizer in a fast-flowing third period.

Tonight, Trail faces a Capitals squad that has won only twice this season and holds the worst record in the BCHL. That said, this Cowichan team is hard-working and talented, and already leads the season series with the Smoke Eaters after an emphatic victory at the Showcase in Chilliwack.

Tonight also marks the first chance for Smokies forward Luke Sandler to face the team with whom he started the 2012-13 season. The Chicago product scored his second goal as a Smoke Eater (and third overall) last night, and in chatting with him at the post-game meal last night, I can say for certain he's chomping at the bit, so to speak, to face his former mates.

We could also see the Trail debut of goaltender Adam Todd tonight. The large-framed netminder was picked up from Alberni Valley earlier in the week and with a 3-in-3 situation facing the Smokies this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the 18 year-old start either tonight or tomorrow in Surrey.

Last Meeting: The two clubs opened the 2012-13 season in Chilliwack September 8th, with Cowichan Valley riding four power-play goals en route to an 8-1 win. Garrett McMullen had the only Trail goal.

Our Opponent: The Caps have won only once since that first game of the season, and come into tonight's game fresh off a 5-1 setback in Powell River yesterday. Ex-WHLer Ryan Hanes leads the team in scoring with 8 goals, while fellow 20 year-old Mikael Jung had the only Cowichan goal yesterday. The Capitals have been busy in the trade market since the start of the season, including the deal with Trail that saw the Smokies acquire Sandler for the rights to forward Travis Stephens. Former Smokie Kyle Horsman was also signed earlier this month and should be in the lineup for his sixth game as a Capital tonight.

In the Press Box: Both Jesse Knowler and Braeden Jones left last night's game after the first-period incident with Victoria defenseman Chris Albertini (see last night's recap for more on that). Cowichan does not have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen live on Smoke Eaters Ustream. The show starts at 6:55.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Grizzlies 4 Smoke Eaters 3

Zach Urban's power-play point shot held up as the difference as the Victoria Grizzlies won a close one over the Smokies, 4-3 at Bear Mountain Arena Friday.

The Victoria captain fired a hard slapshot into the top corner of the net to break a 3-3 tie with just under 3 minutes remaining in the second period, while Michael Stiliadis made 21 saves to earn the victory.

Trail struck first at the 14:16 mark as Brent Baltus took advantage of an horrendous line change, breaking in alone for his team-leading 7th goal of the year. But Victoria tied the game less than two minutes later as Ontario import David Mazurek banged a rebound past Smokies goaltender Lyndon Stanwood.

Baltus would put the Smokies ahead on a wrister from the left circle with 16 seconds left in the opening frame, after a borderline hit from new Grizzlies defenseman Chris Albertini brought the Trail bench to a boil.

Albertini, a 19 year-old making his BCHL debut, charged in from centre-ice and walloped Trail forward Jesse Knowler inside his defensive zone, then bested defenseman Braeden Jones in a scrap after the 18 year-old came to the defense of his teammate, who was not in possession of the puck when he was hit. Neither Knowler nor Jones returned to the game, and Albertini was assessed two minutes for charging by referee Mike Christians.

The Smokies would relinquish their lead 1:30 into the second period on the first of two Grizzlies power-play goals. Gerry Fitzgerald tapped home from the doorstep after defenseman Nolan DeJong threaded the needle on a gorgeous cross-ice feed shortly after Stiliadis robbed Trail captain Garrett McMullen on a short-handed break. Fitzgerald would add a second after picking off a Stanwood clearing attempt in the offensive zone at 11:33, before the Smokies tied the game at 3-3 on  sharp wrister from Luke Sandler 18 seconds later.

Urban put the home side ahead late in the second, with neither team able to break through for any further goals (despite a third-period post from Scott Davidson) the rest of the way.

Much like the games last weekend, Trail deserved more from Friday's game. Continued consistent chance-generation in the offensive zone paid dividends tonight, and will continue to in the future. And despite being down two skaters for most of the game, the Smokies continued to work hard all over the ice. Next Friday's game between these two teams at Cominco Arena is sure to be a barn-burner.

My Three Stars:
1. Gerry Fitzgerald, Victoria
2 . Brent Baltus, Trail
3. Nolan DeJong, Victoria

Up Next: The Smokies will spend the day in Victoria before the short road trip to Duncan for a matchup with the Capitals tomorrow night. Game time is 7 pm.

Techno-Illogical: My apologies for those of you trying to tune in on Ustream tonight. A connectivity issue kept the audio feed from being operational in Victoria tonight but I've tested my equipment here at the hotel and things seem to be ok.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Grizzlies

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Victoria Grizzlies
When: October 19, 7:15 pm
Where: Bear Mountain Arena, Colwood

Good morning from Victoria, where the Smokies kick off a three-game in three day swing tonight against the Grizzlies after a long bus trip yesterday. Despite finding out their scheduled morning skate time had been booked only upon arriving at the rink shortly before 9, the team is rested, motivated, and ready to snap a four-game winless skid after starting the month with a 5-5 record.

Both outings last weekend resulted in cruel fates for Trail, as they outshot (and arguably outchanced) both Coquitlam and Merritt only to come up empty in the standings. Sooner or later, the chances that floated just wide, or were stopped by opposing goaltenders, will tickle the twine, and no better time than now to buck an early-season trend that sees Trail scoring on average, fewer than 2 goals per game.

New goaltender Adam Todd met up with the team at dinner last night and will surely see some playing time this weekend. The 18 year-old has a large frame and will provide some juxtaposition (appearance-wise) to incumbent Lyndon Stanwood.

The BCHL asked around this week about who "insiders" feel should be recognized for their prowess in the face-off circle. My first thought was to mention Tyler Berkholtz's name. The 20 year-old continues to work at both ends of the ice and is not only the Smokies' most physical forward, but arguably the team's best face-off man (with an honourable mention to Jake Lucchini). That said, the draws are just one area that have struggled all year, with the team's lowest point in the circle (17 for 60) coming two weekends ago in Penticton.

Last Meeting: The two teams haven't met since a 3-2 Trail win January 7th at Cominco Arena. Of the 40 players who dressed in that game, only 10 (five from Trail, five from Victoria) are still with their respective clubs. The Smokies won on their last visit to Bear Mountain as well, in December of 2010 on a Ryan Aynsley winner.

Our Opponent: The new-look Grizzlies are off to a hot start, sitting first in the Island division with an 8-4-0-1 record. Longtime Nanaimo bench boss Bill Bestwick is in his first season at the helm of the Grizzlies, and so far, the move appears to be paying dividends. Ex-Spruce King forwards Gerry, Leo and Myles Fitzgerald headline a strong forward group, sitting 1st, 2nd and 4th on the team in scoring. The back end is solid as well, with former Vees D.J. Jones and Zach Urban bringing RBC Cup experience to the Island. Ex-Cowichan netminder Brady Rouleau has made fewer starts between the pipes than Ontario import Michael Stiliadis, but possesses a stingy 1.89 goals-against average. The Grizzlies are also deadly in extra time, posting OT wins over Penticton and Alberni Valley last weekend on home ice.

In the Press Box: Neither Trail nor Victoria have any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Watch online via FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen to Smokies Ustream, with the pre-game set for 7:10.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Smokies Make Goaltending Shuffle

A changing of the guard, so to speak, as Trail has picked up a new goaltender and parted ways with a pair of 17 year-olds.

First, the Smokies acquired 18 year-old netminder Adam Todd from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for future considerations. The Courtenay product has appeared in two BCHL games this season, a home win over Powell River and a loss in Langley. Todd also has 12 WHL games, all with Saskatoon, under his belt after the Blades selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 Bantam Draft.

The full release is available here.

To make room for Todd, the Smokies have released goaltender Braden Krogfoss, who made four appearances (3 starts) for Trail after joining the team in late August from the Kamloops Blazers. It's my understanding the 17 year-old has been placed on this year's Cyclone Taylor Cup hosts, the VIJHL's Comox Valley Glacier Kings, where he should benefit from a lot of additional playing time, and will also be a bit closer to his Cloverdale home. UPDATE: Krogfoss told me this afternoon he's yet to make a decision on where he'll play for the rest of the season.

Also moving on is 17 year-old forward Michael Bell, who made only six appearances with Trail after arriving from Seattle. Bell is a big-bodied forward whose game will only flourish in years to come. It appears as though he'll stay in the area, joining the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

Best of luck Braden and Mike in your hockey journeys, and welcome to the team Adam!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend Audio/Video

I put together some highlights from Friday and Sunday's games against the Express and Centennials.

Also, some audio tidbits from this past weekend's broadcasts are now available.

For Bill Birks pregame Friday click here.

I also chatted with Express coach Jon Calvano, click here to listen.

A conversation with Bryce Knapp is available here.

As for Sunday, click for chats with Smokies assistant Brent Heaven (here) and Centennials coach Luke Pierce (here).

I also spoke with Jake Lucchini, click here to listen.

Finally, and belatedly, conversations from the Okanagan trip last weekend are available, with both Tyler Berkholtz (here) and Braeden Jones (here).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Centennials 3 Smoke Eaters 1

Two second-period goals proved the difference as Merritt collected its 8th straight win over the Smokies, 3-1 at Cominco Arena Sunday.

For the second time in as many games, the Smoke Eaters outshot their opponents only to come away empty-handed, as Tyler Steel stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced to help the Cents on to victory.

Merritt opened the scoring 12 minutes in, as Scott Patterson found himself alone in the slot to bang home a rebound off a Jeff Wight rush down the left wing. Wight's initial shot bounced off Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood's toe into the slot, and the Smokie netminder was unable to get his glove on the rebound effort while moving laterally across his crease.

Merritt would add to their lead in quick succession during the middle stages of period two. Kevin Lohan's heavy slapper from the point sailed through traffic into the top corner, then minutes later Sean Maktaak converted a lovely Regan Soquila feed at the side of the goal to give the Centennials a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Trail's only goal came late in the third period, as Connor Collett picked the top corner from the right circle to score the Smokies' first and only goal of the weekend.

Stanwood made 24 saves for Trail but was tagged with the loss.

Despite the dearth of goals, Trail were at least on par, if not ahead of the Cents in terms of quality scoring chances. For whatever reason though, puck after puck sailed wide of the goal. Both Scott Davidson and Garrett McMullen had golden opportunities from close range in the first period alone as the Smokies did a terrific job all night of forcing Merritt defensemen into turnovers. Steel's best save came in the opening stages of period two, robbing Tyler Berkholtz on a one-timer after a lightning-quick feed across the offensive zone from linemate Luke Sandler. I get the sense that if this team continues to generate the kind of offensive pressure it did tonight, and to a lesser extent on Friday against Coquitlam, the goals will start to come in bunches.

My Three Stars:
1. Tyler Steel, Merritt
2. Regan Soquila, Merritt
3. Connor Collett, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies will be hungry for points as they embark on a three-game Island and Coastal swing, beginning Friday night in Victoria. Gametime from the Bear Mountain Arena is 7:15 PM.

Parents Weekend: On behalf of the team, thanks to all the parents who visited Trail over the weekend. The Smokies held a post-game social Friday night as well as a breakfast Saturday (thanks too to the fine volunteer chefs at the Spud Shack for sacrificing their morning for a great event). This team wouldn't be on the ice without the dedication of family and friends, and it was great to meet some of the people who help the 2012-13 Smokies become the fine young men they are on, and off the ice.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Centennials

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Merritt Centennials
When: October 14, 5:00 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

It’s the third meeting of the season between these two Interior rivals, with the Smokies entering play Sunday one point ahead of both Salmon Arm and Vernon for the final playoff spot in the division. Yes, it’s early, but the Smokies have played more games than each of their Interior opponent, so yes, it’s important to earn points, even in October.

The Smokies come into tonight’s game against Merritt in need of an offensive explosion. But despite having scored only 2 goals in their past three outings, Trail should feel relatively confident in their ability to produce offensive chances. The Smokies fired 39 shots at Coquitlam goaltender Daniel Urbani on Friday night.

One offensive facet that needs a jumpstart is the power-play. Trail has scored a league-low 4 man-advantage goals, and have not scored a power-play goal since the 3-0 shutout over Vernon on September 29th. On the flip side, the Smokies’ penalty-kill has been much more effective over the past half-dozen games, and after a horrendous start is creeping toward the 75 percent mark.

Despite the 4-0 setback Friday night against Coquitlam, Trail played relatively well, limiting the Express’ quality chances while enjoying extended periods of sustained pressure in the offensive zone. From my vantage point, it feels as though all this team needs is a goal or two to lift the whole team’s spirits and get back to the success enjoyed at the tail end of September.

Last Meeting: Despite scoring an early goal, Trail fell 6-2 in Merritt on September 15th thanks in part to a pair of goals from Dane Birks. The Cents lead the season series 2-0.

Our Opponent: Merritt (6-3-1, 3rd Interior), snapped a two game losing streak last night with a 4-2 victory at home against Powell River. The hard-working Centennials are led up front by ex-Langley forward Sebastien Pare (who scored a hat-trick against Trail in an exhibition game this past August), and former 30-goal man Derek Huisman, who came to the Nicola Valley from Chilliwack last season. Goaltender Tyler Steel has carried the bulk of the load in goal for the Cents, he signed with Brown University earlier this month, becoming the third committed player (Birks and d-man Dylan Chanter the others) on Merritt’s roster.

In the Press Box: Both teams are without any listed injuries.

Broadcast Info: Watch tonight's game live on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen online at Smokies Ustream. Pre-game show gets underway at 4:55 with the opening faceoff set for 5:00.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Express 4 Smoke Eaters 0

Trail forwards Ryan Edwards and Bryce Knapp crash the net during Friday's second period (Randy Emery photo)

The Coquitlam Express started early, and got a solid performance in goal from rookie Daniel Urbani en route to a 4-0 victory at Cominco Arena Friday.

The visitors opened the scoring 1:15 into the game, as New Jersey Devils draftee Alex Kerfoot redirected a centring feed over the shoulder of Trail goaltender Lyndon Stanwood. With one hand on his stick, Kerfoot got just enough of a hard feed from linemate Zack Pryzbek to tally his 6th goal of the season.

The teams traded chances (and fists in a spirited early second-period bout between Scott Davidson and Jace Hennig), until the Express doubled their lead on another deflection with just over 5 minutes to go in period two. Forward John Siemer re-directed a Luca Leone slap-pass from close range for his third goal in two career outings against Trail.
The Express would extend their lead in the final minute of the period, seconds after a Tyler Berkholtz goal was disallowed. Coquitlam forward Justin Georgeson pounced on a loose puck in neutral ice and wired a short-handed wrister home. It was the fifth short-handed goal surrendered by the Smokies this season.

Rookie Adam Rockwood would round out the scoring late in the third period on a great individual effort that saw him take time, space and patience to beat the Trail goaltender.

Much like the road games last weekend, the Smokies competed hard, generating multiple chances on or close to goal. Urbani was strong between the pipes for Coquitlam, and used his size to avoid having to make desperate saves. And while Trail's penalty-killing continues to improve, the power-play again failed to click tonight on four opportunities; the Smokies have scored (along with Nanaimo and Vernon ) a league-low four man-advantage goals.

My Three Stars:
1. Daniel Urbani, Coquitlam
2. Alex Kerfoot, Coquitlam
3. Scott Davidson, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies are back on home ice Sunday evening against the Merritt Centennials to close out Parents Weekend at Cominco Arena. Game time is 5:00 pm.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Express

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. Coquitlam Express
When: October 12, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

Trail tries to stretch its home win streak to five games tonight when they take on a Coquitlam team battling for first place in the Mainland division. The Smokies have posted some fairly impressive home-ice victories already this season, and tonight will prove just as much a challenge for a team looking to rebound from a tough weekend in the Okanagan.

6-0 and 7-2 losses at West Kelowna and Penticton last Friday and Saturday night were moreso the result of opponents capitalizing on miscues rather than overall poor team play, and to me, neither score respected the hard work Trail did put in over the weekend. Brent Baltus became the first Smokie this season to hit double-digits in points (scoring his team-leading 6th goal of the year on his birthday no less), while local product Mitch Foyle also opened his account Saturday in Penticton, converting a nifty cross-ice feed from linemate Jake Lucchini.

Goaltender Lyndon Stanwood will surely be called upon again this weekend. The 19 year-old has recorded all five of Trail’s victories and has been one of the three stars in every Smoke Eaters home game so far this season. Stanwood has surrendered only five goals in four home-ice starts, including a shutout September 29th against Vernon.

Last Meeting: The two sides only met once during the 2011-12 season, a 5-3 win for Coquitlam January 13th at Cominco Arena.

Our Opponent: Coquitlam (6-3-1-0) surrendered the Mainland division lead to Chilliwack Wednesday after a remarkable third-period comeback by the Chiefs against Langley. The Express have gotten off to a great start defensively, led by 20 year-old goaltender Cole Huggins’ 1.90 GAA and 2 shutouts. The return of 19 year-old vet Mark Begert from college and overager Beau Orser from Surrey have also helped Coquitlam’s back end. Up front, the Express are led by New Jersey draftee Alex Kerfoot (5-7-12) and California import John Siemer (4-8-12). Siemer, coincidentally, scored twice the last time these two teams met. Both Huggins and 20 year-old forward Malcolm McKinney secured their futures this week, with Huggins committing to MSU-Mankato and McKinney to the University of Vermont.

In the Press Box: The Smokies are without any listed injuries. Coquitlam will be without defenseman Jason Bird, who underwent shoulder surgery last month.

Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view or listen live on Smokies Ustream. The show begins at 7:25.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Vees 7 Smoke Eaters 2

Louie Nanne scored a hat-trick as Penticton overcame an early deficit to defeat the Smokies 7-2 in the Okanagan Saturday.

Trail took the lead just shy of the two-minute mark when Brent Baltus deflected a point shot past Vees starter Nic Renyard for his sixth goal of the season.

But the Vees struck back, first as Nanne re-directed a Sam Mellor point pass on a Penticton power-play, before Jordan McCallum and Alex Jewell put the hosts ahead 3-1 at the first intermission.

Penticton would pick up where they left off in period two, as Mike Rebry and Troy Stecher added goals to put the Vees ahead 5-1.

Nanne would round out his hat-trick in the third. He put his own rebound past Trail goaltender Braden Krogfoss to make it 6-1, then fired home a hard shot on a breakaway minutes later.

The Smokies would close the night on Mitch Foyle's first BCHL goal late in the third, as the 16 year-old put the puck into a wide-open net after a pretty pass from Jake Lucchini.

As was the case last night, Trail played better than the score indicated. Yes, the Vees were the better club on the night, but the Smokies again fell victim to a few miscues. Penticton may be a different club than they were last year, but they are full value for their now 9-1 record.

My Three Stars:
1. Louie Nanne, Penticton
2. Michael Rebry, Penticton
3. Nic Renyard, Penticton

Up Next: Trail is back on home ice for two games beginning on Friday, when the Coquitlam Express pay their lone visit of the season to Cominco Arena.

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Vees

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ Penticton Vees
When: October 6, 5:00 PM
Where: South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton

Good morning from Penticton, where a rested Smokies group goes in search of a split on this weekend's road trip against the defending RBC Cup champion Vees. Trail certainly deserved better than a 6-0 setback in West Kelowna last night and no doubt will be hungry to finish the pre-Thanksgiving portion of the schedule on a positive note.

Tonight will be a challenge, though, to say the least. Trail is starting to learn there are no easy nights in the BCHL's Interior division, and yesterday's loss combined with other results bumped the Smokies from second place to fourth. The Smokies generated offensive chances at 5-on-5 last night and forced Warriors goaltender Tyler Briggs into some clutch saves, but again spent a bit too much time on the back foot to give themselves an opportunity to earn two points.

One area of the Smokies' attack that must improve is the power-play. Trail has scored only four man-advantage goals through the first eleven games, and Matt Anholt's goal for West Kelowna last night was the fourth short-handed marker surrendered this season. Trail was 0/6 on the power-play last night, and have not scored a power-play goal away from home since the first game of the BCHL Showcase September 8th.

Watch for Brent Baltus to lead by example up front tonight. The Nanaimo product is celebrating his 20th birthday and is in a share of the Smokies scoring lead with 5 goals and 9 points. He had arguably Trail's best scoring chance in the first period after being sprung loose on a breakaway on a hail-mary feed from d-man Braden Pears.

Last Meeting: Trail and Penticton haven't met since March 6th, a game that sticks in the Vees' memory banks as the night they set the BCHL's all-time wins record. Penticton rode a 6-goal third period en route to a 10-0 victory. The Vees won last year's season series 6-1 with Trail recording a home win October 19th, 2011.

Our Opponent: Despite welcoming in a host of new faces, Penticton is off to another strong start at 8-1 after a 4-2 victory over Vernon last night. Returnee Wade Murphy and Ontario import Michael Rebry each had a pair of goals, while new Notre Dame commit Chad Katunar recorded the victory in goal. Last year the Vees featured a former Smoke Eater in Travis St. Denis; this year is no different as Cranbrook native Sam Mellor is enjoying his return to the BCHL in the South Okanagan. The 20 year-old is one of 3 Vees with double-digit point totals, recording 13 points through 9 games. Penticton's lone setback was a loss in Prince George on September 15th.

In the Press Box: Trail do not have any listed injuries, nor does Penticton.

Broadcast Info: Tonight's game will be available on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen live on Smokies Ustream. Please note the early start time of 5:00 PM.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Warriors 6 Smoke Eaters 0

West Kelowna scored twice in each period, and Tyler Briggs stopped all 20 shots he faced as the Warriors blanked the Smokies 6-0 in the Okanagan Friday.

The home side opened the scoring just shy of the 11 minute mark when Marcus Basara strode down the left wing and ripped a wrist shot into the top right corner past the outstretched glove-hand of Trail starter Lyndon Stanwood. It was Basara's fourth goal of the season series.

West Kelowna would add to their lead later in the opening frame as Brennan Clark roofed the first of his two goals from close proximity after the puck bounced to him in the low slot. The 17 year-old's line with Brent Lashuk and Matt Anholt combined for eight points on the night.

Two second-period goals in a span of 2:20 late in the middle frame put the Warriors up front 4-0 after 40 minutes. First, Lashuk fired a low wrister through heavy traffic in front of the Smoke Eater net off an offensive-zone faceoff. Then Anholt broke in alone on a short-handed breakaway, beating Stanwood to the blocker side.

Seb Lloyd would add a fifth Warrior tally before Clark rounded out the scoring on a late third-period power play.

Briggs, making his third consecutive start against Trail, was forced to be good tonight too. The Clarkson College commit stymied Smokies forward Brent Baltus twice from close range early in the game, and made other point-blank saves on the likes of Luke Sandler and Jesse Knowler too. It was Briggs' second shutout of the season after an identical 6-0 triumph over Salmon Arm at the Showcase in Chilliwack.

While last Friday's Warriors win was spear-headed by the top line of Max French, Brett McKinnon and Reid Simmonds, tonight was also a different story. Yes, the top unit (with Simmonds replaced by rookie Ambrose Firkus) was dangerous, but they were held off the scoresheet, while other role players stepped up.

The one-sided scoreline doesn't speak to the Smokies compete level, either. This team battled hard, and while Trail was certainly outchanced the consensus post-game was that maybe the club deserved a better fate tonight. Nonetheless, the struggles away from home continue, as Trail has now been outscored 28-6 in its last four road games. Tomorrow's tangle with the Penticton Vees will be another challenge, and one this club will definitely have to be at its best in to earn a result.

My Three Stars:
1. Brennan Clark, West Kelowna
2. Brent Lashuk, West Kelowna
3. Tyler Briggs, West Kelowna.

Up Next: The Smokies will spend the night in Penticton before Saturday's visit with the Vees. Please note the early start time of 5:00 PM.

Gameday: Smoke Eaters @ Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters @ West Kelowna Warriors
When: October 5, 7:00 PM
Where: Royal LePage Place, West Kelowna

For the fourth time in 15 days (and third straight Friday night), the Smokies and Warriors renew acquaintances as Trail kicks off a two-game swing through the Okanagan. The Smoke Eaters are flying high heading into tonight's game, having swept a three-game home stand thanks in part to some overtime magic from Tyler Berkholtz on Tuesday night.

The road, though, has been a different animal so far this season. Trail has collected only two points away from home this season (September 14th in Prince George), and have surrendered 22 goals in their last three away fixtures. You'd have to think, though, that having two wins against a tough Warriors side will serve as an additional shot in the arm for a club eager to change their approach away from Cominco Arena's friendly confines.

Lyndon Stanwood was Trail's best performer through the homestand, and needed to be. The 19 year-old has surrendered only 5 goals in 4 home-ice starts, and seemed more aggressive in the crease over the weekend and on Tuesday. Trail won all three games at home despite being outshot each time.

It was also nice to see Berkholtz rewarded for being the Smokies' most consistent skater to start the year. The 20 year-old leads by example by working hard in the corners and being physical, and for my money probably leads this forward group in blocked shots and faceoff percentage.

Last Meeting: Berkholtz's goal at 2:11 of overtime lifted Trail to a 3-2 victory over the Warriors Tuesday at home. Connor Collett had his best game in orange and black with a goal and an assist while Scott Davidson also scored. Brennan Clark and Marcus Basara had the Warrior goals. Trail leads the season series 2-1.

Our Opponent: No doubt West Kelowna will be licking their chops to get back at the Smoke Eaters tonight in their own rink. The Warriors enjoyed long spells of offensive possession Tuesday but couldn't solve Stanwood after Basara (with his third goal against Trail this year) put West K up 2-1 late in the first period. His line with David Pope and Seb Lloyd created chance after chance Tuesday (as did the top unit of Max French, Reid Simmonds and Brett McKinnon), and the Smokies know all too well the danger of allowing West Kelowna's skilled forwards extended shifts in the offensive zone. On the back end, watch for Josh Monk to log 25 or more minutes tonight. The 20 year-old was seemingly on the ice every other shift Tuesday and is a strong, physical puck-moving blueliner.

In the Press Box: The Smokies, for only the second game this season, do not have any listed injuries. To get down to numbers, Trail has had to part ways with 17 year-old forward Anthony Conti. The Vancouver product did not register a point during his time with the Smokies but has all the tools to be a physical forward in this league in years to come. Best of luck this season Anthony!

Broadcast Info: Catch tonight's game on FASTHockey pay-per-view, or listen live on Smoke Eaters Ustream. Pre-game is set for 6:55 with the opening faceoff at 7:00.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Highlights vs. Kings & Warriors

For your viewing pleasure, I've put together highlight packages from Sunday's 3-2 win over Powell River, and Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory against West Kelowna. Unfortunately the video from Saturday's game against Vernon didn't have either of the first two goals due to a crash in our tech booth, so no highlight package will be available from that game.

The video quality in each of these first two packages should be much more crisp, but it came to me without sound. Nonetheless, enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Audio Galore

Plenty of audio for your listening pleasure today from the weekend and pre-game last night.

I chatted with three new Smoke Eaters over the weekend:

For Austin Adduono, click here.

For Luke Sandler, click here.

For Braden Pears, click here.

Three separate conversations with Smokies assistant Brent Heaven are available before the games against Vernon, Powell River, and West Kelowna.

I also chatted with Brent Baltus before last night's game, to listen click here.

I spoke with ex-Castlegar Rebel Bryce Eviston before Saturday's game with Vernon, to listen, click here.

I also caught up with Powell River Kings coach Kent Lewis Sunday, click here to listen.

And finally, a conversation with Warriors captain Max French before Tuesday's game, to listen click here.

Smoke Eaters 3 Warriors 2 (OT)

Tyler Berkholtz couldn't have picked a better time to score his first goal on Cominco Arena ice.

The 20 year-old roofed a shot after a gorgeous feed from Connor Collett on a two-on-one in overtime to lift the Smokies to their fourth straight home-ice win, 3-2 over the West Kelowna Warriors.

It was Berkholtz's third goal of the season, but first at home as a Smoke Eater after three years (and a 20-goal season) with Alberni Valley. It sent the crowd of 700+ home happy as the Smokies swept a three-game homestand and edged a skilled Warriors team despite playing their fourth game in five days.

Trail had to claw back twice from one-goal deficits, the first coming just shy of the three-minute mark as Warriors forward Brennan Clark fired home a wrist shot from the right circle.

The Smokies would equalize at 10:42, though. At the tail end of a Warrior penalty, forward Scott Davidson deflected a Djordje Leposavic point shot through the legs of West Kelowna starter Tyler Briggs for his second goal in three games.

The Warriors would reclaim the lead before the end of the first, though. Marcus Basara chipped home a rebound at the side of the Trail goal for his third goal in as many outings against Trail this season.

Basara's goal rounded out the scoring until the midway mark of the third period (despite both teams enjoying glorious chances), when Collett banged his own rebound past Briggs from the top of the crease. It was the Calgary product's first goal with Trail after being acquired earlier in the year from the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers.

The Warriors enjoyed the best chance of the third shortly thereafter, as a risky pinch from a Trail defenseman prompted a 3-on-1 rush the other way. West Kelowna forward Reid Simmonds then found himself alone in the slot, but couldn't wire a shot past the blocker hand of Trail starter Lyndon Stanwood, who made 35 saves.

In all, it was another workmanlike effort for the Smokies, who like Sunday against Powell River were very disciplined, giving West Kelowna only two power-play opportunities. Trail's penalty-kill has surrendered only one goal in four home games.

Affiliate player Ryan Edwards got stronger as the game went on too. The 19 year-old Beaver Valley forward skated mostly on a line with Collett and Luke Sandler, and worked hard at both ends of the ice. At long last, Ontario import Bryce Knapp saw game action for the first time this season after being placed on the injured list during exhibition play, and showed some promise down the left wing.

The story, again, was Stanwood, who made 21 saves in the final two periods and held the Smokies in the game at times with steady, confident goaltending. He has been simply unreal on home ice this season, and is a big part of the club's unblemished record at Cominco Arena so far this year.

My Three Stars:
1. Lyndon Stanwood, Trail
2. Tyler Briggs, West Kelowna
3. Connor Collett, Trail

Up Next: The Smokies visit the Okanagan for two games this weekend, beginning with a rematch with the Warriors Friday in West Kelowna. From there, Trail will face former Smokie Sam Mellor and the Penticton Vees Saturday before some time off for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gameday: Smoke Eaters vs. Warriors

Who: Trail Smoke Eaters vs. West Kelowna Warriors
When: October 2, 7:30 PM
Where: Cominco Arena, Trail

The Smokies are red-hot at home heading into a crucial early-season home-and-home set with the Warriors. After a rough start to the three-game weekend in West Kelowna Friday, Trail has rattled off consecutive home-ice wins, and with a victory tonight could move into sole possession of second place in the Interior Division.

20 year-old forward Brent Baltus led the charge this past weekend with four goals in three games, capped by a dramatic last-minute game-winner in Sunday’s 3-2 thriller against the Powell River Kings. He and captain Garrett McMullen enter tonight’s game tied for the team lead in goals with 5, and points with 9.

Goaltender Lyndon Stanwood will start again tonight, and looks to continue his fine form on Cominco ice. The 19 year-old has a sparkling 1.00 goals-against average in three appearances at home, and put in 33 and 37 saves in the shutout win over Vernon Saturday, and the victory over the Kings two days ago.

Tonight marks another challenge, though. Trail knows what it will take to beat the speedy Warriors, having done so already on September 21st. It’s up to each player in orange and black to maintain the energy that brought success over the weekend, despite tonight marking the team’s fourth game in five days.

Last Meeting: West Kelowna evened the series at a game apiece with a 9-2 victory at Royal LePage Place this past Friday. Brett McKinnon and captain Max French each had four points.

Our Opponent: The Warriors haven't played since last Friday's home win against the Smokies, a game that ended a three-game losing streak for tonight’s visitors. French, a Bentley commit, is tied for the league lead in goals with 7 with McKinnon and Seb Lloyd joining him among the BCHL’s top 15 scorers.  Netminder Tyler Briggs (committed to Clarkson) is one of 6 BCHL goalies with a goals-against average below 2 (1.69). He made 12 saves Friday in the Warriors’ victory.

In the Press Box: The Smokies are expected to welcome forward Bryce Knapp to the lineup tonight. The Ontario product has been sidelined since the pre-season. West Kelowna will bring 15 year-old AP goalie Cody Porter to Trail to backup Briggs after Garrett Rockafellow picked up a knock last week.

Editor's Note: Highlights from Saturday's win over Vernon won't be available due to a software glitch. I should have an alternate file from Sunday's Powell River game by tomorrow evening, watch for a two-pack of highlights Thursday. I'll have a whack of audio (including chats with newcomers Luke Sandler, Austin Adduono and Braden Pears) from the past few days available Wednesday.