Friday, October 19, 2012

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.

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